When it comes to quarterback Kelly Bryant’s injured ankle and his availability for Friday’s game at Syracuse, Jeff Scott deferred all of those questions to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
However, Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator did speak to the confidence level he has in backups Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper and how the approach the second-ranked Tigers will use on Friday to attack Syracuse will not change.
“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.”
What Clemson (6-0, 4-0 ACC) wants to do is still be consistent no matter who is quarterbacking the team. Based off last week’s performance, Johnson had the better game when he came off the bench and completed all five his passes for 42 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to Cannon Smith.
However, Cooper struggled a little more as he completed just 2-of-6 passes for 16 yards.
“Every year you are going to have certain guys where ninety percent they are the same, but that ten percent that they maybe have strengths in certain areas and you kind of know that as you are going through (play calls),” Scott said. “The way that these guys have rolled through spring practice, fall camp and really this year, we are calling the same plays in practice and the guys are out there executing it.”
Scott said they will lean on quarterback coach Brandon Streeter sometimes about what concepts each quarterback likes and what things he wants to stay away from.
Another reason the coaches are confident in their backups has to do with the way the guys have been prepped. Scott admitted, with Deshaun Watson the last two years, they had just one guy who received all of the first team reps and then the second-team guy, Nick Schuessler, got the majority of the second team reps.
Because the quarterback competition between Bryant, Johnson and Cooper was not settled until the later part of fall camp, all three quarterbacks received significant reps.
It also helps that Swinney requires in camp that first, second and third team players are getting reps.
“Coach Swinney, he reps three groups the entire spring practice and then fall camp, all the way up to two weeks before the first game,” Scott said. “We are repping three groups and that is keeping everybody engaged because you don’t get better standing on the sidelines watching everybody else practice.
“Because of that, it allows those guys to be able to go out there and have success and also the idea of iron sharpening iron, our second- and third-team offensive line is still going against a real good defensive line across the way. I don’t think our guys get out there in games and get wowed too much or anything like that because of the depth and the guys they are going against here on a daily basis.”