Clemson’s Kelly Bryant discusses being named starting QB
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney pointed out during preseason camp that Kelly Bryant had the option to go to another school as a graduate transfer where he would have been eligible to play immediately.
Bryant confirmed to The State on Monday afternoon that the thought of transferring did cross his mind.
Ultimately, Bryant decided to stick around and play his senior season at Clemson. That decision was rewarded Monday when he was named the Tigers starting quarterback for the season opener against Furman.
“It crossed my mind, but I feel like if I would’ve left, I would I have been doing the same thing, had to go out, prove myself, compete again,” Bryant said. “But that’s not in my character to just leave like that, especially with the guys I came in with being a big, tight group. We’ve done so much.”
Bryant competed with Trevor Lawrence and Chase Brice for the starting job throughout the spring and into fall camp before he was named the starter five days before the season opener.
Despite leading Clemson to the College Football Playoff and ACC title last season, Bryant still had to go out and prove that he is the best option at quarterback for the Tigers.
The former Wren star struggled during the spring game, while Lawrence excelled. Hunter Johnson then transferred following the spring, and Bryant considered it as well but said he didn’t want his Clemson career to end on a sour note.
He leaned on his family and other veteran teammates during the process.
“Those guys just made sure I stayed levelheaded through all of this,” Bryant said. “I didn’t want to leave, especially on terms like that. I wanted to compete and show everybody the type of guy I am. That’s what I did. I stuck it out. It’s not always going to be pretty.”
That persistence paid off as Bryant took his game to another level during the preseason while also improving as a leader and commander of the offense.
“Kelly knew what was at stake. He responded the right way and obviously earned the position that he’s in right now,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said Monday. “I think for Kelly, it’s just his confidence right now is at an all-time high. He’s managing all the situations the way you want him to manage it, and then he’s improved in the areas that we’ve asked him to improve in terms of the throws we’ve asked him to make down the field.”
While Bryant is ahead in the quarterback race right now, that doesn’t guarantee anything long term.
Lawrence and Brice also are expected to take snaps against Furman, and Swinney has said multiple times the quarterback battle will continue into the season.
Still, it was rewarding for Bryant to be told by Swinney and quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter that he had earned the starting job for Week 1.
“Coach Streeter and coach Swinney brought me in and told me I’ll be running out there first. That was good to hear, just being able to be the guy, be the starter to run out there first with the guys,” Bryant said. “It’s nothing new. You’re always going to prepare like you’re the starter. It’s just about performing now.”