Not that Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has much need to name a starter for the opening game of the 2018 season, but the head coach of the defending three-time ACC champions says he has not made up his mind on who will be sitting on top of the depth chart at the position.
Speaking at ACC media day in Charlotte, North Carolina, Swinney said he has no timeline for when a decision will be made, which is typical coachspeak this time of year. In Swinney’s’ case, opening at home against an FCS opponent gives him a little more time to have to make a decision, and playing both quarterbacks in the season opener before making a final decision going into a Week 2 road trip to Texas A&M (against former Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher) may be an option.
The two most likely options are Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence. Bryant was Clemson’s starting quarterback last season and passed for 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns with eight interceptions and 665 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. Despite having the starting experience from last season after replacing Deshaun Watson, Lawrence arrives on campus as one of the top recruits in the nation in the Class of 2018 and is expected to push for consideration right away.
For Swinney, as with most coaches, it is mostly about keeping things tight knit for now and not showing your cards until much closer to the season. Given the potential for Lawrence, it may be worth seeing what he does in training camp to see if there is a comfort level to give him such a significant role in the offense for a playoff contender.
Bryant will likely get the majority of the first-team reps at first, however, due to being the experienced option that was a part of an ACC championship team just last fall (and the only game Clemson lost in the regular season occurred when Bryant was injured and could not return).
Remember yesterday when we shared the initial 2018 Heisman Trophy odds from Bovada? Well, scrap that already because the people have come in with enough bets to warrant some quick changes to the Heisman odds. Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins soared up four spots to climb into the top spot on Bovada’s board after just 24 hours.
Dobbins was initially given 12/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy, and the bettors went scrambling for those odds. Bovada’s updated odds see Dobbins as the way-too-early favorite with 6/1 odds. Tied for the best odds with Dobbins is another Big Ten running back, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. Taylor didn’t move up quite as dramatically to 6/1 after having 8/1 odds a day ago. The short-lived preseason favorite from Bovada and 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up, Stanford running back Bryce Love, has slipped into third on the board with 7/1 odds. Alabama’s national championship hero, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, tied Love with 7/1 odds.
Some other notable dramatic changes include the addition of Missouri quarterback Drew Lock (25/1). Lock, the SEC’s top passer returning in 2018, was initially left completely off the board. He is the only newcomer to the updated odds from Bovada at this moment. The most notable drop in the odds was from Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver, who fell from 55/1 odds to 66/1. Most other drops were just by a few spots, including Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate falling from 9/1 to 14/1, West Virginia quarterback Will Grier falling from 12/1 to 16/1 and Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley dropping from 18/1 to 20/1.
Here are the updated Heisman odds as relayed by Bovada:
J.K. Dobbins (RB Ohio State) 6/1
Jonathan Taylor (RB Wisconsin) 6/1
Bryce Love (RB Stanford) 7/1
Tua Tagovailoa (QB Alabama) 7/1
Jake Fromm (QB Georgia) 12/1
Khalil Tate (QB Arizona) 14/1
Will Grier (QB West Virginia) 16/1
Jarrett Stidham (QB Auburn) 16/1
Kelly Bryant (QB Clemson) 18/1
Justin Herbert (QB Oregon) 18/1
Trace McSorley (QB Penn State) 20/1
Cam Akers (RB Florida State) 25/1
Rodney Anderson (RB Oklahoma) 25/1
Jake Browning (QB Washington) 25/1
Ryan Finley (QB NC State) 25/1
Drew Lock (QB Missouri) 25/1
McKenzie Milton (QB UCF) 25/1
Travis Etienne (RB Clemson) 35/1
Nick Fitzgerald (QB Mississippi State) 35/1
D'Andre Swift (RB Georgia) 35/1
Brandon Winbush (QB Notre Dame) 35/1
David Sills (WR West Virginia) 45/1
Ed Oliver (DL Houston) 66/1
Nick Bosa (DL Ohio State) 75/1
With first place in the ACC Atlantic Divison on the line, NC State is leading the defending national champions by four points at halftime. Up 21-17 at halftime in Raleigh, the Wolfpack will have to be ready to find a way to finish this game on a strong note against Clemson.
NC State got the party started early with Tim Kidd-Glass coming up with an interception of Kelly Bryant on the third play of the game. Setting up the Wolfpack offense at the Clemson 40-yard line, NC State wasted no time taking advantage of the early turnover. Ryan Finley completed a 40-yard pass for a touchdown to Kelvin Harmon for the early 7-0 lead. Clemson’s offense could not get much going on their next possession and ended a five-play drive with a punt, but the Tigers defense came through with a quick three-and-out. It was at this point Clemson’s Ray-Ray McCloud ripped off an impressive 77-yard punt return for a touchdown to even things at 7-7.
NC State and Clemson then exchanged 12-play touchdown drives to keep things even at 14-14. NC State responded once more with another strong touchdown drive with Finley finding plenty of success through the air. The drive ended with a touchdown pass to Jaylen Samuels to go up 21-14. Clemson cut into the lead with a field goal. The Tigers added another field goal in the final seconds as the teams went to the locker room at halftime to create the one-point game. NC State had missed a field goal on their final possession of the half.
The winner of this game will take first place in the ACC Atlantic Division, which likely means the winner of this game will end up playing for the ACC championship. For Clemson, the fourth team in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, the stakes are a bit higher at the moment as well. There has never been a two-loss conference champion in the four-team playoff. Of course, NC State is hoping to become the first as well.
Clemson saw their ACC and national title dreams hit a bump in the road Friday night at Syracuse, but the larger focus was not on the loss to the Orange but the status of quarterback Kelly Bryant. A week after being taken out of a game with an injured ankle, Bryant was once again removed from the game due to injury. This time it was a concussion from the turf in the Carrier Dome in the first half of Clemson’s road game at Syracuse.
On Monday, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Bryant has shown some positive sides in the concussion protocol, which should be encouraging for Clemson and Clemson fans hoping to see Bryant back on the field as soon as possible.
Clemson is off this week with a bye, which gives the Tigers a little extra time to get in better shape, regroup from the loss, and focus on the next objective. Clemson returns to action on Oct. 28 at home against Georgia Tech before a road trip to NC State in what looks now to be the key game in the ACC Atlantic Division. The Wolfpack are the last unbeaten team in the division and have already taken out Florida State and Louisville. A win against Clemson could potentially lock up up a spot in the ACC Championship Game for the first time in program history.
With time at their leisure before their next game, Clemson can play it extra safe with Bryant moving forward. The bye week could not have come at a better time for the defending national champions given the current circumstances.
Syracuse fans, did you think you might get a chance to play Clemson in the Dome this weekend without their starting quarterback, Kelly Bryant? Well, Dabo Swinney has some bad news for you.
Swinney said he expects Bryant to be ready to play on Friday night at Syracuse. That would be an encouraging tidbit considering Bryant had to leave Saturday’s game with an ankle injury. Clemson is playing it safe with their starting quarterback as he recovers from the injury, but Swinney suggested his plan is to have Bryant available for this week’s ACC road game up north.
“He came in a little sore but was actually moving around pretty good,” Swinney said, according to David Hale of ESPN.com. “I think he is going to be just fine. He’ll be limited today, but when we get going, I think he’ll practice. If he’s ready to play, he’s going to play. If not, we’ll play the next guy.”
Bryant left Saturday’s home game against Wake Forest with an injury that seemed to leave him a little gimpy. He did not return to the game and Clemson played the rest of the day with a few different backup options. On Saturday, Clemson gave both Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson some playing time, but Swinney did not suggest how he would go about the game if Bryant is unavailable.
Even if Bryant does have to miss this week’s game, the sentiment from Swinney seems to suggest Bryant will not be out of action for very long, and that would be key to Clemson and the program’s pursuit of another ACC title and berth in the College Football Playoff to defending their national championship reign. Clemson still has games to play against NC State and Florida State, so staying at full strength as much as possible is vital.