Most of the 81,500 fans that will pile into Death Valley this Saturday to see No. 5 Clemson begin defense of its national championship against Kent State, will be expecting to see freshman Hunter Johnson get some playing time at quarterback.
However, that’s not what Dabo Swinney is expecting. The Tigers’ head coach said on the ACC Coaches’ Teleconference on Wednesday the only thing he is anticipating is a dogfight between his team and the Golden Flashes.
“We are going into the game … trying to win the game,” Swinney said. “We definitely plan on playing Hunter. Whether it is this game, the second game or the third game, we have to have three quarterbacks ready to play. That is kind of tough to only have two guys.”
Of course No. 5 Clemson will start Kelly Bryant on Saturday. He was named the starting quarterback last week by Swinney. If the Tigers have an opportunity or if Bryant were to get banged up, the next guy off the bench will be redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper. But Swinney indicated the only quarterback planned to play on Saturday is Bryant.
“Our three best guys without question are those three guys,” Swinney said. “There is still competition going on at that position. We have not even played a game yet. We have a starting point, but we have to go play the game. That is kind of the next part of the process.
“But I have no idea what is going to happen this weekend.”
The Tigers do, however, have a plan for the running backs. Swinney says C.J. Fuller, Tavien Feaster and Adam Choice will play, as will freshman Travis Etienne, who really came on strong in fall camp and wowed everyone on the team.
“I’m not going to get into how we are going to manage the game and rotate guys and all of that stuff, but we have three guys that we feel like warrant significant opportunity,” the Clemson coach said. “Sometimes the games dictate more than others. Sometimes the guy, it is his time up and you go in and score in one play and you have a rotation set so he may come out of the game and the third guy may have more reps than the first guy.
“I don’t really know. All I really know is that we have three guys that we feel really confident in at that position. They all deserve to play and they will have an opportunity to play, and then we have a fourth guy in Travis Etienne that is quickly coming and he is going to have an opportunity to play at some point, too.”