CLEMSON—With the start of football season a mere 85 days away, it should come as no surprise that nothing has changed with regards to who Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney believes will be calling the plays when the Tigers take to the field against Kent State.
“Kelly (Bryant) started spring first kind of out of default, and finished the spring first,” Swinney said. “He’s a guy that still has a lot to prove and we don’t play until September. I love the guys that we have at the position. We’ve got some really good young talent and that race will continue as we start fall camp here in a couple of months.”
If Bryant is going to hold off the charge being put together by redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper and true freshman Hunter Johnson, who are both listed as co-backups to Bryant, he understands that he has to continue to improve, or risk losing the job.
“I’ve been working on just mechanics with the ball, throwing and footwork—just pulling my hips through as I’m finishing a throw, little stuff like that,” Bryant said. “Just being confident and consistent while I’m out there.”
While Bryant is trying to hold off those who would like to take the job from him, he has quickly earned the respect of those he is leading.
Whether it be the wide receivers, the offensive line or even the defenders on the other side of the ball, the Tigers, regardless of their position, are learning to listen when Bryant speaks.
“He has really stepped up his game, in terms of being more vocal on the field,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “When we are on defense and he’s out there you hear him talking to the guys on offense, correcting them and everything. And then, when he’s on the sidelines he’s coaching up the defenders on what they should have done.”
That sentiment has been echoed by the coaching staff.
“Not surprised in the leadership that we’ve seen,” co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “Deshaun (Watson) was such a huge presence that sometimes it takes that kind of presence to leave for a guy to be able to step up and king of take some leadership responsibility.
“We’ve been really pleased with where Kelly is.”
For Bryant, the change in his ability to lead the dynamic group of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball may have as much to do with his increased understanding of the offense, as he heads into his third season in a Tiger uniform, as it does with Watson’s departure for the NFL.
“I’d say I’m more knowledgeable not,” Bryant said. “I’m still learning as this transition goes on, but I know pretty much the ins and outs of the offense and now I’m reacting more than thinking.”
With Bryant continuing to get better with each and every passing day, there is little doubt in the coaching staff’s minds that should he ultimately win the job and start the season for the Clemson Tigers they will be OK.
“(He’s) one of our best leaders, and he’s really taken a great role in that during the offseason,” Scott said. “He’s very conscientious and it’s very important to him. He’s a student of the game and somebody who studies video and tries to get better.
“He spends a lot of time on his own, working out and throwing. He represents this program the way we’d want some of our top players to represent Clemson—first class in every way.”