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    Clemson QB Kelly Bryant Readies For First Scrimmage

    Clemson's Kelly Bryant was named the No. 1 QB heading into spring football. But his first test looms as Dabo Swinney's Tigers prepare for their first situational scrimmage on Wednesday.

    March 8, 2017

    Clemson’s Kelly Bryant was named the No. 1 QB heading into spring football. But his first test looms as Dabo Swinney’s Tigers prepare for their first situational scrimmage on Wednesday.

    When Clemson kicked off spring practice last week in preparation for its 2017 college football season following its national championship campaign of 2016, head coach Dabo Swinney said that Kelly Bryant was leading the race in the battle to replace two-time Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson as the team’s starting quarterback for 2017.

    While Swinney said that Bryant is the clear No. 1 as of now, the competition remains very much open and the coach has not promised a firm decision when spring drills end. Bryant and every other signal-caller in camp is competing to fill the shoes of one of the most successful quarterbacks in ACC history. Watson helped lead the Tigers to a 14-1 record in 2016 and their first national championship since 1981.

    Bryant remains the leader in the race, but the QB competition will heat up on Wednesday when the Tigers hold their first situational scrimmage. This will provide an opportunity for Swinney and his staff to see all four quarterbacks live and deal with some manufactured adversity against the Tigers defense. Competing against Bryant are Zerrick Cooper, who redshirted last season, rising redshirt sophomore Tucker Israel (four passes in two games last year) and true freshman Hunter Johnson. Cooper and Israel have taken the second-most amount of reps in camp, while Johnson continues to learn the system.

    “[Bryant] should be out in front,” Swinney said. “He knows more, he’s had more experience and it should show. And it has. “I’m very pleased with that. Now we’ve just got to grow and he’s got to continue to do it.”

    The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Bryant has very limited on-field collegiate experience, completing 13 of 22 passes for 75 yards while adding 178 yards on 35 carries in parts of 12 career games. But he knows the offensive system being run by co-OCs Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott better than any other signal-caller.

    “I really, really like the confidence level that Kelly’s come out with, and then he seems to be the most consistent day in and day out,” Elliott said. “I’ve let [QBs] coach [Brandon] Streeter handle [managing the reps] and he’s done a good job of trying to get all those guys opportunities. But obviously Kelly is the one that’s getting the majority of the reps.”

    A lot of time remains between now and the team’s opening matchup with Kent State in September, but Clemson’s coaching staff will at least get to ramp up the competition a bit with Wednesday’s scrimmage. And they’ll be able to see how each QB interacts with the receiver corps. While Mike Williams and Artavis Scott are gone, the Tigers do bring back national championship game hero Hunter Renfrow, Ray-Ray McCloud and Deon Cain from last year’s squad. So the cupboard isn’t bare.

    The question remains whether or not Bryant can continue to develop and remain the top tiger in Death Valley heading into the new season.

    MORE: College Football News Roundup – March 8


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