Spring Breakdown: Quarterback

Deshaun Watson is the team’s clear leader at this position as he is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the nation, despite being a sophomore.

The headliner
Deshaun Watson is the team’s clear leader at this position as he is one of the top returning quarterbacks in the nation, despite being a sophomore. But Watson, as everyone who follows the Clemson program knows, won’t be taking part in spring practice as he recovers from ACL surgery. The Clemson coaching staff made the right decision to hold Watson out of the bowl game to try to get him as close to ready as possible for the start of practice in the fall. Having him in the spring, working with the line and the receivers to build more chemistry would have been nice, but Watson showed last year just how special he is. He will be fine in the fall once he gets back out on the field working with those players around him.

Stepping in
Without Watson, Nick Schuessler will be the only returning quarterback taking part in spring practice who has played for the Tigers. Schuessler is a career backup type, but it will be good for him to get a lot of snaps during the spring.

Schuessler got a little bit of playing time last fall, and that will be a plus, as well. The Clemson staff needs him to help groom the younger quarterbacks who have joined the program.

Others to watch
Speaking of those younger quarterbacks, Kelly Bryant and Tucker Israel both enrolled in school in January. Their competition during the spring is going to be interesting, and it will be one of the most-watched parts of the spring.

It would make sense that one of them will play this season, although Watson is going to get the majority of the snaps, while the other will redshirt. Things could happen to affect that plan, of course, but that seems the most likely scenario.

Bryant is more of a dual-threat player, while Israel mostly remains in the pocket, but both are terrific young passers. The key for these two as to who plays more (and earlier) likely depends on which one picks up the offense quicker.

Streeter’s influence
Brandon Streeter’s return to Clemson as the quarterbacks coach was a huge get for Dabo Swinney and his program. Streeter is a rising star in the coaching ranks, and he is known as a strong teacher of fundamentals (that was easy to see with his short stint working with Cole Stoudt during the bowl preparations). With such a young group to work with, teaching fundamentals is going to be a big factor for Streeter as he steps into this job.

Key stat: Schuessler completed 7-of-8 pass attempts for 47 yards in 2014, seeing time in just five games.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Morning Show on FoxSports 1670 AM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.

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