The quarterback competition at Clemson has been taken up a notch with No. 1 overall recruit Trevor Lawrence being added to the mix.
Returning starter Kelly Bryant, who led the Tigers to the College Football Playoff last season, has upped his game as he tries to earn the starting job for the second consecutive year.
Bryant, Lawrence and Chase Brice all performed well in Clemson’s first scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday, and Tigers coach Dabo Swinney said Bryant is not backing down from other competitors.
“That’s what I love about Kelly. He’s accepted the challenge. He hasn’t backed down from the challenge,” Swinney said. “It’s been great to see him compete, and his game is at a whole other level from where he was at any point last year.”
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Clemson had four quarterbacks battling for the starting job this spring with Bryant, Lawrence, Hunter Johnson and Chase Brice.
Johnson transferred in the summer, leaving three quarterbacks to compete.
Bryant also could have transferred out after graduating in May and been immediately eligible to play somewhere else in 2018 as a grad transfer. Instead, he decided to stay and continue to compete for Clemson’s starting job.
“He could’ve walked outta here in May,” Swinney said. “He could’ve said, ‘Hey, see ya boys. I’m outta here.’ And gone somewhere where it might not be as challenging, go somewhere where it might be a little easier path. He said, ‘No, I’m going to stay right here.’ ”
Just because Bryant has performed well doesn’t mean he is guaranteed anything.
The battle remains close with three weeks until Clemson’s season opener against Furman on Sept. 1, according to Swinney.
“I know y’all want me to say, ‘Hey, this is the guy.’ But I’m just telling you we’ve got three guys that we can win with,” Swinney said. “Ideally, once we get seven to 10 days out, then we’ll say, ‘OK, this is how we’re going to go into this game.’ If it’s a big separation, then that makes it easy. But if it’s close, then we say, ‘Well, OK. What’s our next step of evaluation?’ We’ve gotta go play some games. And if it’s close, you’ve gotta give guys an opportunity to play and then you go from there.”