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After 3 years, Clemson's Stoudt poised for QB job

AP - Sports

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- Cole Stoudt didn't grow antsy or angry during his three years backing up Clemson record-setting quarterback Tajh Boyd. After all, Stoudt had a strong model of patience at home in his father Cliff, a former Pittsburgh Steelers passer stuck behind NFL great Terry Bradshaw.

The younger Stoudt won the Tigers quarterback job coming out of spring workouts, although coach Dabo Swinney says freshman Deshaun Watson will have a chance to compete for the spot once fall camp starts up in August.

That's fine with Stoudt, who says he has learned to bide his time and do what is asked by his father.

''The quarterback position is not always a lifetime contract. You've got to go in there, and you've always got to perform,'' Cole Stoudt says.

Although it has seemed that way under Swinney. He named Kyle Parker starter his first full season as coach in 2009 and he stayed there until leaving the program to play baseball for the Colorado Rockies. Boyd followed in 2011 and didn't yield the spot, setting school records galore and leading Clemson to a 32-8 record, the Atlantic Coast Conference title in 2011, and a Bowl Championship Series win in the Orange Bowl last January.

Stoudt says he has watched Boyd closely the past three seasons and tried to learn how to lead the Tigers. But Stoudt says he will act like himself and not mimic others.

''I've just got to be me. Show up with a positive attitude every day and do the best I can,'' he said. ''Build positive relationships with guys on the team and make people better in my way.''

The Stoudt way is staying the course, no matter what is in your way.

Cliff did that as a promising young passer 30 years ago, preparing hard each day as Bradshaw's backup. When the four-time Super Bowl winner got hurt in 1983, Stoudt stepped in and helped the Steelers to the AFC Central title at 10-6.

Cliff Stoudt made sure as a parent to teach sons Zack, a former Ole Miss quarterback, and Cole to be completely coachable and put teammates first.

It's why Cole didn't flinch in January 2013 when Boyd, a promising NFL prospect, said he'd return for his senior season instead of leaving for the pros - and returning Cole to Clemson clipboard status for one more year.

''I thought, 'All right, it's going to be another great year,''' Stoudt recalled. ''I never thought about leaving. I love this place too much.''

Cliff Stoudt said he had tears in his eyes as he read the stories about his son's spring success when Cole out-dueled Chad Kelly and Watson.

Kelly was dismissed from the program this month because of what Swinney called a pattern of conduct detrimental to the Tigers.

Cliff Stoudt was concerned as much about his son's attitude as his technique. ''He's mostly been level headed and able to deal with things in a smart way,'' Cliff said by phone.

The family lives about 30 minutes away from campus, giving Cole support and a quick trek to home on weekends.

Cliff remembers how he nearly missed Cole's biggest Clemson moment during his freshman year in 2011 when Boyd got hurt against Boston College and his son led the Tigers on two game-clinching scoring drives in a 36-14 victory.

He had left Death Valley at halftime to get something to eat and heard the stadium go silent. Cliff was told Boyd had gotten hurt, and backup Cole Stoudt had to go in.

''So I had to run back up the hill to get in,'' Cliff said by phone. ''I was out of breath, but very proud to see him play so well.''

The elder Stoudt hugged his son in the hallway outside the locker room. He thought maybe Cole's time as starter would begin last season but understood Boyd's decision and knew his son would understand and accept the choice made by last year's starter, who is a friend to Cole and to the family.

Cole Stoudt has completed nearly 73 percent of his throws (86 of 117) at Clemson with eight TDs and just one interception. He promises that if successful this summer, he will stay patient and poised, not wanting to cram three years of starting into a one senior season.

''When you say now you're the guy heading into fall, you have to start stepping up, improving yourself every day and making the team better,'' he said.

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