Though Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney feels the Tigers can win with either quarterback, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit does not feel the same way.
During a teleconference call with the media Friday afternoon, Herbstreit was asked to compare the quarterback battles at Alabama, Clemson and Georgia and what he thought about each of the competitions, which involve an incumbent starting quarterback being pushed by a young up-and-comer.
Of course at Clemson, the competition has been all about Kelly Bryant, last year’s starter, and true freshman Trevor Lawrence. Unlike the competition at Alabama, between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, and at Georgia, between Jake Fromm and Justin Fields, Herbstreit feels the competition to be the Tigers’ starter is different than at those other two schools.
“Kelly Bryant made some plays and did some things, but truth be told, they won a lot of games because of their defense and other aspects of their offense,” Herbstreit said.
Clemson went 12-2 last year and advanced to the College Football Playoff for a third straight year. Bryant was named the ACC Championship Game’s MVP after he completed 23-of-29 passes for 252 yards and touchdown in the Tigers’ 38-3 victory over Miami.
However, Bryant was gobbled up against Alabama and was forced to stay in the pocket and throw the ball downfield, which he could not do. He completed just 18-of-36 passes for 124 yards and was intercepted twice, one being returned for a touchdown in the 24-6 loss to the Crimson Tide in the Sugar Bowl.
Though Bryant completed 65.8 percent of his passes in 2017, he threw for just 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns, a significant drop in production from the 4,593 yards and 41 touchdowns Deshaun Watson had the year before while completing 67 percent of his passes.
Watson of course threw for a national championship game record 420 yards and three touchdowns in beating Alabama in the 2017 CFP National Championship game.
“I think, everything I hear about this quarterback Trevor Lawrence is he is the next Deshaun Watson,” Herbstreit said. “He is big and he is fast and he can throw. I think in Clemson’s case if you are trying to beat Alabama and trying to beat Georgia, maybe you need that Trevor Lawrence. Maybe you go to him.”
Everyone will have to wait, more than likely until Week 2 at Texas A&M, to see what will happen. Swinney has not officially named a starter at quarterback for the season-opener against Furman next Saturday, but he has said he will play multiple quarterbacks as long as it takes for someone to show separation on the playing field.
However, it sounds like Herbstreit has made up his mind on who he thinks Clemson’s starting quarterback should be.