CLEMSON—The release of the Clemson football team’s summer depth chart came with little surprise when it comes to the position that most fans are interested in—the quarterback.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made no bones about who would be the first man up to replace, arguably, the greatest quarterback in the programs history, Deshaun Watson.
Earlier last month, following the annual spring game, Swinney told the media that if his team had to play a game tomorrow he would go with the junior Kelly Bryant.
“If we played today, Kelly Bryant goes out. He gives us the best chance to win,” Swinney said. “He was a guy coming in as far as, OK, well, he’s a junior, had the most experience. He didn’t have a ton, but had some. I thought he really asserted himself and took advantage of his opportunity this spring. He looked like a veteran.”
And the depth chart mirrored his statement, with Bryant firmly planted in the starting position. However, at the co-backup spot to Bryant are the two freshmen, one redshirt and one true, in Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson.
It is the ground that has been made up by the two freshmen that has the coaching staff believing that this is a race that will continue on at least into the start of fall camp—if not into the season.
“Zerrick Cooper was a guy at that didn’t get any work hardly in the fall. So, I got to see him really for the first time with competitive reps, and he did a good job,” Swinney said. “And I could tell that he worked hard in our power hour (weight program) in the fall, plus just mentally getting himself ready for the spring.
“Then Hunter Johnson, a true freshman that showed up in January. He got better as spring went on. The game was fast for both of those freshmen, but still saw a ton of progress and potential…We play in September, so there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then. Should be fun to watch it all play out.”
While the fan base may be clamoring for a definitive answer from the Tigers’ head coach on who will ultimately fill the void left by Watson, Swinney is confident that whoever the Tiger coaching staff decided to run out there when football season finally arrives will be more than capable of getting the job done for the defending national champions.
“They’re all capable. We felt like they would be from a talent standpoint. That’s obviously why we recruited them,” Swinney said. “We’ve got everything we needed at that position to win at a high level.
“I think we’ve got a high level of talent on campus. I’ve got a good comfort zone that when it’s all said and done, whoever runs out there is going to be very capable of winning, and I think we’ll have more than one guy that’s capable of winning for us.”