But once he saw Bryant play against Auburn, Louisville, he knew they would
ATLANTA — In the summer, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney felt his team could possibly contend for another run at the College Football Playoff.
However, there was one thing he needed to see before he felt confident that his 2018 Tigers could make it back for a third straight year.
“I felt like in camp we had a chance, but I just had not seen our quarterback really play in any meaningful, stressful, game situations,” Swinney said. “How is he going to respond? You try to create all that stuff in practice the best you can.”
Swinney admitted at the College Football Playoff Press Conference on Thursday from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, it was not until he saw quarterback Kelly Bryant successfully navigate the Tigers to wins over Auburn and Louisville that he knew his football team had a legitimate shot.
Against then No. 13 Auburn, Bryant completed 19-of-29 passes for 181 yards, while running for 59 more in a 14-6 victory in Week 2.
“The Auburn game, knowing that we are playing a really good team and a great defense, especially, and watching how he handled the moment that was big,” Swinney said.
The following week at Louisville, with ESPN’s GameDay in the building, plus a Primetime ABC Game, Bryant shined again in leading the Tigers to a 47-21 victory over then No. 14 Louisville. Bryant outplayed Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson by completing 22-of-32 passes for 316 yards and a touchdown – a 79-yard bomb to Ray-Ray McCloud. He also ran for two scores. “
“In watching our quarterback, I really felt like I had other pieces to have a chance to win week in and week out in place,” Swinney said. “After those two games, I thought this kid has a chance to lead us.”
Swinney felt like Bryant’s early success was not only good for his confidence but for the team’s confidence in him as their new leader.
“I think he needed that early success to kind of establish himself as the leader because the guys all respected him, but in that position, you have to play well and he played two great games,” the Clemson coach said. “I think that was the confidence, early, that this team needed and we have just kind of grown throughout the year and have gotten a little bit better along the way.”