You could tell by the way Kelly Bryant was walking after Saturday’s scrimmage Clemson’s defense had the upper hand in the Tigers’ first stadium scrimmage of fall camp.
The quarterback approached the media real slow and with his head down, indications he was not pleased with his or the offense’s performance in the two-hour scrimmage in Death Valley.
“I felt like we were a little up and down, but we finished strong in short yardage and goal line,” Bryant said afterwards. “It is something we just have to learn from the tape and get better as camp progresses. Just take it one day at a time.”
It wasn’t all bad for Bryant. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, both said the junior was making the right decisions. He had a 16-yard run, one of the rare big plays by the first-team offense, while he also made a good play on a 10-yard pass to tight end Milan Richard.
Bryant was charged with an interception, but Swinney said it was not his fault. The offensive tackle was supposed to cut the end on the play, but he did not and the ball was tipped in the air where Tanner Muse picked the ball off.
“He was counting on us cutting the end,” Swinney said. “You don’t cut the end so the guy gets his hand on it. It is a tip ball and it’s a pick. Tips are picks. He had a couple of tough breaks like that, but he made the right decisions. He did what we asked him to do and that is what we evaluated him on.
“He went against the (first-team) defense, outside of one series, the whole time.”
Bryant was harder on himself than Swinney and Elliott were. He said he missed on a couple of throws and he could have played better in better situations.
“I have to go back and watch the tape and see what I can learn from it,” he said.
Like his coaches, Bryant was pleased with his decision making. Though disappointed that the offense did not play well, he felt confident with what he was doing and the decisions he made in the run and the passing game.
Bryant was also a victim to a few dropped passes and a first-team defense that was dominant. He had what looked like a touchdown pass to Deon Cain ruled incomplete after Cain stepped out of bounds when he came down with the ball.
“I feel like I made good decisions today,” Bryant said. “I don’t feel like I was forcing anything. I don’t think I had any bad reads, but I have to go back and watch and really look at the little details and things like ball position and small things like that.”
Bryant was trying to go against a defense that looked solid all afternoon. Defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant combined for five tackles for loss and the defensive front was dominating.
“That’s just how it is. Every dog has his day,” Bryant said. “The defense played real well today. Those guys were out there flying around and making plays. It was kind of tough at times, but we are going to learn from it. We are going to bounce back and get ready to practice on Monday.”
As for the other quarterbacks, Zerrick Cooper threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Diondre Overton against the second-team defense, while Hunter Johnson threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Carter Groomes when the third-team defense had a blown assignment in coverage.
“All four (of the quarterbacks) did some good things,” Swinney said. “Kelly had a couple of tough breaks.”
“Hunter Johnson threw a touchdown pass. He made a couple of other really nice throws, but we did not finish on them, but he put them where they needed to be. He made the right decision,” Swinney continued. “Chase made a couple of nice plays. Tee Higgins first catch was a big play and Chase (Brice) made a great throw there. So they all did a good job and they all had a couple of plays they would like to have back, but again, it is good to be able to go and play.”
Freshman running back Travis Etienne had a 32-yard touchdown run against the second-team defense. Overton finished the game with three receptions for 33 yards.
“We had some big plays and had a couple of big runs,” Swinney said. “We had three penalties on the receivers and those are the things that will get you beat.”
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