Monday Morning Quarterback
With 12 days to go until second-ranked Clemson kicks off the 2018 season, the only thing officially we know about the Tigers’ quarterback situation is this … they will play multiple quarterbacks.
Swinney told us that again last Monday. He has been saying it since the spring and nothing has really happened to make him change his mind. At least that is what he is telling the media.
“The one thing I can definitely say, regardless of how it plays out, I don’t see a situation early where we just don’t play one guy,” he said. “You are going to have some guys that deserve to play. This is a situation where if somebody separates, it is probably going to take place in the games.”
The first game will be Sept. 1 at Clemson Memorial Stadium in Clemson at 12:20 p.m., against Furman.
Though Swinney has not officially said who will start, odds are Kelly Bryant will get the nod over freshman Trevor Lawrence. But, Lawrence will more than likely get a lot of reps against the FCS power. Expect to see third-string quarterback Chase Brice a little, too, but right now it appears Bryant and Lawrence are the two guys who will get most of the reps. But, you already know that.
We all have suspected as much since the spring game when Lawrence wowed us all with his accuracy and his touch on the deep balls, which looked effortlessly as they came out of his hand.
Though he did not come out and say it directly, co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott did tell us indirectly that both Bryant and Lawrence shared first-team reps in last Thursday’s final scrimmage of fall camp. He did that by indicating Brice was working with the second-team offense at times.
Elliott was also very direct in his praise for Lawrence when I asked him what the freshman has improved upon in training camp.
“Because of who we go against on defense, the thing that has impressed me is his ability to extend plays,” Elliott said. “Obviously, he is athletic and he can run. But, he just has a knack for the ability to extend the play and keep his eyes down field.”
Elliott continued to rave how the game is slowing down more and more for Lawrence. He is recognizing the blitzes more and more, and trust us defensive coordinator Brent Venables is not going easy on the kid.
Lawrence has been so impressive, Elliott and the rest of the offensive coaches have given him a little more freedom and have allowed him to try and dictate what the offense is doing instead of just managing things. That isn’t something they usually do for a guy who has never played a snap in college football.
Bryant did not get that luxury at all last season and he started all 14 games for the ACC Champions. In fact, the senior is just now demanding that respect, something Elliott spoke about in his assessment of Bryant. They wanted to see how he works with the younger quarterbacks and teaches them as well as helping the offensive line and the running backs with protections and really progressing from game manager to game dictator.
“Now you can dictate the game,” Elliott said. “You can manage the protections like Deshaun (Watson) did in 2016 where he was in full control of the game as opposed to just managing and going with the system. He was able to really flourish because he was now dictating the game more so than managing the game.”
What does all this mean?
It means the Tigers will play multiple quarterbacks when they start the season, but from what Elliott has told the media, it is obvious Clemson is really going to play two quarterbacks when it gets to College Station, Texas on Sept. 8 to face Texas A&M. It’s also obvious, at least what the coaches reported following the three scrimmages, that Lawrence has closed the gap between him and Bryant even more since camp began.
Though Bryant has improved himself and has had a very good camp, it appears what the two quarterbacks do against the Aggies could decide a lot of things in the quarterback competition, which is exactly what Dabo Swinney wants. He wants the competition to play out on the field.