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2017 Fall Camp Preview: Quarterback

Kelly Bryant says he does not have to prove anything to anyone if he wants to be Clemson’s starting quarterback on Sept. 2.

The Tigers’ junior quarterback, who is in an intense battle with Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson to be the defending national champions’ next quarterback, says all he has to do is be the best Kelly Bryant he can be.

“I just have to keep it simple and just be me,” he said. “I don’t have to be someone else. 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.”

The 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback heads into fall camp, which begins on Thursday, as the Tigers’ No. 1 quarterback.

“I feel confident,” he said. “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.”

ZERRICK COOPER: 6-2, 205, REDSHIRT FRESHMAN: Cooper had his moments this past spring, especially in the second half of spring practices where he came on in each of the last two scrimmages.

Cooper has the strongest arm of the four quarterbacks battling to be the starter. As Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said after one practice, he can really spin the football.

However, Cooper’s main issue is accuracy with the long ball. He isn’t as consistent throwing the deep pass, which obviously is something the coaches would like to see him get better at.

Cooper showed better command of the offense after coming back from spring break. Because he redshirted last year he has a better understanding of the offense and is more in synch than he was during camp last fall. However, there are still some things he needs to improve on like lining guys up faster and making sure guys are where they need to be and doing what they are supposed to be doing.

The redshirt freshman is more athletic than people realize. Though he prefers to stay in the pocket, he has very good pocket presence and can feel the rush. He also showed marked improvement in running Clemson’s zone-read schemes and running with the football.

The coaching staff believes Cooper has the skill set to be the starter. It is just a matter of him getting it to come together all at the same time.

HUNTER JOHNSON: 6-4, 200, FRESHMAN: Nearing the end of spring practice, Scott was asked about Bryant and his progression in the spring when out of nowhere Scott offered up this opinion about Johnson.

“His arrow is going up,” Scott said.

Johnson, who enrolled in school this past January, was the talk of the quarterback race the last half of spring practice as he put himself in position to compete for the starting job this summer. The true freshman still has a ways to go before making up ground on Bryant and Cooper, but he made the most progress of any of the quarterbacks in the 15 practices.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and Scott raved about Johnson’s progress and could tell he used his spring break to really dive into the playbook. He showed better command of the offense, was more confident with where he was going with the football and looked comfortable in the pocket.

The coaches also like the way Johnson ran the football in the Tigers’ zone-read concepts and on designed running plays. He also showed his athleticism on several occasions in passing situations when he extended plays with his feet and found open receivers down the field.

By the end of the spring, Johnson was sharing second-team reps with Cooper and was even getting some reps with the first-team offense.

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