Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney says it is time for his quarterbacks to get in line and go to work, and that is exactly what they did Wednesday as the three-time defending ACC Champions opened spring practice at the Poe Indoor Practice Facility.
Swinney says all four of his quarterbacks—returning starter Kelly Bryant, Hunter Johnson, Chase Brice and freshman Trevor Lawrence—will all have the same opportunity to compete for the job this spring.
“I think we have four special players … four talented guys,” Swinney said.
It all starts with Bryant, who was 12-2 in his first season as a starter for the Tigers and led them to the College Football Playoffs for a third straight year.
“We did not luck up and win the ACC,” Swinney said. “We beat some good teams, and he was a big part of it. You have a proven guy that has led your team to a playoff for a third year in a row. He led your team to an ACC Championship.
“He is an unbelievable leader. He is a great young man. He is very committed. You got that guy.”
Swinney said if Bryant is the best guy for the job, then it should be obvious.
“That is where are and that is where we start day one,” Swinney said.
The Tigers also have Johnson, a former 5-star quarterback who got some experience in mop up duty last year and really came on towards the end of the season.
“Mentally, it took him a little while to really kind of get the mental part caught up with the physical part,” Swinney said. “He is a very gifted, talented young player that is incredibly committed and focused. The same thing (as Bryant), he is an excellent leader who has made big strides.”
Brice is a former 4-star talent from Grayson, Ga., who was 40-7 as a starter and won a state championship. He was redshirted last season.
“He is a gunslinger, man, and he is a winner,” Swinney said. “He did an incredible job on the scout team last year. He’s tough and savvy. He has an excellent arm and great instincts for the game. Again, he has been a big-time winner his whole life.”
Then there is Lawrence, and though he may have just showed up on campus, he has every tool a coach can possibly want in a quarterback.
“He has unbelievable arm talent, size and can run,” Swinney said. “He has great experience and is an awesome winner.”
Swinney said those are the four they have so they will choose from the best of the best.
“As a coach, that beats choosing from the best of the bad any day of the week,” he said. “It is what is. We have a lot of great competition and they are going to make each other better, but they all understand that somebody has to run out there first.
“We have a starting point and it is Kelly’s job to continue to be the best guy every day, just like it is Mitch Hyatt’s job to prove he is the best left tackle. It is Christian Wilkins’ job to prove he is the best defensive tackle. We just kind of start there, but he still has to go and prove that every single day.”