Swinney on QB's: We've got everything we need to win at a high level


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Zerrick Cooper throws a pass in the spring game
Zerrick Cooper throws a pass in the spring game

CLEMSON – Almost a month has passed since the end of spring practice, and head coach Dabo Swinney says he feels like the Tigers can win with the quarterback talent on hand, and that any decisions regarding a starter likely won’t be made until fall camp or the games start.

Rising junior Kelly Bryant battled rising redshirt sophomore Tucker Israel, redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper and true freshman Hunter Johnson throughout the spring, and Swinney mentioned Cooper and Johnson first when pressed about the subject late last week.

“Well, they're all capable. We felt like they would be from a talent standpoint,” Swinney said. “That's obviously why we recruited them. But Zerrick Cooper was a guy that didn't get any work hardly in the fall. So I got to see him really for the first time with competitive reps, and he did a good job. And I could tell he worked hard in our power hour in the fall, plus just mentally getting himself ready for spring.

“Then Hunter Johnson, a true freshman that showed up in January. He got better as the spring went. The game was fast for both of those freshmen, but still saw a ton of progress and potential.”

Swinney then mentioned the two veterans in Israel and Bryant.

“Tucker Israel, who is going to be a redshirt sophomore. Also hasn't had a lot of experience, but mentally is in a good place as far as his understanding of what we've got to do and how we do things,” Swinney said. “Then very pleased with Kelly Bryant. He was a guy coming in as far as, okay, well, he's a junior, had the most experience. He didn't have a ton but had some. I thought he really asserted himself and took advantage of his opportunity this spring. He looked like a veteran. He's still got a lot of work to do as well. But it was very competitive.”

Three-year starter Deshaun Watson was selected in the first round of last week’s NFL Draft, taken 12th overall by the Houston Texans. Much of Clemson’s success over the last two seasons – back-to-back National Championship appearances and a title this past season – is credited to Watson.

The Tigers will have experience on the offensive line (four returning starters), at wide receiver and running back while the defense appears to be loaded. Add all of that together and Swinney thinks the Tigers can win with any one of the four.

“We've got everything we needed at that position to win at a high level. We just, you know, still working through the process,” he said. “If we played today, Kelly Bryant goes out, gives us the best chance to win. But we play in September. So there is a lot of work to be done between now and then. Should be fun to watch it all play out.

“But like the guys, I think we've got a high level of talent on campus. You know, I've got a good comfort zone that when it's all said and done, whoever runs out there is going to be very capable of winning, and I think we'll have more than one guy that's capable of winning for us.”

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