Battle with the man in the mirror

CLEMSON - Cole Stoudt doesn't necessarily view this thing as a battle with Chad Kelly and/or Deshaun Watson.

Instead, Stoudt's primary competitor is the guy he sees everyday in the mirror.

"You want to improve on something every day. The next practice you go out there, you compete against yourself to be better than you were the day before," Stoudt said, "So I'm constantly competing with myself to get better than I was, to improve myself better and better while competing with everyone else, and pushing others to get better."

For the most part, the guy has been competing for a job since the day he showed up for class in January of 2011. It's just that, until now, it was never for the No. 1 spot.

Three years ago, he was battling Tony McNeal to be Tajh Boyd's understudy. Stoudt was entrenched as the No. 2 by the time Kelly arrived in 2012. After a year without competition, things fired up until the spring of 2013. Stoudt and Kelly were neck-and-neck for the 2013 backup job until Kelly tore his ACL in the Orange and White Game.

Regardless of the stakes and the parties involved, it's status quo for Stoudt as he enters his final spring practice at Clemson.

"I approach it the same way," he said. "I've just got to prepare as if I'm going to be the starter, because you never know what's going to happen. The competition is a strong competition. It's going to be a fun competition. I've been having fun with it.

"It's a little different, because now I'm taking reps with the ones and Tajh isn't out here. You kind of have to step up a little bit, kind of mature a little bit and still prepare like you're going to be the starter, as always."

Now, after three years, Stoudt is happy to have a chance to earn that title, the key word being: earn.

"It's not fun to not have competition, because you always have to compete against someone. That's what makes football so much fun," Stoudt said. "They're always trying to bring a guy in that's -- they want to get another recruit that's higher, so they keep bringing in more and more players.

"It's constant competing. That's what I love about this game."

In the classroom, Stoudt is currently taking 12 hours. He'll take a class or two during the summer before finishing his Sociology degree in the December.

"I feel old now," he said. "I feel so old. I feel like I just got here."

The next few months will be unlike any other that he's experienced while at Clemson. Dabo Swinney and Chad Morris told him to expect as much.

"Coach Swinney and coach Morris told me this is going to be a huge thing in the media," Stoudt said. "They said just don't keep reading all that information, just kind of stay at task of what you do day-to-day. Improve yourself and improve your teammates, and things will work out."

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