Through three games, Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has exceed what many of his pundits thought he could not do. Before the season started, some critics expected him to be out of the picture, leaving the offense with freshmen Hunter Johnson or Zerrick Cooper.
They were all wrong.
The junior is just the first quarterback since Tajh Boyd in 2011 to beat two nationally ranked opponents in back-to-back games. He rallied the Tigers to beat then No. 13 Auburn two weeks ago and then went on the road and helped second-ranked Clemson knock off then No. 14 Louisville this past Saturday.
Though his numbers were modest against Auburn, he still completed 19-of-29 passes for 181 yards, while running for a team-high 59 yards and two touchdowns. Against Louisville, he tallied a career-high 343 yards of total offense, including 316 on 22-of-32 passes.
He also ran for two more touchdowns and threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to Ray-Ray McCloud. He was 6-for-9 for 99 yards on third down passes against the Cardinals.
Bryant also ran for a touchdown and threw for a score against Kent State. He had 313 total yards in that victory.
Instead of criticizing, Bryant, now those pundits love him as he has become one of the best stories through the first three weeks of the college football season. But don’t worry it is not going to Bryant’s head.
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott believes the new media attention will not change anything about his quarterback.
“He’s just like Deshaun,” Elliott said. “He’s his biggest critic. He’s going to be harder on himself than we are… and he’s very, very humble. I don’t think Kelly is the type of young man that cares about what the spotlight says. He cares about this team, he cares about this offense, and you can tell by the way he’s playing.”
How good is Travis Etienne? When the freshman took off for an 81-yard touchdown against Louisville, he looked like he went right where he was supposed to go. However, that was not the case.
“I think everybody sees just how electric he is, but what people don’t realize is the play that he broke for a touchdown, he was supposed to hit in the A gap,” Elliott said. “He’s fast enough to bounce it to the outside, and then he broke a tackle. I’m glad he broke that tackle because that was one of the situations … He came on the bus and was like Coach, I know you’re going to get on to me, I was supposed to be inside.
“But he’s one of the few that has the ability to do that, but also he’s learning.”
Good chemistry. During ESPN’s telecast of the Clemson at Louisville game, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit raved about the chemistry he was noticing on the Clemson sideline. The veteran broadcaster recognized how the starters stood on the sideline and cheered on their teammates, and were the first to greet the backups after making a big play.
“One thing I want to point out is you see a genuine appreciation at all levels,” Elliott said. “You saw the starters happy for the backups when they got there and they’re pushing each other on. In particular in the running back room we have four highly talented guys and they all want an opportunity to touch the ball but they all appreciate when their teammate gets the opportunity to play. I’m hoping that chemistry, that cohesion and that hunger will remain the entire season.”