Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Wednesday that Kelly Bryant will be the Tigers' starting quarterback for their opener against Kent State “unless something just totally goes crazy."
“There is no way I can answer anybody’s question," Swinney said, per Grace Raynor of the Post and Courier. "All I can tell you is here’s where we are today. When we get in there and go play the game, unless something just goes backwards — which anything can happen, we’ve got a long way to go ... he’s probably going to be the guy to run out there.
“But I don’t know. We’re not at that point yet because every day matters. Every day counts."
Bryant, a junior, has served as a backup behind Deshaun Watson over the last two seasons. He recorded 75 total passing yards and one touchdown for his career across 18 attempts.
Freshmen Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson have also been competing for the starting spot in camp. Cooper was a 4-star prospect in the 2016 class and the nation's fifth-ranked dual-threat quarterback. Johnson was the No. 60 overall prospect and third-ranked pro style quarterback in the 2017 class, per Scout.
“I think (Johnson and Cooper) are still right there. They both do some good things and then they both make a mistake that you just scratch your head (about),” Swinney said. “But they’re freshmen. And I understand that. We’ve just got to keep putting them in those situations. Both made some huge explosive plays, but then like, I said, we’ll come back and we forgot the motion. Well that’s a problem.
“It’s a tackle for loss, we’re behind the chains. Or we take a sack on the sprint. It’s just the little things like that they’ve got to continue to grow through ... but man, Zerrick and Hunter are coming. It’s just going to continue to go."
The Tigers are trying to do the impossible of replacing Watson, arguably the best player in program history. No matter how well Bryant, Cooper or Johnson acclimate themselves, Clemson's offense is going to take a step back. With Wayne Gallman and Mike Williams also in the NFL, Swinney might be betting on the steadiness of having a veteran under center at least at first.