Clemson’s quarterback situation is different now than it was a year ago, but Kelly Bryant’s mindset is not. The senior has retained his mentality as a starter despite the fact he is sharing snaps with freshman Trevor Lawrence.
In other words, Bryant is approaching practices and games the same way he did last season, when he started all 14 games while leading the Tigers to a 12-2 record and their third straight appearance in the College Football Playoff.
“I feel like it’s different, but at the same time, I don’t think that’s changed my mindset — I’m still the guy no matter who is in,” Bryant said on Monday. “I’m still going to be the guy, whether I’m out there making the calls or making sure I’m locked in and engaged. Also, I’m giving my input to whoever’s in, what I see, because I know they’d do the same thing for me.
“So, I don’t feel like it’s changed my demeanor, my mindset, leading up to a game and also during the course of a game as well.”
Bryant started Clemson’s season-opening 48-7 win against Furman on Saturday at Death Valley. He missed on some throws early and went just 5-for-10 passing in the first half, but bounced back and was 5-for-6 in the second half and had an outstanding 35-yard touchdown run.
The Calhoun Falls, S.C., native finished 10-of-16 through the air for 127 yards and threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Amari Rodgers in the first quarter.
“I feel like I did pretty good,” Bryant said of his performance after watching the film. “Slow start of course. Just little miscues early on, but once things got going, we got playing and the tempo, we were executing. But it could be better, so just make sure that we come out strong and execute from the get-go. That’s the biggest emphasis, looking back on the tape.”
Meanwhile, Lawrence completed 9-of-15 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns. The true freshman from Cartersville, Ga., played the final three series of the first half after Bryant played the first three. Bryant and Lawrence then played two possessions apiece in the second half, respectively, before giving way to redshirt freshman Chase Brice for the remainder of the game.
Despite being shuffled in and out, Bryant says it wasn’t more difficult to develop a rhythm or get into the flow of the game.
“Nah, that’s just an excuse,” he said. “You just have to be ready to play when your moment’s called. I know what the situation was leading up to the game, so I just had to make sure I made the most of my opportunity, first and foremost, and just when he goes in, make sure I’m staying ready and staying locked in and engaged as well on the sideline.”
Bryant is saying all the right things to the media and seemingly on board with the Tigers’ two-quarterback system.
The fourth-year quarterback feels he has earned the right to play, but implied that Lawrence deserves to play as well based on what he has done on the field.
“You don’t see it a lot,” he said of teams playing multiple quarterbacks. “But when you’ve got guys that are performing in practice and they deserve to play, coach is going to make sure those guys play. And so that’s just the culture that we have here, guys who are making the most of their opportunities in games and also in practice. So, if guys are doing what they need to do to play, then they should play.”
While the quarterback battle is just that — a battle — Bryant has tried to be a mentor to Lawrence and take the frosh under his wing while competing with him at the same time.
He has embraced Lawrence and was the first to congratulate him following his first career touchdown pass to Diondre Overton on Saturday.
“I just told him good job. It was simple like that,” Bryant said. “It was a good read by him, good play by Diondre. I remember me throwing my first touchdown pass, and Deshaun (Watson) being one of the first guys to congratulate me.
“So, I’m just being that big brother in the quarterback room and also being a leader as well.”