I have an idea on how he is going to make it work
I get asked these three questions a lot these days.
“How is Clemson going to handle its quarterback situation?”
“Who will be Clemson’s starting quarterback?”
“Will Clemson play multiple quarterbacks?”
I think I have the answer to all three questions, and for the record, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has already answered the third one.
This past April, Swinney said the Tigers will play multiple quarterbacks during an IPTAY Prowl & Growl event in Charleston.
“I can’t really see any situation right now where we only run one guy out there,” Swinney said to the crowd during the question-and-answer session of the program. “There’s just too much talent.”
What exactly is Swinney implying? Does this mean he will play Kelly Bryant, last year’s starter, and Trevor Lawrence, the nation’s No. 1 player coming out of high school in 2018?
Yes! It does!
And why not do it?
“We’re not trying to keep everybody happy,” Swinney said. “We’re trying to just win. Everybody has a role. Coaches coach, players play, and it’s always going to be a very competitive environment. I think everybody understands that.
“But there’s nobody out there going, ‘Ok, well let’s keep this person happy and this person…’ That’s not how we go about it. That’s not our culture. I think everybody understands that performance is what matters, and that’s why we evaluate and grade and film every single detail of every practice. But guys know if you deserve to play you’re going to have an opportunity to play, but you have to play well.”
Kelly Bryant is a proven winner and his teammates and coaches love him. It makes sense to keep him involved. You can make an argument he is the leader of the team. He can make big-time plays in key situations with his arm and his legs. He can also run as well as any running back on the team so he gives Clemson that dual threat aspect.
With that said, Lawrence is too talented to leave sitting on the bench. The freshman has a cannon for an arm and can make the deep throws. He is smart and already has a good grasp of the offense. He also knows how to win. He was 52-2 as a starter in high school.
So what do you? You play both.
“It’s like having Sammy Watkins, Nuk Hopkins and Mike Williams,” Swinney said. “You’re just going to play one?”
Don’t tell me, “Having two quarterbacks is like having none?” That is not always the case.
Remember Chris Leak and Tim Tebow at Florida in 2006? Urban Meyer had a proven winner in Chris Leak and he had this phenom freshman in Tim Tebow. They were both too valuable to keep on the bench. So he figured out a way to play them both.
Leak, his veteran, started every game and then Tebow came in certain situations, especially in the red zone, and played a lot as well. It was an interesting dynamic, but it worked. Florida went on to win the national championship in 2006.
Clemson’s situation is very similar to what Meyer had in 2006. He had one quarterback who could sling the ball all over the field in Leak. People forget that Leak broke many of the Gators’ passing records set by Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel.
The other quarterback, Tebow, was dual-threat guy, who could run and throw the ball, but maybe was not as accurate or polished of a passer as Leak was. Sound familiar?
Bryant is more like Tim Tebow. He’s the dual-threat guy. He can come in on third-and-short and run the quarterback power, but also has the reputation he can drop back and make throws that will keep a defense honest.
In the red zone Bryant is especially dangerous. Clemson converted 72.6 percent of its red zone opportunities into touchdowns last year. Thirty-seven of its red zone scores were touchdowns. That is 80.4 percent, one of the best red-zone efficiency ratings in the country. Bryant was responsible for the majority of those touchdowns.
Lawrence, as we all saw in the spring game, has the ability to make the deep throws down the field. He is like Leak in this situation. He can come in and go deep to Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers or Hunter Renfrow. He can also make those 15- to 20-yard throws to keep defenses honest, forcing defenses to have to play more man-to-man concepts.
I can see a scenario where Bryant starts every game. In the second series, I can see Lawrence coming in and driving the team down the field. If he gets them into the red zone, then I can see Bryant coming back in to finish the drive off, especially when the ball is down near the goal line. Bryant gives Clemson more options in those situations.
When they want to throw the ball deep, they bring Lawrence back in.
Also, if successful, playing two quarterbacks will force defensive coordinators to have to prepare for both quarterbacks every week, which in turn puts more pressure on the defense and less time to practice on one guy.
“I think it’s a situation that will work itself out,” Swinney said. “Somebody’s going to run out there first in September. We’ve got a long way to go until September. Somebody’s going to run out there first, and that doesn’t mean they have a lifetime contract. It also doesn’t mean they’re going to play every snap because the competition will probably continue. That’s the type of people that we have. So it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
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