Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has been cleared to practice and is no longer under the concussion protocol. That’s obviously the good news for Clemson. However, he says his ankle is about 80 to 85 percent healthy as he went into practice Monday evening.
“My ankle is feeling good,” he said. “It is feeling better than how I was feeling last week. I’m still going through treatment to get it back right for Saturday.”
Bryant’s sprained ankle was an issue for the Tigers in their Oct. 13 loss at Syracuse. He originally injured the ankle on Oct. 7 in a win against Wake Forest and missed most of the second half. The junior said he tweaked it again in the Syracuse game and he did not have the mobility he needs to avoid sacks and to run the football.
It limited the seventh-ranked Tigers’ offense as well and eventually led to his head injury when he was caught on a second-quarter scramble and slammed to the Carrier Dome turf. He left the game with a concussion and had to sit out last week’s practices.
With Bryant unable to practice, both Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson took first-team reps. Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said, for the most part, both quarterbacks shared the first-team reps evenly. However, he indicated Cooper is still ahead of Johnson because of experience.
“I think the biggest thing is within our system there’s a lot of things that the quarterback has to control and it just takes experience,” the Clemson coach said. “One thing that (Hunter’s) given us is confidence. When he goes in the game it seems like that stuff comes a lot more naturally to him, but in practice there’s just a couple things you have to remind him on that you don’t have to remind Zerrick on just because he’s been in the system and been around the terminology. He’s actually orchestrated the motions and all the adjustments that we made.”
Clemson (6-1, 4-1 ACC) hopes it does not need Cooper or Johnson. The goal is to have Bryant ready to go for Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech, which he and Elliott both said was the plan.
“I ran a little bit on (my ankle) last week. So I’m eager to run on it again today,” Bryant said before practice. “This is my first day back practicing so just have to see how it goes from there. But it is feeling good.”
Though Bryant did not practice last week, the coaches tried to keep him involved in the game plan and in the preparation as much as possible.
“The coaches had me right there with the offense, going through the game plan, making sure I know what is going on and what to prepare for and the adjustments we will be making,” he said.
The week off was good for Bryant as he was able to rest and get healthy again.
“I’m feeling really good. It was good to rest a little bit last weekend and to sit back and watch some other people,” he said. “Just to get back and get my body up under me. It has been a long season so far. Head wise, I feel I’m back to normal, nothing has been really bothering me.”
Bryant watched clips of his hit in the Syracuse game and admitted it was probably the worst hit he has taken in his career. He also admitted he was unconscious for a brief time.
“It was scary from just looking at it,” he said. “I was watching clips of it and I was just laying there. Dang! I was getting some good sleep. That looked like the best sleep that I have gotten. It was scary.”
But fortunately for Bryant, everything came out okay and it appears he will be back on the field come Saturday. Now the question is will the ankle be at or near 100 percent by kickoff.