Going into fall camp, which begins on Thursday, Kelly Bryant comes in with the lead as Clemson’s No. 1 quarterback. However, with 25 practices scheduled before the Tigers kick off the new season on Sept. 2 against Kent State, the battle to replace Deshaun Watson as the defending national champions’ new quarterback is not even close to being decided.
“It is going to be a battle,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “Obviously, Kelly is in the poll position coming out of the spring. But we don’t play today. There are thirty (days). Those guys are hungry and they showed flashes as we got to the end of the spring to show us they have that confidence, which is what we needed to see.”
Those other guys are of course freshmen Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson. Both young players made some splash plays in the second half of the spring, which turned up the heat on Bryant.
“They need to put together a string of positive plays and not have a positive play, two negative plays and a positive play and make a big play,” Elliott said. “We need consistency to make a routine play all the time and then make the impossible or explosive play most of the time. That’s what I’m looking for out of those guys.”
Elliott says it is their job as coaches to play to Cooper’s and Johnson’s strengths, while trying to minimize their weaknesses. Then it is the individual player’s responsibility to know exactly what the play is and what has to be done.
“That is what is tough on a quarterback,” he said. “They are not just learning what they are doing. They have to know what everybody is doing so they have to learn 11 assignments to make sure everybody is on the same page.”
That’s where the consistency comes into play. This was the same basic principles for Watson when he came on board in 2014 and challenged veteran Cole Stoudt for the job, which he eventually took over by the third week of the season.
“When they’re consistent over time, then their confidence grows,” Elliott said. “When their confidence is where it needs to be, then you get those explosive plays. You get those flashy plays that we saw (in the spring). Even going back to Deshaun, he had to build that confidence and consistency for him to be able to go play at a high level.”
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