The man charged with the unenviable task of trying to replace one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in college football history has officially been identified.
Upon the completion of spring practice earlier this year, Dabo Swinney stated that, if Clemson “played a game today, Kelly (Bryant) would be the” starting quarterback. Fast-forward a little over four months, and Bryant is indeed the guy who will replace Deshaun Watson under center for the reigning national champions.
The announcement from the Tigers is the culmination of what had been a three-way fight for the job, but the head coach also seemingly left the door slightly ajar for the competition to, at least, bleed into the early part of the 2017 season.
“He has earned it and I am proud of him. It has been a great competition, but this part is over,” Swinney said in quotes distributed by the team. “[Redshirt freshman] Zerrick Cooper is the number-two quarterback, but [freshman] Hunter Johnson is right there. We hope to get all three quarterbacks experience in the first part of the season.”
A junior, Bryant has played in 12 games and exactly 100 snaps. In that time, he has completed 13-of-18 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown. He’s added 35 carries for 178 yards and another three scores.
Redshirt sophomore Tucker Israel, who wasn’t even a part of the unofficial competition, is the only other quarterback on the roster who has thrown a pass at the collegiate level (four attempts last season).
Essentially a three-year starter, Watson was responsible for 8,702 of the 9,382 yards and 76 of the 80 touchdown passes for the Tigers the past two season.
Clemson will kick off defense of its national championship Sept. 2 at home against Kent State. They’ll begin ACC play two weeks later on the road against Louisville.