CLEMSON— When first-string quarterback Kelly Bryant stepped onto the practice fields at Clemson for the first practice of the 2017 fall camp he looked different– not a look of added muscle or size, but of confidence.
For Bryant, the first time that he marched out onto the fields as the Tigers’ No. 1 quarterback was back in the spring, but only a couple of months had pasted since, arguably, the greatest quarterback to ever play at Clemson, Deshaun Watson, had finished his tenure and the shadow of No. 4 still loomed large over Bryant and the rest of the quarterbacks.
But now, with a summer separating him from Watson, Bryant is carrying himself with a renewed confidence that he can be the leader of the Tiger offense.
“Just having that confidence—that’s something that I’m trying to preach every day that I come out here and off the field, just having that confidence in my walk,” Bryant said. “It just helps me so much more when I have that confidence, and also the guys see that I have that confidence in myself and they can rally around me.”
If the Tigers are going to experience the same kind of success that they had during Watson’s tenure, it will come because whoever is the quarterback has put in the work required to lead an offense that has a bevy of weapons at its disposal.
And while, many of the players on the team took the week off before camp to head to the beach, return home to see family or any number of excursions—Bryant, and a few of his teammates, saw the week off as a chance to get better, so he stayed on campus and worked on his craft.
“Got to get better man,” Bryant said. “Some guys stayed here as well. Some guys were grinding, you know. It was a little time for us to get away as well, you know leading up to camp. Just want to get everything, you know, dot the i’s, cross the t’s and all that.”
While Bryant would be the starting quarterback if the Tigers played today, the fact is that there is still a long time between the first practice and their first game Sept. 2 against Kent State, and between now and that first game there are some other talented signal-callers who are hoping to snatch the coveted starting job from Bryant.
But, it is that competition that he believes will ultimately bring the Tigers success this season—regardless of who wins the job.
“I’m definitely embracing it (the quarterback competition), just taking it every day and just trying to learn from it,” Bryant said. “And also, the guys in the room, we’re all pushing each other to be the guy and so there’s a good healthy competition in the room. So, we are all competing, want the job, so it’s helping everybody in the room and also helping me as well.
“It’s good and all, but the jobs not done. I’m not saying that I’m the starter yet. I’ve still got to go about my business, handle everything.”
While there are questions not only at the quarterback position, but at wide receiver, running back and tight end for the Tigers—one might think that there would be a lack of chemistry on the offensive side of the ball, especially with three quarterbacks—Bryant, Hunter Johnson and Zerrick Cooper—all splitting snaps, but that is not the case as Bryant sees it.
In fact, that is something that this offense has been working on late at night and early in the morning this offseason.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all offseason—building chemistry,” Bryant said. “Late nights, early mornings in the indoor, outside, getting timing down as well. But all those guys, we have so much depth at those positions—receiver, running back—that it helps when you have offensive experience in the offensive line upfront blocking for us.”
Even with the losses from last year’s team, this new, confident Kelly Bryant feels that this year’s offense will be just as dynamic as any other season, because of one thing—hunger.
“Hungry. Everybody out there wants to prove theirselve,” Bryant said. “A lot of guys, like I said, want to prove theirselve, want to make a name for theirselve. But last year’s last year, and everybody wants to talk about last year, but we feel that the guys on the offense, in the position rooms, can do the same things as those guys last year. So, we all hungry.”