Though he did not say Kelly Bryant was his starting quarterback, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney implied it following the Tigers’ two and a half hour practice in Death Valley on Wednesday.
Swinney said unless something crazy goes on with Bryant, the junior from Piedmont, S.C., will be the first quarterback No. 5 Clemson trots on to the field when it opens the season against Kent State on Sept. 2.
“All I can say is here is where we are today and when we go play the game, unless Kelly goes backwards … He has been so focused, so consistent, and unless he totally goes crazy, he’s going to be the guy that runs out there.
“But we don’t know yet because every day matters, every play counts. If he is the guy he has to go do it on game day.”
Swinney did say Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson have had their moments in camp, but neither one of them has done enough to separate themselves from the other or challenge Bryant for the starting job at the this time.
“I think those two are still right there,” he said. “They both do some good things and then they both make a mistake that makes you scratch your head, but they are freshmen. We just have to keep putting them in those situations.
“They have both made some explosive plays, but we’ll come back and they forgot the motion and that’s a problem. It’s a tackle for loss and we’re behind the chains or we take a sack on the sprint out. It’s little things like that they have to grow through. It’s our job to put them in those situations and expose them on the practice field.”
Swinney said they are trying to expose all three players to see if they are coachable and if they will learn from it.
“That way when the scoreboard is lit up for real they have learned from that,” he said.
As for Wednesday, Bryant had an excellent day and Swinney was really pleased with his performance.
“He’s been really steady and made some explosive plays,” the Clemson coach said. “It was good to see some guys finish on some plays downfield today. We caught the ball better today.”
Swinney says Cooper and Johnson are coming along and he expects them to challenge Bryant at some point. When that time comes, he says they will give someone else and opportunity to see what they can do because they will need the experience.
“We have to give somebody else the opportunity to play too, and we have to develop some depth and keep some competition going there too,” Swinney said. “Nobody has a lifetime contract. Clelin Ferrell is our best (defensive) end because he shows it every day. It’s not because of what he did yesterday, he was the best one today and that is everybody’s job at every position, including quarterback.
“We mix it up. Zerrick got a (series) with the ones today and I don’t think Hunter got any today but he got a lot of snaps with the twos. Kelly was all ones today and he has earned that based off of what he’s done at practice. The grades matter if they didn’t, then why do we do them? He’s earned that through his performance.”
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