Deshaun Watson is now in Houston playing for the NFL’s Houston Texans, while Dabo Swinney is here in Clemson trying to figure out who will replace him when the reigning national champions begin defense of its title on Sept. 2 against Kent State.
Swinney would have loved to have made the decision back in April when the Tigers wrapped up spring practice, but that was not the case. Instead, they have a competition that could go on into the season between junior Kelly Bryant, redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper and freshman Hunter Johnson.
Bryant came out of the spring as the leader, and is listed as the No. 1 quarterback on the summer depth chart, but as Swinney said many times before, that means nothing when training camp opens on Aug. 4
“We have competition going on and the good news is we have some very talented people,” Swinney said recently.
Of course if Clemson opened the season today, Swinney said Bryant would be his starter. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback had a good spring and he did nothing to lose the job. However, that does not guarantee him the job on Sept. 2, and Bryant understands that.
“I feel confident,” he said after the spring. “I feel like my confidence level is there. I’m just getting back to playing football. I’m just having fun with it and reacting. That is something I felt good about afterward and taking from it and being a more consistent player. That is pretty much where I am at.”
Swinney likes Bryant right now because in his mind, after spring practices, he gives Clemson the best chance to win. However, Cooper and Johnson made big strides in the second half of spring drills and really started to push Bryant for the job.
“We don’t play until September so it is going to be a great competition,” Swinney said. “Kelly is excited about his opportunity. Those other guys, they are not going away. So how they work this summer and how they perform in fall camp, the scrimmages, that is all we can do from an evaluation standpoint and then see where we are when we start the season.”
Regardless of who gets the first start, the coaches want to see him show consistency in his performance and continue to grow and get better as the season moves along. Swinney is looking forward to watching everything play out.
“I think it is fun,” the Clemson coach said. “I don’t dread it. I don’t hate it. I know fans a lot of times want to be able to check that box, but it is really no different than any other position. We have a lot of competition at a lot of spots, but they just do not have the light on it like this one.”
As for Bryant, it’s just about keeping everything simple.
“I don’t have to be someone else,” he said. “I don’t have to go out and try to prove myself that I have to be good. I just have to be Kelly Bryant. I just have to be consistent. That is pretty much it.”
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