Just seven months separated from a thrilling Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State, Clemson enters the 2014 college football season adjusting to life without several offensive stars who blew up box scores last fall. Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Rod McDowell were all keys to helping the Tigers score points last year, but all must be replaced before Dabo Swinney’s team travels to Athens on August 30 to face the Georgia Bulldogs.
Cole Stoudt will be the man to fill the void at quarterback, and while he acknowledges that the offense lost a lot of talent, the senior believes he and his teammates are being sold short.
“It’s something that people underestimate of the Clemson offense this year,” Stoudt said. “They’re all saying, ‘oh, well you lost Martavis Bryant. Oh, you lost Sammy Watkins, Tajh Boyd and all these guys,’ and I’m sitting here going, ‘well, what about Mike Williams? What about Adam Humphries, Charone Peake, [Germone Hopper], Jordan Leggett, Sam Cooper? What about all those guys?’”
At the offensive skill positions, Clemson returns seven players who started at least one game a year ago. That group includes wide receiver Adam Humphries, who hauled in 41 catches for 483 yards and a pair of touchdowns during his 10 starts in 2013. Charone Peake was also projected to start at wideout for the Tigers last season before tearing his ACL in the team’s second game.
Clemson has also welcomed four freshman receivers who were all highly rated out of high school and figure to fit into the offense right away. Three of those rookies enrolled in January and went through spring practices.
Continuity on the coaching staff could also be a benefit. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris has been tremendously successful as an assistant at Clemson and will be back for his fourth year.
“You’re not going to find many teams out there, probably about a handful of teams that have had the same head coach and same offensive coordinator for the past four years,” Stoudt said. “We still have the same formula.”
Swinney says that, despite the new faces, his offense won’t be making any drastic changes. The coach also has no doubts about Stoudt’s ability to fill the hole left by Boyd at quarterback.
“Whenever Cole played, we did the same things anyway,” Swinney said. “Cole can run. He’s probably faster than Tajh, to be honest with you.”
In his first three years at Clemson, Stoudt completed 86 of 119 passes for 742 yards and eight touchdowns while tossing only one interception, and he also ran the ball 29 times for 107 yards and two scores. From what he’s seen out of the senior, Swinney believes the offense is in good hands.
“Our standard is exactly the same as it’s always been,” the coach said. “I personally believe, when it’s all said and done, we’ll still be one of the best offenses in the country.”