Dabo Swinney said last week Kelly Bryant was likely going to be his starting quarterback as long as “nothing crazy happens.”
Well, nothing did.
Following Monday’s practice at Jervey Meadows, Clemson’s head coach officially named Bryant as his starting quarterback when the Tigers open the season against Kent State on Sept. 2.
“He has earned it,” Swinney said. “He is going to be our starter, and we’re excited about that. I’m really proud of Kelly, first of all. If you guys knew how precise we are in our grading, in our evaluation and the things that we put these guys through … this has been a great competition.”
Swinney also said Zerrick Cooper will be the first guy off the bench and Hunter Johnson is right there with him, but he will be the third quarterback.
“It has been a real good spirited competition, but this part of the competition is over, but he won it,” Swinney said. “Grades have to count, everything matters and I’m really proud of him. He had, from when he got here to where he is, he had a long way to go.
“But he handled it. He has embraced it and now he is really playing with a ton of confidence and is doing a great job of leading.”
Swinney said he hopes to get all three of his quarterbacks some playing time in the first part of the season.
“We have no experience so that is an issue that we can hopefully remedy as we go through this first month. It is going to be hard because we all know we have a tough schedule, but it is what it is,” Swinney said. “I love the guys, I’m proud of them, as far as how they competed, now we go to the next phase, and that is, now you get into the games.
“All you can do it is go to this point and go from there so I look forward to it. I think Kelly is going to do great. I really do. If he will just do seventy-five percent of what I see on this practice field he is going to be just fine.”
Swinney said Kelly made huge strides with throwing the football in camp. He said it was just his confidence, his timing and his rhythm. Bryant played well in the two most recent scrimmages. He was 10-of-17 for 186 yards and a score in the Aug. 16 scrimmage and then connected on 14-of-20 for 177 yards and a score this past Saturday.
“This spring he was making the right decisions, but our rhythm was not quite where it needed to be all the time, but again, that was the first time he was getting that amount of reps and really with the first-team guys and at that pace,” Swinney said. “So he had to really, I think, grow in his confidence … his anticipation. You can’t really wait until they are open. The ball has to be there while they are coming open.
“So he has really, really improved a ton. He has complete ownership of what we are doing. He has it. He knows the details of what we are doing. Again, like we have said, if we will just go be Kelly and do what we have seen on this practice field, then he is going to be just fine.”
Bryant, a junior from Calhoun Falls, S.C., and Wren High School, has played in 12 games and an even 100 snaps so far in his career. He has completed 13-of-18 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. He has 35 rushes for 178 yards and three scores, giving him 253 yards of total offense on 53 plays for his career.
In his first two years, Bryant served as a reserve behind Deshaun Watson and Nick Schuessler, who were both seniors on Clemson’s 2016 National Championship team.
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