Clemson’s season opener against Kent State isn’t until Sept. 2, but if the Tigers began the season today, head coach Dabo Swinney knows without a doubt who would take the first snap at quarterback — junior Kelly Bryant.
“Kelly is the starter if we played today,” Swinney said after Clemson’s practice on Wednesday. “Somebody’s got to go out there, and he’s been the most consistent. He’s graded the best. You can’t anoint people. … He’s earned it, so you get what you earn around here.”
At his media golf outing before Clemson began fall camp, Swinney said he was looking to hone in on a couple of quarterbacks about 10 days before the season begins and get those two quarterbacks the most reps in practice.
That 10-day mark is quickly approaching, but Swinney indicated Clemson’s quarterback battle isn’t going according to plan.
“We’ve got a lot to talk about as coaches. I don’t see it as two quarterbacks right now,” Swinney said. “We’re not there yet.”
Not only has Bryant been the most consistent of Clemson’s quarterbacks throughout fall camp and graded out the best thus far, he also has the leg up on redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper and true freshman Hunter Johnson in terms of experience.
According to Swinney, Bryant has done well to establish himself as a leader.
“I think all those guys are working hard, but Kelly is a junior,” Swinney said. “He’s been around, more familiarity with these guys. The other guys are freshmen. I think they’re trying to assert themselves, but you’ve got to go do it. That’s just something that’s earned.”
While Swinney made it clear Bryant would be Clemson’s starter if the season started today, he also emphasized the fact there is still more than two weeks left in fall camp.
“Every day counts,” Swinney said. “Every rep and every practice counts, so we’re not anointing anybody. Even if he’s the starter for the season, you’ve got to go do it on the game field and you’ve got to be consistent with that.”
Swinney said he’s confident Clemson can win with any of the three quarterbacks in the competition.
Bryant may run out there first against Kent State, but Swinney hinted that the other quarterbacks are going to see some opportunities early in the season, too.
“That’s a great competition, that’s a great situation, but if we played today, there’s no question Kelly would start for us,” Swinney said. “But we don’t have anybody else with any experience, so we’ve got to find a way to get somebody else some experience, especially here in September. Because the last thing you want to do is get to October and not have anybody that’s played.”
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