Whoever the starting quarterback will be for Clemson when it opens defense of its 2016 National Championship on Sept. 2 against Kent State, they will have this one trait … consistency.
When the Tigers open fall camp next Thursday, consistency in running the offense while playing within the system is the main thing co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott is looking for in the three-man race to replace Deshaun Watson.
“For me, in the position that I sit, and obviously, Coach (Brandon) Streeter works with those guys and he has different metrics and different standards for that position, but for me it’s the ability to manage the system,” Elliott said.
Junior Kelly Bryant, now in his third season in the system, heads into fall camp with a slight edge over Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson. However, both freshmen came on strong in the last half of the spring to make the quarterback battle interesting this August.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said the coaches will narrow the battle down to two players 10 days out from the season opener so both can get the same amount of reps.
“Obviously, the talent is very important, but can they manage the system,” Elliott said. “And again, do you consistently perform and execute to elevate the confidence of the guys around you so we can have the cohesion to be able to go and perform, and all on the same page.”
That’s what Watson was masterful at. Not only was he talented, but Watson got everyone involved in the offense. Whether it was with the zone-read option with Wayne Gallman or distributing the football to about eight or nine different receivers a game, Watson managed the game and then knew when to go for the big play when he had the opportunity.
Watson also called his own protections and had the go-ahead from the coaching staff to check in and out of plays at the line of scrimmage.
“Offensive football is different than defensive football. It takes all 11 on the same page,” Elliott said. “Everybody has to be on the same page to be successful. Whereas you might have a breakdown on defense and one guy needs to go make a play and then everybody benefits. For us, everybody has to be on the same page and it starts with the quarterback because he is the focal point, the leader of the unit.
“So for me, the consistency to be able to manage the system, to know where to go with the ball, when to check something and when do to do certain things that we ask you to do is the key. So that is what I’m looking for, just that consistency to manage the system. Then, once you have that, then the talent will take over to make the big plays that make us explosive.”
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