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Clemson Football

The Doubt: Kelly Bryant's Orange and White performance shouldn't define his spring

April 18, 2018
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CLEMSON -- Come on, admit it. You were hoping he would struggle.

When you walked through the gates of Death Valley for Clemson’s 2018 spring game, there was one thing you were looking for.

More Trevor Lawrence, less Kelly Bryant.

You didn’t just want to see for yourself the wondrous midyear enrollee who coaches have raved about all spring. You wanted to see Bryant, the returning senior starter, give Dabo Swinney a reason to come out of the game scratching his head, asking himself if KB2 should be QB1.

After a tale of two different sides, you may have gotten what you wanted.

Young guns Lawrence and Hunter Johnson were the talk of the afternoon, combining for over 200 yards of passing and one touchdown pass each, while Kelly Bryant’s day wasn’t up to his standards.

Swinney said after the spring game that Bryant would be the first man out there at quarterback if the season started tomorrow. Do any fans buy that? Unlikely.

Eight completions on 15 attempts for only 35 yards? That left a lot of people talking as they exited Death Valley into the mid-April afternoon. Those conversations are only going to thicken as the summer heat rolls in.

Swinney said after the spring game that Bryant would be the first man out there at quarterback if the season started tomorrow. Do any fans buy that? Unlikely.

Before the game even began, before a snap was taken, Bryant was handed his offensive Most Valuable Player spring award for his contributions last season. He received a nice show of appreciation from the fans.

After all, he only went 12-2 in his first season as a starter, led Clemson to a third consecutive ACC title, and led his team back to the College Football Playoff for the third straight time, accomplishing all of that following in the footsteps of the greatest quarterback in school history.

But once Lawrence took the field for his first series, the cheers from fans in Memorial Stadium were louder than what Bryant received. Once Lawrence found Tee Higgins for a 50-yard touchdown pass on his second throw, most of their minds were made up.

“(The fans) are ready to crown (Trevor Lawrence) the starter now,”
- Hunter Renfrow

“(The fans) are ready to crown (Trevor Lawrence) the starter now,” Hunter Renfrow said Saturday.

If a receiver can feel that vibe from the fan base, don’t you think Bryant can too?

How quickly people have forgotten Bryant’s accomplishments.

Forgotten how a banged up Bryant scored on the final possession of the first half and first possession of the second half to beat Auburn in his first big game.

Forgotten how Bryant threw for 316 yards in 11 offensive drives on the road at Louisville against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. It was a performance that made some people on social media put his name in the Heisman conversation early on.

Forgotten his playmaking ability on the road at Virginia Tech where he carried the ball 19 times and showed toughness to lead his team to 94 yards rushing and another road win.

© Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Last season Kelly Bryant led Clemson to road wins at Virginia Tech, Louisville, NCST, and South Carolina.

“The experience he’s gained and knowing that he can go win for us instead of hoping he can is huge,” Renfrow said after he was asked how much Bryant has improved from this time a year ago.

“He’s a winner,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott added.

Are we seriously about to judge Bryant’s spring and career after seven incomplete passes in a scrimmage that just so happened to be televised?

We’re getting a sense of deja vu here.

Coming into spring camp, we noted Bryant had been in this exact situation before. After two-time Heisman finalist Deshaun Watson left Clemson with a national championship, there was an unknown of who would be Clemson’s 2017 starter.

Bryant didn’t come in as “the guy” from day one. He had to put his head down and work to gain the approval of his coaches and teammates last spring. In that edition of the Orange and White game, Bryant had an eerily similar stat line: 4-of-13 passing for 43 yards.

Quarterback Tucker Israel, who is no longer on the team, arguably had the best day of all the quarterbacks, throwing for 13 completions on 19 attempts for 94 yards and a score.

In the end, that spring game didn’t really matter. Swinney told us last Saturday that a post-spring game depth chart doesn’t really matter. The scrimmage is just another leg of the evaluation process, like a college exam that’s worth only 20 percent of the final grade.

Swinney told us last Saturday that a post-spring game depth chart doesn’t really matter. The scrimmage is just another leg of the evaluation process, like a college exam that’s worth only 20 percent of the final grade.

Where Bryant separated himself from the pack last year was what he did over the summer and through August camp. Behind closed doors, he improved and proved he could lead the offense. He started all 14 of Clemson’s games in 2017. There was no controversy.

This summer, he’s going to have to do the same thing to fight off the two quarterbacks behind him who are improving every day.

“(Bryant) had a great spring,” Swinney said Saturday. “Disappointed in a couple of big plays we didn't take advantage of, but he's made a lot of big plays. He's proven that he can win at a high level and that's number one.

“But the same thing again, last year doesn’t have anything to do with this year. You gotta prove it all over again.”

Many are quick to pick apart every errant throw of Bryant’s and praise the throws of the other three from Saturday, but not many talk about Clemson’s second scrimmage of the spring that was closed to the public.

After throwing four touchdown passes, including a 65-yarder to Amari Rodgers on the third play, Bryant walked off the field all smiles while Clemson’s defense was running gassers for 30 minutes.

After throwing four touchdown passes, including a 65-yarder to Amari Rodgers on the third play, Bryant walked off the field all smiles while Clemson’s defense was running gassers for 30 minutes.

If that was the spring game, then there may be an entirely different narrative right now.

“Everybody wanna talk about everything else that's coming in but me, I just go back to work and just let everybody else do the talking,” Bryant said.

He has definitely heard the noise, the questions from the doubters, just as he heard a year ago when spectators thought it would be a good idea for him to change positions.

His loves it.

“Tell them to keep questioning,” Bryant said with a grin.

“Everybody wants to write me off but I'm still here and I ain't going nowhere."

With the cameras off this summer and the gap between quarterbacks seeming to close, Bryant will go back to what he did a year ago. He let us know that even after all of his accomplishments a year ago, he didn’t get a single invite to any quarterback camp.

He had a similar grin on his face. The same one from after Clemson’s second spring scrimmage.

“I ain’t the one who sends out the invites,” Bryant said. “It doesn’t bother me.”

His goal this summer is to get better at something new every single day, whether it’s mechanics or footwork. The routine won’t change, and he plans to work with the same people who he worked with last summer.

The proof from the hard work last summer and doubt from last year were evident in the product on the field in 2017. Why should we believe that’s going to change?

So keep doubting. Bryant isn’t going anywhere.

Discussion from...

The Doubt: Kelly Bryant's Orange and White performance shouldn't define his spring

5,764 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 5 yr ago by ShoelessCU
teddyj0406
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Let''s be real. No Clemson fan was hoping for Kelly B to disappoint in the spring game. What we did expect, however, was Kelly B to be unable to push the ball down the field vertically. When you have athletes like Tee Higgens, Amari Rodgers, etc, you have to be able to get the ball downfield to them. Kelly just isn't that guy. He will win against lesser teams, yes. But good luck against Bama or Georgia with Kelly B as starting qb.
Tigerboytroy1
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There's a lot to be optimistic about concerning Lawrence for sure! He's very poised and unnerved at the position. However, he needs to definitely put on some weight. He should be able to get some playing time in the Furman game and some mop up duty in others, but I wouldn't just hand the reigns over just like that! Timing is everything! Hand them over too early and it could be detrimental to both his confidence or worse if he was to get injured. These fellas don't hit like they did in high school they hit harder and some try to hurt you! He wasn't hit at all in the spring game so the jury's still out! Do I think he will be a special player? Absolutely! He's already proven that! Go Tigers!
ShoelessCU
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"What have you done for me lately?" Is what the fans remember. Alabama is really fresh and then the spring game... kb ain't gonna win a national title or even a playoff game as qb for the tigers. It's not a knock on him either, 12-2 is damn impressive but 14-1 is watson level good, kb will never be Watson level good at qb. tl and hj both have an opportunity to get there and we want to see them try.
"The only disability in life is a bad attitude"

~ Scott Hamilton
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