Kelly Bryant is the starting quarterback at Clemson, and I think he will be for the long haul. I know that may come as a surprise to some of you.
I think all of us figured Bryant would win the starting job for the Kent State game, but somewhere down the line, we figured Zerrick Cooper or more than likely Hunter Johnson would take the job from him. A lot of us figured this season would play out like the 2014 did when then freshman sensation Deshaun Watson eventually overtook the position from senior Cole Stoudt.
However, I no longer believe that will be the case. Why?
It’s simple really. Kelly Bryant ran away with the job. He was the best player of the three competing to replace Watson as the Tigers’ new quarterback. During the whole 2014 saga, never once did we hear or feel that the job was really Cole Stoudt’s.
Yes, he got the vote of confidence from his head coach and coaches, but not really from his teammates. I remember from that entire camp how everyone was talking about Watson and the amazing things he was doing out on the practice field. The coaches raved about him and his teammates raved about him.
Because Hunter Johnson was highly touted coming out of high school—the No. 2 quarterback in the country in 2017—and he enrolled for classes last January and participated in spring drills, fans and media alike just expected this quarterback race to be like the 2014 one. The veteran quarterback holds the reins for a little while, but in the end the younger and more talented freshman will win the job and lead Clemson back to glory.
But this is not 2014 and Hunter Johnson is not Deshaun Watson. It does not mean I don’t think Hunter Johnson is going to be a good player because I do think he will be a good player. It just means he is not ready to be the starter, right now.
It just means from everything I have heard, from not just the coaches, but Bryant’s teammates and others around the program, Kelly Bryant is the guy.
“At the end of the day, I think we all had a feeling who was going to be the starting quarterback. It was not nothing new to us,” wide receiver Deon Cain said.
As you listen to his teammates talk about him, you can tell Kelly owns the respect of the locker room. They believe in him. They have not really talked about the other quarterbacks or like in Watson’s case in 2014, one particular guy.
Granted, Stoudt has the respect of his teammates in 2014 and in the locker room they loved him. But they also loved Watson and that was obvious when the players spoke to us or we talked to others in and around the program about the competition that year. It was a close competition all the way up and even head coach Dabo Swinney said it was “even” coming out of camp, but he admitted when a competition is “even” he goes with the veteran as the tiebreaker until he can see how they work and respond in a game.
We all know the rest of that story.
However, when Swinney named Bryant as his starting quarterback on Monday night, he made it clear Bryant was the better quarterback and he earned the right to be the guy. All throughout camp, Bryant was the most talked about. The coaches talked about his consistency and how he was ahead of the others. It was clear he was running away from the competition.
You did not hear any whispers about Cooper or Johnson making a move. You did not really hear co-coordinators Jeff Scott or Tony Elliott talk up the other quarterbacks in camp. You never heard Swinney say the battle was even.
Nope. Since the start of spring practice way back in late February, it has been Kelly Bryant’s job and he has not done anything to lose it. In fact, he separated himself from the field, and I don’t think that is going to change during the regular season either.
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