Spring battles: Who emerges at quarterback?

by - Staff Writer -
Kelly Bryant (L) and Tucker Israel throw last fall
Kelly Bryant (L) and Tucker Israel throw last fall

Spring football practice begins in five days, just 49 days following the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Clemson’s offense doesn’t have a lot of question marks and should once again be among the nation’s best. But the lack of question marks surrounds the fact that the Tigers return several starters from a year ago – especially at the skill positions. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be competition in fall camp.

In fact, this might be one of the most competitive camps in recent memory as younger players and players returning from injury look to find their place in the pecking order. This spring will be big for veterans who have to avoid getting lost once the 2016 signees arrive on campus over the summer.

In this piece, we’ll take a look at the quarterbacks. Obviously, Heisman Trophy candidate Deshaun Watson is the unquestioned starter and team leader, but who will emerge as his backup? Will Nick Schuessler be able to fend off Kelly Bryant? Will Tucker Israel be the surprise of the quarterback corps?

Schuessler – the redshirt senior – has been around the program the longest and had a firm grasp on the backup quarterback spot heading into the 2015 season, but Bryant’s athleticism proved too valuable to keep him off the field. In his career, Schuessler is 21-of-33 passing for 230 yards in 116 snaps.

Unfortunately for Schuessler, the original walk-on and Mississippi State transfer may be relinquished to third or fourth team duties.

The real story of spring practice will be how has Bryant progressed as far as throwing the ball and what can Israel do now that he’s fully healthy?

Bryant burst on the scene during the Miami blowout when he saw his first significant action, rushing five times for 59 yards, including a 59-yard scamper for a touchdown. In eight games, he carried the ball 23 times for 156 yards and two scores. He completed 7-of-9 passes for 27 yards and an interception.

The sophomore Piedmont (SC) native has all of the tools to be Clemson’s next great quarterback – unbelievable athleticism, the ability to run and good size at 6-3, 215 pounds, but can he develop into an adequate passer to accompany his running?

We know the most about Schuessler and Bryant because we’ve seen what they can do in game situations, but how does Israel fit into the rotation? The redshirt freshman missed last season after breaking a bone in his foot on the first play of fall camp. Everyone assumes Israel will take a backseat to Bryant or that he may even transfer, but people may be overlooking the fact that he set six state passing records in Florida – breaking records held by Tim Tebow.

At 5-11, 195, Israel doesn’t possess the physical tools that Bryant has, but he is a polished passer, which could give him the edge with all of the elite wide receiver and running back talent on Clemson’s roster.

While he won’t be on campus for spring practice, Clemson will also add 4-star Jonesboro (GA) quarterback Zerrick Cooper to the rotation.

Can Bryant exit the spring as a solid number two? Will Schuessler fend off Israel? Can Israel make inroads and battle for the second spot? We will find out between now and April 9th, the date of the spring game.

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