SUNSET, S.C.— Quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter believes that there is a quarterback on the roster—whose name is not Kelly Bryant or Hunter Johnson—that may sneak up and surprise some people this season.
And that quarterback is redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper.
When asked whether or not Cooper had what it takes to compete, and possibly win the starting job, Streeter was adamant that he has done everything the coaching staff have asked of him.
“Absolutely, he had a really good spring. He did a great job in the fall last year, when he was redshirted, of studying the playbook,” Streeter said. “And you always wonder, with these freshmen that are redshirted, what are they really doing? You try to have a plan for them, of course, but you’re so busy with the game plan, and making sure that we’ve got everything right for the starting quarterback and the guys that can play.
“What are these redshirt guys doing on their own time? We give them a plan and let’s see if they go do it—well, he did it and we were very impressed in the spring on what he was able to get from the playbook and studying in the fall. “
Cooper entered the Clemson program last season, and according to many, was thought to be the heir apparent to Deshaun Watson.
The fourth best overall prospect in Georgia and ninth best quarterback in the nation—rated by ESPN—completed 161-267 passes for 2,039 yards and 21 touchdowns during his senior campaign at Jonesboro High School.
However, the strong-armed true freshman needed to correct some technical issues before he could make a move on the starting job—which is exactly what he did this spring.
“There’s a few things with his technique—footwork—that we needed to correct in the spring and he did that,” Streeter said. “All of what I’m hearing this summer is that he is doing well. He’s still young. He’s still young and still learning, but he has the ability to be really special.
“He has the tools to be really special. He has one of the strongest, if not the strongest, arm I’ve ever seen—ever coached, no doubt about it. Now it’s a matter of being consistent with that footwork, and especially with the decision making.”
If Cooper is going to make a charge and possibly overtake Bryant and Johnson to become the Tigers’ next signal-caller, it will be because he proved that he was the most consistent quarterback—something that all three potential quarterbacks struggled with during spring practice.
And for Streeter, he believes that consistency will come as a byproduct of getting more experience in practice.
And again, all that comes down to is that experience. Him getting into these situations in practice and learning from them. He did that. He was a little up and down in the spring, so was Hunter, all of them were a little up and down, but Kelly was the most consistent in the end. Which is why we saying what we’re saying.”