Summer breakdown: Yes, someone has to replace Watson
|Thursday, July 13, 2017, 8:01 AM- -|
Yes, someone has to replace Deshaun Watson. All eyes will be on Clemson's quarterback battle heading into fall camp as Kelly Bryant, Hunter Johnson, Zerrick Cooper, Tucker Israel, and Chase Brice all compete for a starting spot. The battle could continue into the season.
Starter on summer depth chart: Kelly Bryant (Jr.).
Other key returner: Tucker Israel (Soph).
New faces: Zerrick Cooper (R-Fr.); Hunter Johnson (Fr.); Chase Brice (Fr).
The breakdown: There have been many great players who have come through the Clemson program, for sure.
But I’m not sure there has ever been a player who has impacted the program more, on and off the field, than Deshaun Watson. Unfortunately for the Tigers, he is now wearing No. 4 for the Houston Texans as he embarks on a professional career, so that means someone else will be playing quarterback for the Tigers this season.
Let’s emphasize that. Yes, someone else will play quarterback for the Tigers.
But who will that be? That’s really the question of this preseason and the entire season for this team.
There is so much talent up and down this roster that the new quarterback will have a nice gig to step into. That player just needs to be ready for the pressure and expectations that come along with replacing Watson.
There is certainly talent on the roster at quarterback, but each player has questions: Bryant has the most experience and likely will get the first shot. But by “most experience” we’re not talking about a lot of playing time. Bryant has completed 13-of-22 passes for 75 yards and has rushed for 178 yards on 35 carries. Will he continue to progress as a passer, something we didn’t see much of the past two seasons?
Israel is solid, but is he ready to overtake Bryant or hold off the talented young quarterbacks behind him? He’s probably a long shot to be the starter after completing all four of his passes in 2016.
Cooper redshirted last year and learned from Watson, watching Watson’s every move every day at practice and in every game. Is that enough to move up the depth chart?
Johnson enrolled early in January and got to go through spring practice with the team. He is definitely talented, but will the spring experience be the boost the true freshman needs to take over?
And then there’s Brice. Yes, he’ll be behind as he enrolls this summer, but can he overcome his lack of experience with his sheer talent and a strong arm?
Those questions will play out during the preseason. If the Tigers land on the right quarterback, they can be right back in the championship hunt this season.
Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Midday Sports Zone on Middle Georgia’s ESPN, 93.1 FM and 99.5 FM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.