Leading into the April 9 spring game, we know as much as the coaches will let on in the backup quarterback battle.
It appears it’s still a two-horse race between senior former walk-on Nick Schuessler (6-3 200) and true sophomore Kelly Bryant (6-3 215), who shared the No. 2 role in 2015. Redshirt freshman and former three-star prospect Tucker Israel (5-11 195) joined the mix this spring coming off a season-ending foot injury in last fall camp. Four-star prospect Zerrick Cooper (6-4 205) enters the fray this summer.
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott is wary to tab a favorite for the spot at this point. He says he just doesn’t have enough information.
“Nick’s had a tough situation with his class schedule,” Elliott said, as it was revealed this week Schuessler misses the first part of every Monday practice, “so in terms of reps – Kelly is probably getting more reps. They both bring something different to the table.
“We need both of those guys to push each other and by the time we kick off we’ll probably have some separation. But it’s hard to tell.”
No final stats were provided for Bryant or Schuessler from either spring scrimmage, but Clemson coach Dabo Swinney analyzed what he saw from the dual-threat Bryant Wednesday.
“I want to see the tape,” Swinney said, “but I thought he did some good things. The biggest thing was I thought he made a lot of plays with his legs. Made a couple nice throws, but he showed a better presence just in managing the pocket. That’s one of his gifts.
“He is dangerous, and I thought that he instinctively made a couple nice plays. He got off to a really good start to spring practice and regressed a little bit, and good to see him the last couple days kind of bounce back a little bit. So hopefully he’ll finish strong.”
Elliott assessed the unit as a whole, seeing some good and bad, saying “they managed it pretty well.” He thought Bryant “looked comfortable” and “was decisive.” How did the Wren product get there?
“(QBs coach Brandon) Streeter challenges those guys to the utmost to make sure they can command the entire system,” Elliott said. “For us to play fast, you have to have answers schematically in what you’re doing, but you got to be able to diagnose what the defense is doing and make a split decision and get to the right progression.”