As he came up to the line, Kelly Bryant noticed his wide receiver, Deon Cain, was being shown man-coverage. This was it. This was the junior’s opportunity to show the 80,121 Clemson fans in Memorial Stadium, and those fans watching back at home on ESPN, he could throw the football.
Ever since Deshaun Watson announced he was going to the NFL, fans and media alike have wondered if Bryant could throw the deep ball, and if he could, could he throw it accurately. So from his own 31-yard line, on Clemson’s second possession of the game, Bryant executed the play action, sucked the Kent State safety up just enough and then he dropped back and let it fly.
It was a perfect pass as Cain just ran under the ball and kept running for an easy 61-yard touchdown pass.
“He is very speedy and is a deep threat down there. Just give that guy a chance. He caught it and he did the rest from there,” Bryant said following No. 5 Clemson’s 56-3 victory over the Golden Flashes.
Bryant deserves credit though because with that one pass he showed he is more than capable of throwing the deep ball, which in Clemson’s scheme is important to its offensive success. The Tigers like to take several deep shots a game downfield and competing just one of them is enough to affect how a defense will defend them.
Granted Bryant still has to do it against Auburn next Saturday, which is a different test in its own right, but now the Auburn coaches know he is capable of doing it.
“I feel like I am a very accurate thrower and I can throw the ball,” Bryant said. “Of course people want to talk. I was in games last year. It was late in the fourth quarter and it was mostly running the ball so it was not a shocker to me. It was a routine play we have been making during camp and this summer.”
Bryant finished the game completing 16-of-22 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown and one interception. He also ran the ball seven times for 77 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Not a bad first game as a starter.
“Being in the Valley and running out there and being the starter and me getting to throw my first touchdown this season. It was just awesome to see and it was kind of a relief to get that under my belt as well,” he said.
Bryant proved he is still a threat with his legs, too. His 47-yard run in the second quarter reminded some Clemson fans of another quarterback they used to see run around the field in Death Valley. Woodrow Dantzler was known for his ankle-breaking-moves when he was the Tigers’ quarterback from 1998-2001.
Like Dantzler used to do when nothing was open down field and he felt some pressure coming from behind, he stepped up in the pocket, split the defense, made one guy miss, cut to the sideline, then made another would-be-tackler miss down field before tip toeing the sideline and getting in the end zone.
And though the sideline official ruled he stepped out at the 9-yard line, the play was another sign of what he can do with both his legs and his arm.
“It was a drop back pass and they covered it really well,” Bryant said. “I saw a lane. I made a couple of moves. It was just a routine play. It was just instincts and just reacting for me.”
It was proof to everyone else in Memorial Stadium of what Bryant can do. However, next week, he has to prove himself all over again.