Of all the quarterbacks battling to be Clemson’s new starting quarterback, Kelly Bryant probably has the toughest task of any of them. Why? He is the one guy who takes the majority of the good-on-good reps against the Tigers’ top-rated defense.
Every meaningful snap he gets this spring, Bryant sees the likes of Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Dorian O’Daniel, Kendall Joseph, Ryan Carter and Van Smith on the other side of the line.
When he was asked who is making plays on defense from his point of view? Bryant responded, “there is plenty.”
The Tigers return seven starters from a defense last year that ranked eighth nationally in total and scoring defense, ranked in the top 15 in every passing defensive category, led the nation in tackles for loss for a fourth straight year and ranked third in sacks.
The defense dominated the offense in Clemson’s first scrimmage of the spring. It forced two turnovers, had eight tackles for loss and four sacks. Linebackers Tre Lamar and Shaq Smith led the defense with seven tackles apiece. Ferrell added six from his defensive end position. Defensive tackle Nyles Pinckney had three sacks, while Wilkins had a pair of tackles for loss, as did Lamar.
O’Daniel had an interception, a sack and four tackles from his strong linebacker position.
“All of those guys just make it hard on you in practice,” Bryant said. “They are just good, especially with Coach (Brent Venables) putting them in the right spots. It is hard to name a couple because guys like Christian are out there, this guy name Dexter makes it hard … Austin, Clelin. On the back end you have Van, Tanner (Muse), who is having a good spring, Ryan Carter, Mark (Fields), (Joseph) Shaq … the list goes on.”
Bryant has also been impressed with Trayvon Mullen at cornerback as well as Marcus Edmond.
“Those guys are making plays, especially when it is one-on-one,” the junior quarterback said. “You have Mullen out there making plays, Mark, Ryan and Marcus Edmond.”
However, Kelly appreciates the way the defense competes because it allows the coaching staff to get a true evaluation of how he and the rest of the quarterbacks are performing this spring as they try to become the Tigers’ new starting quarterback.
“It is a challenge, but having those reps like that in practice, and going against guys like that, it helps you in the long run,” Bryant said.
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