Clemson's QB Competition

We all know who the starting quarterback will be come fall, but the battle for the backup position has been fairly intriguing this spring.

I've said this for years, and believe it now more than ever before: spring practice doesn't mean very much.

Of course, for the team, it certainly does. There's a real chance for individual and squad development during the 15 practice sessions allowed by the NCAA.

But for the fans and media trying to understand the difference between the second- and third-team left guard or how a walk-on wide receiver is going to play a role in the down field passing game five months from now - good luck.

It's been my experience that very little said by players and coaches in March and April actually applies to college football reality by September.

But this spring in Tigertown, there have been one or two stories worth following - including figuring out who Deshaun Watson's backup is going to be in the 2015 season.

Assuming Watson stays healthy, we all know he's entrenched as Clemson's starting signal caller. No one doubts that.

But with the super sophomore still recovering from a December knee surgery, this spring has been all about who his backup be- and by all accounts, it's Nick Schuessler.

Admittedly, I'm surprised it hasn't been more of a competition.

I thought one of the freshmen signal callers, either Tucker Israel or Kelly Bryant, would be in a position to challenge Schuessler more than they have. Credit Schuessler for taking his game to the next level when just eight months ago he was buried on the depth chart behind Watson, a struggling Cole Stoudt.

In hindsight, it was a stretch to think a true freshman, in only 15 practices, could contend for a second-string spot at the all important quarterback position to begin with. And it's not an indictment on either player that they haven't grabbed more reps with the first team.

It's Schuessler, a transfer from Mississippi State who has attempted only 10 passes in his college football career, who has delivered when he's had to.

"I can't say enough good things about Nick Schuessler," Dabo Swinney said. "It's great to see the light come on for guys. He has done an outstanding job of leading. He's made some big time throws. He is just playing with a sense of urgency that I have not seen from Nick Schuessler since he has been here. He is playing with a confidence that I have not seen since he has been here. As a result of that he is playing faster, more decisive, and accurate.

"I'm really, really encouraged with Nick. This has been great to see him just blossom like he is doing right now and taking it and running with it."

It's still uncertain how all of this will translate this fall. Again - take everything you hear in the spring with a grain of salt.

But it is very encouraging that someone has emerged as Watson's backup.

The hope is he'll only play in mop-up duty against McScrubby State, but if more is required, it sounds like Schuessler is up to the challenge.

And if Clemson has legitimate playoff aspirations, he'll need to be.

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