Should Nick Schuessler finish out the year at QB for Clemson?

PriceI know it’s crazy to ask but is it Nick Schuessler time at quarterback the rest of the way for Clemson?

After Georgia Tech’s 28-6 trouncing of the Tigers in which Deshaun Watson was lost for the season, the topic came up on our postgame show “The Xtra Point” yesterday afternoon. Former Clemson standout Tajh Boyd looked at me and smiled when I brought up the real possibility of whether the the redshirt sophomore might be the guy moving forward.

Cole Stoudt’s clunker of a performance in Atlanta mirrored nothing close to how he played in leading Clemson to four-straight wins in Watson’ absence.

Then along came Clemson play-by-play voice Don Munson who joined us on the postgame for a brief segment, who brought it up about what the coaching staff might do moving forward. I slept on it last night and now think more than ever this is a real, honest question that needs be answered: What does Clemson have to lose by turning to Schuessler instead going with Stoudt?

The answer for the staff ultimately lies in another question: Who gives the team the best chance to win against Georgia State, South Carolina and then in a bowl game?

It was clear to me and everyone watching Saturday that Stoudt wasn’t there mentally yesterday. He wasn’t prepared “upstairs” to lead on the field. Which led me to another question and theorizing on the postgame show.

Did Stoudt check out mentally after the Wake Forest game, knowing Deshaun was coming back as the starter ultimately believing inside of himself that win in Winston-Salem was his swan song at quaterback for his career in Clemson?

Let me first say that I’ve defended Stoudt to a degree up until this point. Is he Deshaun, Tajh Boyd, Kyle Parker or Charlie Whitehurst? Duh, not even close.

However, Stoudt faced adversity several times this season, losing his job in the middle of the FSU game and then being thrust into the Louisville game with Deshaun’s broken finger. The later of which he steadied himself after a few rocky possessions against the Cards’ stout defense and led the Tigers to a hard-fought win. Despite solid-at-best performances, the senior led Clemson to three more wins capped by the win at Wake Forest before the four-game winning streak came to a halt yesterday.

Regardless of style points he did or didn’t rack up at quarterback, Stoudt ultimately got the job done by getting “W’s,” which is the name of the game. But if he’s checked out mentally and can’t regain his role as a leader on the field, then it’s likely time to give Schuessler a shot.

Schuessler on the other hand ultimately has nothing to lose. The redshirt sophomore out of Grayson, Ga., will be the backup upon Deshaun’s return next season, while several other talented freshmen join the program. Playing against Georgia State would ultimately get him some incredibly valuable, live game reps and experience that could prove important next season if he does in fact land as Deshaun’s backup.

While limited talent wise, the here and now is that Schuessler is going to make the most of his opportunity and play with an edge because he’s got nothing to lose. He’s going to put his best foot forward and that could potentially inspire the other guys on the field with him as well. Stoudt has three more career games left wearing his orange No. 18. After his performance in Atlanta and a lingering banged up shoulder, mentally and physically he just may not be ready any more.

This isn’t about preparing for next year, but instead Schuessler taking the keys to the car, starting the engine and seeing just how well he’s able to keep the Clemson race car on the road against Georgia State. He’s certainly got a more-than-capable pit crew and the important parts to the car to make it fly around the track in playmakers Mike Williams, Artvais Scott, and Wayne Gallman.

Of course Stoudt could get the start against Georgia State this coming weekend as a tune-up for the South Carolina game (Nov. 29). Whoever the staff feels gives the team the very best chance to go out and win games is going to be the guy. And I think it’s likely to be Stoudt.

However, we’ll get the answers to these questions pretty quickly as to how Dabo and Chad Morris decide to proceed. But something tells me we’re still going to see more of No. 12 on the field during these last three games.

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