Photo Courtesy of TigerNet.com
HINT: **NOT** Trevor Lawrence
#2 KELLY BRYANT
Photo Courtesy of RubbingTheRock.com
CLEMSON, SC -- Clemson brought in a small but lethal recruiting class for the 2018 cycle. Five & four star guys headlined the class, three of which were in the top ten in the country by every recruiting service (Xavier Thomas, KJ Henry, Trevor Lawrence).
The most popular name, if you ask most Clemson fans, that came in was obviously Trevor Lawrence. The next great quarterback for the Tigers. The long lustrous locks reminiscent of Ronnie 'Sunshine' Bass who played for the Gamecocks from 1973-1977 as a QB and was made popular by the hit Disney movie, Remember the Titans.
Lawrence has phenomenal talent and tremendous potential at Clemson. But unless there are some unforeseen injuries or Kelly Bryant regresses at an alarming rate, it won't be this year that 'Wonder Boy' makes his lasting impact.
Kelly Bryant has been with the Tigers since the 2015 season, when he was a backup to the most recent great QB at Clemson, Deshaun Watson. Last season, in Bryant's first year as QB1, he led the Tigers to a 12-2 overall record that included with it Clemson's fourth straight ACC Championship and their third consecutive trip to the College Football Playoff where they lost to the eventual champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
Many fans were disgruntled with the finish to the season and Bryant was the recipient of a lot of the blame for Clemson's woes. He wasn't perfect by any means but it was far from being his fault, at least alone, that the Tigers lost an outlandish TWO WHOLE GAMES (sarcastic of course)!
The Tigers lost a lot more than just Deshaun Watson after the 2016 National Championship winning season. They lost a wide receiver in Mike Williams who went on to be a top ten draft pick in the NFL; a great pass catching tight end who was drafted in the fifth round of the NFL Draft and is expected to contribute this coming season for the Jets in Jordan Leggett; another receiver in Artavis Scott who left as Clemson's all-time leader in career receptions and fifth all-time in touchdown receptions in Clemson history.
Let's not forget another big piece that Bryant didn't have back and that's the former running back Wayne Gallman who was a tough runner but, even more so, he was great in pass protection. Deshaun had the luxury of great players around him and the comfort of a "second level" of protection with Gallman in the backfield.
Bryant still had talent around him but it was a less experienced and weaker body type of talent. Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud were good recievers, not great. They were guys who never really lived up to their hyped potential. Hunter Renfrow is a cornerstone in the history of Clemson football but let's be honest, a lot of his success can be attributed to teams having to focus on guys like Williams, Leggett and Scott which freed him up. Now Renfrow is a hard worker and the most sure-handed player on the team so he still had to work for his success but I digress.
Many complaints of Bryant last year were his alleged struggles in throwing the deep ball but when Cain is the only guy who can stretch the field vertically and is dropping a lot of passes then that doesn't make it easy. Without a running back like Gallman who provided that extra layer of protection and time to make your reads as a QB, that makes it a little more difficult too.
Photo Courtesy of ProFootballFocus
But according to ProFootballFocus, Bryant's passer rating on deep passes was 115.4, highest among all ACC quarterbacks last season; that's with a minimum of 30 deep pass attempts which are defined as 20+ yards down the field. That would disprove that heinous narrative towards Bryant.
Without expounding too much more, simply put, Lawrence has great potential and will most likely become a great college quarterback. But he still has a lot to learn and he has two really good players ahead of him that have been in the system longer; Hunter Johnson and Kelly Bryant. Bryant has shown in spring practice (to this point; 3/29/18) that he is still capable of leading this team and has the ability to be a great quarterback.
He will have more experienced talent around him and a year of learning and experience as a starter under his belt coming into the year. Everybody is always looking towards the future and that's fine to do, but don't be so quick to dismiss a guy who led this team to a conference title and playoff appearance just one year after so much experienced & elite talent left the program.
Be excited for the future with Lawrence; but don't shy away from being excited about this coming season with Bryant because like it or not, he will be the starting quarterback in 2018 [barring injury]. And don't be surprised when he takes this team back to the ACC Championship and CFB Playoff again...