‘He was off a little bit, but nobody knows what happened in those other 14 practices’
Ramon Robinson talks to Kelly Bryant a lot.
They text each other or talk just about every day. Of course, since Robinson is the Clemson quarterback’s personal coach, they will discuss football and what he needs to do in order to succeed on the football field.
However, they don’t always talk about football. They talk about life, too. Bryant just isn’t trying to keep his job as the Tigers’ starting quarterback, but he is also finishing up school where he is scheduled to graduate next month with a history degree.
Bryant is also trying to get into graduate school, which is not an easy thing to do, and he is finishing up an internship at the same time. In other words, Bryant has had a full load this spring.
As fans often do, they forget the “weekend warriors” they see on the football field every Saturday in the fall are real human beings with trials and tribulations in life just like anyone else.
“He has a load on him besides just being the quarterback for Clemson University,” Robinson said.
Being the quarterback for one of the nation’s top programs has not been a cakewalk for Bryant. Since Deshaun Watson graduated and left for the NFL following the 2016 season, everyone has doubted Bryant’s ability to quarterback the Tigers.
During and after spring practice last year, fans and the media were already penciling in Hunter Johnson to overtake Bryant as the starting quarterback by at least Week 3 of the 2017 season. That never happened. Instead, Bryant led the Tigers to a third straight ACC Championship and back to the College Football Playoff for a third consecutive year.
Granted, his numbers were not as pretty or as flashy as Watson’s were the previous two seasons, but he got the job done. In the ACC Championship Game against Miami, Bryant earned MVP honors after completing 23-of-29 passes for 252 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain in Clemson’s 38-3 win over the Hurricanes.
Now, despite all of his success, pundits and fans once again doubt Bryant’s ability to lead the Tigers. This spring, the rave was all about former 5-star Trevor Lawrence and how he or Johnson should be starting for Clemson when it hosts Furman in the season-opener on Sept. 1.
“I tell him to stay out of it,” Robinson said. “I eat it up. The parents, you know what I am saying? I will eat it up and I will take it and I will implement it into our training. There are little things I will do to spark a fire in you, piss you off and make you work a little harder.”
It should not be too hard to get Bryant fired up this summer after what was said about him and the position following last week’s spring game. Even head coach Dabo Swinney left the door open on who is starting quarterback will be in the fall.
At this past week’s Prowl & Growl event in Charleston, Swinney said the Tigers could use more than one quarterback this fall.
Of course, Bryant has no one to blame but himself for the doubt and indecision right now. In the spring game, he completed just 8-fo-15 passes for 35 yards, while also missing receivers that were running open down field.
While he was struggling, Lawrence and Johnson were completing 37, 50 and 60 yard passes with the long ball.
“A lot of folks own the (spring) game because he was off a little bit, but nobody knows what happened in those other 14 practices,” Robinson said. “He has been lighting it up the whole time. That is just how the world is. You can only judge off what you see. It is the spring game, but in actuality it is the last practice of the spring.”
Though Robinson, like a lot of people, would have liked to have seen the quarterbacks live in the spring game, Bryant is not in the same camp.
“Kelly is not a guy that makes excuses. He is a guy that will tell you how it is,” Robinson said. “‘Coach, I did not have a good game. I did not have it.’ Like I said before, he has a lot of things he is dealing with when it comes to graduation and that is not to make an excuse, but at the same time, he was off.
“But like I said, the other 14 practices, those are the ones nobody has seen. For everyone to make a big deal out of it, to me, that’s not fair. But I’m not the one to report it that way.”
Robinson does not believe the spring game or the aftermath that followed has hurt Bryant’s confidence. He knows the rising senior will want to get to work on how to fix the problems and figure out what he was doing wrong to cause him to overthrow tight end Milan Richard and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow.
“Sometimes you are on and sometimes you aren’t. Nobody is perfect,” Robinson said. “I have seen some of the best. I had games that way. You see everybody on TV, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, you can go down the line. You have games that way, but it is just a matter of bouncing back.
“You give more positive than you give negative. I feel like he had a great spring and I don’t feel like it takes one practice to judge his performance and how he is going to lead the Tigers this year.”