Clemson QB Kelly Bryant wraps up Tigers' spring game
All eyes were on the quarterbacks during Clemson’s spring game Saturday at Death Valley as four signal callers auditioned to replace Deshaun Watson.
The Orange team, led by Kelly Bryant and Tucker Israel, recorded a 19-14 win over the White squad in front of a crowd of more than 60,000 fans according to Clemson’s athletics department.
Bryant, who entered the spring as the favorite to win the starting quarterback job, struggled passing, completing 4 of 13 attempts for 43 yards with an interception. Still, the junior is the leader of the pack as spring practice comes to an end.
“Right now, if we played today, he’d be the guy,” Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said. “But we don’t play today – we play in September. Everything matters. Everything counts.”
Bryant sustained a torn tendon on his right pinky on the first play of the game and said, at times, it felt like he was playing with three fingers.
He taped it up to finish the game but is expected to wear a splint for the next six weeks.
“That’s the kind of kid he is. He’s tough. He wanted to keep playing,” Swinney said. “We taped it up and he played the best he could.”
Of Bryant’s four completions, one was on a shovel pass to Ray-Ray McCloud. The play accounted for 32 of Bryant’s 43 passing yards. The former Wren star rushed for 66 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown run to open the scoring in the first quarter.
Bryant said he feels he has work to do to win the starting job.
“I think I competed really good. … The main thing is I was just trying to be more consistent,” Bryant said. “This might have been one of the best springs that I’ve had since I’ve been here. I’m just trying to keep that going into the summer and stay consistent.”
While Bryant struggled, Israel was a pleasant surprise.
Israel completed 13 of 19 passes for 94 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown pass to Trevion Thompson. The score gave the Orange a 19-7 lead late in the third quarter.
Israel was the only one of the four quarterbacks to not throw an interception.
“Tucker’s just a gamer,” Swinney said. “He knows what to do. He doesn’t have some of the tools that those other guys have, but he’s the epitome of what you want. Take what you’ve got and make the best of it.”
For the White team, redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper completed 11 of 18 passes for 81 yards with an interception, and freshman Hunter Johnson was 5-for-13 passing for 48 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“Zerrick and Hunter have had some really good days and some really inconsistent days,” Swinney said. “Both of them are really learning and growing every day. By the time we get to the fall, you’ll see transformation.”
Johnson had, perhaps, the most impressive throw of the day. he found Diondre Overton in the corner of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter.
The pass cut the Orange’s lead to 13-7, but the White wouldn’t score again until the fourth quarter, when Adam Choice had a 3-yard touchdown run for the final margin.
Bryant was the game’s leading rusher, followed by C.J. Fuller for the Orange with 13 carries for 51 yards. Choice had nine carries for 34 yards, while sophomore Tavien Feaster had five carries for 21 yards for the White and caught one pass for 10 yards.
Cornell Powell was the leading receiver with four grabs for 45 yards for the White, including a long of 24 on a pretty pass from Israel. McCloud added four catches for 34 yards, while T.J. Chase hauled in four passes for 36 yards for the White.
As a whole, the quarterbacks finished 33-for-63 for 266 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Swinney exits the spring confident the Tigers are strong enough at quarterback, and as a team, to win another national title.
“We would never have signed them if we didn’t believe in them,” Swinney said. “We definitely have the ingredients to be a team that has a chance. You’re never going to hear me come out and say, ‘We’re gonna win it all.’ I just want to be one of those teams that has a chance.”