By Will Vandervort.
Now that Deshaun Watson has been officially put on the shelf for the Russell Athletic Bowl, how does this affect No. 17 Clemson and its offense when it goes up against Oklahoma on Dec. 29 in Orlando, Fla.?
Senior Cole Stoudt will likely start his last game in a Clemson uniform and it will be an opportunity for him to make amends for the up-and-down year he has had to this point. Though he has looked good in some games, in most he has struggled with throwing deep passes downfield, made bad decisions, has not gone through his progressions and has hung onto the ball too long.
The result – 10 interceptions to six touchdowns and just 1,573 yards in 266 pass attempts. That averages out to 5.9 yards per attempt, a number that does not exactly blow people away. In contrast, Watson threw 129 fewer passes for 1,466 yards with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions, while averaging 10.7 yards per attempt.
There is no doubt new co-offensive coordinators Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott will have to be creative in their game plan now that Watson is having surgery on his torn ACL and will miss the bowl game. It’s not exactly the ideal situation for two young coaches who will be game planning and calling their first game as OCs.
To give you an idea what a difficult challenge it truly is, Morris had five years as a coordinator at the college level and there were times when he was scratching his head.
There is one thing Elliott and Scott get with Stoudt and that is his ability to fight threw difficult adversity. Though he has not always played well, he did make enough plays to help the Tigers (9-3) win five of his seven starts. He did most of that while playing with an injured AC joint in his left shoulder as he has taken a shot before every game since the Louisville game.
Even with Stoudt’s limited ability, Elliott and Scott still have weapons in running back Wayne Gallman and wide receivers Mike Williams and Artavis Scott. Tyshon Dye might also provide another weapon.
Gallman has seemed to solidify a running game that struggled early in the year. The redshirt freshman has rushed for 519 of his 714 yards in the last five games, while scoring three of his four touchdowns. In that five-game stretched he averaged 103.8 yards per game.
Scott and Williams are both All-ACC players, and it will be important that Clemson try to get them involved against an Oklahoma secondary that is giving up 272.7 yards through the air. If that can happen, it will take pressure off Gallman and the running game. The Sooners come in ranked 10th in the country against the run, allowing just 109.6 yards per game.
The biggest key for Elliott and Scott will be to have Stoudt manage the game and not turn the football over. Clemson’s defense is going to have a big enough challenge as it is trying to slow down an Oklahoma offense that is averaging 38.9 points and 480.5 yards per game.
If Stoudt manages the game and does not give up quick and easy scores to the Sooners and forces them to drive the length of the field, then the Tigers have a legitimate chance to win the game even with Watson leaning on crutches and watching on the sideline.