Kelly Bryant led Clemson to the College Football Playoff and was named a finalist for the Manning Award during his first season as a starter in 2017, but he now finds himself in a similar place heading into spring practice.
At this time last year, Bryant was the favorite to win the starting quarterback job but was being pushed by several talented underclassmen.
Even with the departure of two quarterbacks this offseason, Bryant has plenty of competition for the starting job for 2018. He is once again the favorite entering the spring but will be battling with sophomore quarterback and former five-star recruit Hunter Johnson, as well as the No. 1 player in the class of 2018 — Trevor Lawrence. Those three, as well as redshirt freshman Chase Brice, will be splitting snaps this spring.
“They’re all going to have a very similar chance. Obviously, Kelly Bryant is going to go in as the starter for Day 1 in spring ball. He’s obviously going to get the first reps the first day, but all four of those guys, they’re going to get a lot of reps this spring. There’s no doubt about it,” quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter said. “I can’t say they’re going to be perfectly equal, but it’s going to be pretty close to being equal. All very, very talented young men and special young men.”
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The biggest difference this year is that Bryant has more confidence entering the competition.
He has performed well in tough road environments at Louisville, Virginia Tech and South Carolina. And he also led the Tigers to an ACC championship game, breaking Deshaun Watson’s record for most consecutive completed passes in an ACC championship game in a victory against Miami.
“What an unbelievable year that he had, and just an unbelievable leader on this team and earned it the whole year. Earned it starting from a year ago,” Streeter said. “Last year at this time, he knew that he kind of had the keys going into spring ball, but there was nothing decided at that point. He took the bull by the horns and he went and got it and he earned it. And then throughout the season he just gained more and more confidence with his play and did a great job. He’s got a ton of confidence right now.”
While Bryant is battling with a pair of former five-star recruits in Lawrence and Johnson, that has not kept him from helping the younger quarterbacks.
Streeter is not allowed to sit in meetings with his quarterbacks at this time of year but has received positive feedback on how those meetings have been going, as well as the interaction Bryant has had with the younger quarterbacks.
“They’ve all developed a great relationship, and I take pride in that. These guys take pride in it in my room that they’re going to be brothers. They’re going to be encouraging each other. They’re going to be helping each other out, because it does no good to have negative feelings towards the next guy that’s sitting next to you,” Streeter said. “It does nothing but hurt yourself. And they did a great job of that last year in the season and last spring, and they’re carrying it on into the winter months, too. And Kelly is just that type of guy that he just wants to get better, and he wants to help people. And that’s why he’s such a good leader.”