Bryant ready for his shot as Clemson’s starter
|2017-08-29 09:00:51.0- -||
Kelly Bryant is well aware that all eyes will be on him Saturday.
Not just at Memorial Stadium; throughout the nation.
And the junior quarterback is just fine with that.
“Just a little anxious to get the season started off. Game week, so there’s good vibes in the air right now,” Bryant said Monday. “Everybody’s ready to get it going, but we still have a full week of preparation to go, so now we’re just going to go ahead and take one day at a time and get ready for this week.”
Bryant will make his first start as Clemson’s quarterback at noon on Saturday against Kent State. The Calhoun Falls product has been in the program for three seasons, redshirting in 2014 and then playing sporadically in 2015 and 2016 behind star Deshaun Watson.
Now, head coach Dabo Swinney and the Clemson coaching staff are turning over the keys to Bryant.
“Just take one play at a time and do my job. That’s the biggest thing that the coaches have emphasized in the quarterback room – just do our job, and everything will take of itself,” Bryant said. “So it’s not no pressure. The pressure comes when you start thinking too much and you’re trying to put too much pressure on yourself, so that’s when that starts happening.
“(Watson) did a lot of things, a lot of great things here, on and off the field. That’s just the standard that’s been set by not only Deshaun but the past few guys that have came through the program and also the standard that Coach Swinney has set here.”
That adds up to a lot of production – and wins – for the new starters to replace.
“A lot of people are saying the offense is gone now that a bunch of those have left out of the room, but a lot of guys in each room are trying to prove themselves,” Bryant said. “A lot of eyes are on us this season so we’re ready, and we’ve accepted the challenge, and we’re ready to get it going.”
Bryant earned the starting spot this offseason, holding off redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper and true freshman
Hunter Johnson, along with another true freshman in Chase Brice.
Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said he, co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter haven’t set a schedule on when to play the other quarterbacks (or the reserves at any of the other positions).
“I think there’s been a little bit of talk about that. But for us, really, we’re wanting that first group to go out there and play the game, and then how the game goes, the way the score goes and just the flow of the game and all that will really dictate how the other guys play,” Scott said. “Coach Swinney says all the time that he wants to play as many … he challenges us as coaches, he wants to play as many guys that deserve to play, and just because you’re on the team doesn’t mean you deserve to play.
“That comes from what you’ve done on the practice field and having the trust and respect of your coaches and teammates. But we do have a lot of guys on this offense, including quarterback, that have done enough to kind of earn that opportunity when those opportunities come. So we’ll just kind of have to see how the game goes, and obviously Coach Swinney and Coach Streeter and myself and Tony and all will be kind of in conversation with that. But, to be honest, that’s not something … other than to say we’d like to get those other guys in the game; that’s really as far as we’ve taken it to this point. There’s not some set plan or schedule or rotation or anything like that because we feel like we have our starter going into the game.”
Bryant believes he will be pushed by the other quarterbacks and is ready to continue to prove himself worthy of the starter’s spot.
He has completed 13-of-22 passes for 75 yards in 12 career games, while rushing for 178 yards on 35 carries. Bryant rushed for a touchdown last year against South Carolina.
“This game is all about performance, so as the starting quarterback going out there, you’re going to have to perform each and every day, whether it’s in a game or in practice,” Bryant said. “So I’m going to keep that same mentality that I’ve had in the offseason and going into camp, as well.”
That begins Saturday with his first start for the Tigers and everything that goes along with that.
“Always been a dream of mine since I’ve been here and been a dream going into the recruiting process to run down the hill, take the first snap as the quarterback being the starter,” Bryant said. “It’s always been a dream, so I just want to keep living the dream every Saturday that I’m here.”
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.
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