Charlotte—If there one question that the Clemson faithful, and in fairness, the media as well, were collectively waiting on to be asked of head football coach Dabo Swinney at the annual ACC Kickoff it was: Who is going to be the starting quarterback this season?
While the Tigers’ head coach did not specifically name a starting quarterback, he did list what it will take to ultimately win the job for the Tigers.
“They’ve got to show me that they’ve got ownership of the system,” Swinney said. “What we put in in the spring, they have to own that. If they don’t, then they didn’t put the work in over the summer and it will be very obvious, but I know that’s not the case. Both (Kelly Bryant and Hunter Johnson) of those guys have worked their tails off.
“Whoever wins the job has got to be a guy that shows that he has a great command of what we are doing, he can execute what we are asking him to do, has a great understanding of what we’re asking him to do in the run game, makes good decisions, makes others around him better, provides the leadership and poise that we need. There’s a lot of things that go into it. And he’s got to get the job done.”
With the gap between the junior Bryant and true freshman Johnson closing during the summer workouts according to sources within the program, Swinney continued to not list a specific name—but more of what the coaching staff will be looking for in whoever earns the most coveted job in college football.
“He’s got to be consistent. He can’t be hot and cold, we’ve got to have a consistent performer at that position,” Swinney continued. “So, I’d rather have a guy that’s a very consistent performer than a guy that’s maybe got a little more talent—that’s hot then cold. You can’t win with those guys. So that’s all we’re looking for.”
Many will recall the last time the Tigers were thrust in the middle of a quarterback battle was back prior to the start of the 2014 season, when a true freshman Deshaun Watson battled incumbent Cole Stoudt—eventually winning the job in the fourth game of the season.
But the damage was already done, as the Tigers dropped games at Georgia and at No. 1 Florida State before Watson took over the job.
However, Tiger fans may be grateful that they had to endure a head coach learning how to deal with a quarterback battle, as it has prepared him for the 2017 season and the decisions that will have to be made.
For Swinney, if the season started today he knows, without a doubt, who would be the starting quarterback. But the fact of the matter is, the season is still more than a month away.
“We have a starting point when we get into camp,” Swinney said. “I said coming out of the spring that Kelly is going in as the first team guy-he’s earned that and definitely today gives us the best chance to win. I mean we’ve got a lot of work to do, we’ve got a whole month.”