Kelly Bryant answers the bell in first Clemson start
|Saturday, September 2, 2017, 5:30 PM- -|
CLEMSON – As Kelly Bryant stood atop the Hill early Saturday afternoon, he knew his time to lead the Clemson Tigers had finally arrived. His time to shine was now and there was no looking back.
The junior out of Calhoun Falls waited patiently behind Deshaun Watson for two seasons, and for a little over two quarters Saturday afternoon, Bryant showed Clemson fans and college football that there wouldn’t be a drop-off after Watson’s departure.
Bryant has bounced around the practice fields for the last month quietly earning the starting quarterback job, but he still heard whispers from the outside from those who doubted he could get the job done. After completing 16-of-22 passes for 238 yards and rushing seven times for 77 yards in Clemson’s 56-3 win over Kent State, he took a small step in quieting the doubters.
“Just leading up to it and taking the first snap, I just had to quiet my mind and get ready for this performance because I knew what I could do all along,” Bryant told the media after getting his first win as a starter. “Everybody said I couldn't do it, so I had to go out there and take it one play at a time, be Kelly B and the rest would take care of itself.
“It was good. I wasn't surprised because I knew what type of player I was. Now, people got to witness it today. We all knew what was in the offensive room as well. People wanted to talk about everybody else leaving, but we've been saying all along that we have a bunch of guys in that room who make plays and that's what they did today.”
The fans and coaches have seen flashes of Bryant’s athleticism over the last two years but needed to see more. Co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said the coaches wanted to stress his passing ability during the game and see him consistently manage the offense.
“It was a challenge for everybody, and we just wanted him to come out and manage the system and make the plays that were there,” Elliott said. “We put him in some situations to make some plays throwing the ball. Obviously, everyone knows what he can do running the ball. I thought he handled everything well and was in control the entire time and put the ball where it needed to be. I am pleased with his composure and he didn't look overwhelmed.
“I think we have always known about his ability to run and his ability to throw it, but we needed to see the precision, consistency, and accuracy. That's what we've seen in camp. He put the ball where it needed to be and the ball was coming out quick. I am just glad everybody else got to see what we've been seeing.”
Bryant answered the bell with drives of four, two, ten, nine, and seven plays and a 61-yard touchdown pass to Deon Cain.
“That (the pass to Cain) was the second drive. On the first drive, we went out there and got first downs, moved the chains and scored,” Bryant said. “It was good to be able to come out first and get that confidence and get it under our belt. Hitting the play to Deon, there was good protection up front and he made a play. It was a big confidence booster going into the season. It was good to see everything clicking out there - the passing game, the running game. It didn't matter who came in the game, you didn't see a drop-off.”
Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said the player the fans saw today is the exact same Kelly Bryant the coaches have seen since early August.
“Very pleased with Kelly Bryant. I think it was special for everybody else to see what we've been seeing. I think sometimes you don't believe the coaches when we come over and talk about all the success he's had during fall camp. We just wanted him to come out and bring that to the game field, and he did from the very beginning,” Scott said.
With a game under his belt and offensive confidence at an all-time high, Bryant and Clemson face Auburn next week.
"Very confident. The offense in this game, you could see guys running around making plays, the offensive line gelling," Bryant said. "Everybody is having fun and embracing the moment. We just have to keep working because everything wasn't perfect today. We're not going to get complacent."