This week presents a unique challenge for second-ranked Clemson as it hits the road to play Syracuse Friday night at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., while doing so with their starting quarterback Kelly Bryant questionable.
On Monday the media spoke with linebacker Kendall Joseph, co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, defensive end Austin Bryant, cornerback Mark Fields, defensive end Clelin Ferrell and running back Travis Etienne.
Here is what we heard:
Kelly Bryant suffered a left ankle injury as he attempted to run into the end zone during the third quarter of Saturday’s game against Wake Forest. He was taken out of the game and put in a walking boot afterward. Zerrick Cooper entered for two series before Hunter Johnson came in and threw his first career touchdown pass.
Head coach Dabo Swinney expects Bryant to be ready to play Friday night. It is still not confirmed as to who will start at quarterback but if Bryant is not ready the Tigers will have an alternative plan ready to go.
“Hunter did great,” Joseph said about Johnson’s touchdown pass against Wake. “It’s the next man up in this business and all of those guys prepare just as hard as Kelly. God willing, when he comes back, when it’s time and all that, but we’re just happy to see guys step up. You’re on scholarship, you’re here for a reason. Just believe in yourself and go execute the offense and that’s what they did.”
Scott has confidence in both Cooper and Johnson as Swinney had three groups taking repetitions all throughout camp, making both backup quarterbacks extremely prepared.
“We recruited Zerrick and Hunter to this offense,” Scott said. “We look to their skills sets coming out of high school. We knew what we wanted to do offensively and what kinds of quarterbacks have been successful in our offense. So they were specifically recruited to this offense. So overall, we feel like all of our quarterbacks can do what we want to do.”
Regardless of who runs out on the field in Syracuse, Clemson looks to leave the Carrier Dome 7-0 before heading into their bye week next week.
“One thing we’ve been harping on lately is sprinting to the bye week not limping to it,” said Austin Bryant. “We really want to finish the first half of the season strong. Going into the bye week, getting our legs back up under us.”
“After we put this one to bed it’ll be good to have that time off to rest,” said Ferrell. “September was really, really tough. That was one of the hardest first-halves of the season you can have as a team in college football. So it’ll be good after we get this one out of the way.”
In their first six games, they’ve played three top fifteen matchups, two of which were on the road at night. Mark Fields referred to the team as “road dogs.” Clemson had won 11 straight road games.
“Just playing on the road is a mentality that you have to have going into somebody else’s house,” he said. “The fans are against you, so we just come together. We always say that we’re ‘road dogs,’ so we get on the road and handle business.”
Freshman running back Travis Etienne talked about a slight mistake he made on a play during Saturday’s game against Wake Forest, which actually helped the team. It was fourth-and-three, it was supposed to be a fake hand off but Etienne took it and got the first down.
“That was just an error by me. … I thought I was supposed to get it, and I kind of had grabbed it. Good thing it worked out,” Etienne said with a big smile. “We all know what would have happened if I hadn’t gotten the first down. Just glad I don’t have to live with that.”