CLEMSON—Nearly every starting quarterback in the country understands that, for most of the fans, their favorite player is the backup—the guy that they are sure could make every throw and would be starting if they were the coach.
That, however, is not a position that the Clemson Tigers have been in for two seasons.
For each of the last two seasons, there is no one that the Tiger faithful would have rather seen under center or in the shotgun than No. 4, Deshaun Watson. But the fact is, for the 2017 team there is no No. 4 ready to walk out onto the field.
There are four quarterbacks all vying for the spot vacated by Watson, and for the starting quarterback Kelly Bryant he understands that the competition is only going to heat up as the summer months approach.
“I think that I competed really good in the 15 days of practice that we had,” Bryant said. “The main thing that I was trying to do is just to be more consistent. All of us, Zerrick Cooper, Tucker (Israel), Hunter (Johnson), all of us compete and it was good healthy competition that will help us in the summer as we get going.”
After waiting, what must feel like an eternity, for his chance to be “the guy” to lead the high-powered Clemson offense, the rising junior feels like his third time through the spring practice season has been his best one yet as a Tiger.
Now, the key for Bryant is to build on the successes of the spring and work hard to improve on those things that are required of a quarterback.
“I feel like this is maybe the best spring that I’ve had, so I’m just trying to keep it going on into the summer and just trying to be consistent with it,” Bryant said. “Just trying to step out of my comfort zone and be a more vocal guy. That’s what I’m trying to focus on, because I haven’t had that much of a leadership role in the past three years.”
Three years of waiting for Bryant has quickly turned into a dogfight through the spring and while, for many quarterbacks, the pressure associated with finally being the man to lead the defending national champions onto the field would be nearly suffocating.
But for Bryant he can’t afford to feel the pressure, because that is when you start making mistakes.
“No pressure. The more pressure you put on yourselves, that’s when you start pressing,” Bryant said. “I haven’t put too much pressure on myself. Like I said, those guys are out there competing their butts off too, everybody wants to be the guy. I’m just trying to go out there and be myself and compete hard.
“I would say like Coach Swinney always says, ‘You can’t win it in a day, you can’t lose it in a day.’ So, I’ve just got to grow from it and learn from it. I’m ready to go watch film because there are definitely some things that I would like to have back–like a throw that sailed a little high. I’m just going to learn from it and go into the summer.”
While Bryant ended the Tigers’ annual Orange and White game with the praise of his head coach saying, “If we played today, Kelly would be the starter,” he is not taking anything for granted.
“No, I don’t (think I’ve won the job). I just want to keep on trying to improve,” Bryant said. “I can’t get complacent, because those guys all want the job, so I’m trying not to settle. But no, I don’t think I’ve got the job—I’m just going to keep working.”