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Quarterback Battle: Swinney, coaches looking for starting quarterback to replace Deshaun Watson

Quarterback Battle: Swinney, coaches looking for starting quarterback to replace Deshaun Watson
Kim Montuoro, Photo Editor

The biggest obstacle for Tiger football started the moment the clock hit 0:00 in Tampa, in expectation of Deshaun Watson’s decision to enter the 2017 NFL Draft three short months after winning the National title. 

Deshaun Watson stepped off the field as the most decorated player in Clemson’s history, throwing for over 10,000 yards, scoring 206 touchdowns, and obtaining prestigious awards such as the Davey O’Brien Award in both 2015 and 2016. 

In 2014, Watson began the start to his football career in full force. As a freshman, he earned ACC Rookie of the Week three times and became first in school history in passing efficiency and completion percentage by a freshman, first in school history in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense by a first-year freshman. 

There are big shoes to fill for the quarterback position next season. There may not be another Watson, but with Dabo Swinney’s recruiting history, the Tigers have a promising future ahead. 

So who’s next in line?

Kelly Bryant leads the way as the first contender for this position. Even as a backup quarterback last season, Bryant put numbers on the board.  He managed to be the team’s fifth-leading rusher, despite playing in only eight games. He had 156 rushing yards,with two touchdowns and averaged 6.8 yards per carry — the best on the team. He completed 3-4 for 19 yards in his debut against Wofford, ran three times for 17 yards in  the Appalachian State contest and played against Georgia Tech and Boston College. Bryant scored two rushing touchdowns at Miami and was a big reason the Tigers had 416 yards on the ground against the Hurricanes. The stats speak volumes, but he’s not promised the spot considering the competition.

Four-star recruit, Zerrick Cooper, shows a lot of potential as a young player — even without throwing a collegiate pass. Cooper was listed as the fourth best overall prospect in Georgia and the ninth-best in the nation by ESPN. Playing as quarterback and safety at Jonesboro High School, he completed 161-267 passes for 2,039 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2015. He threw just four interceptions, leading his team to a 11-2 record and the quarterfinals of the state. 

The biggest advantage that Clemson had during the National Championship game was Watson’s ability to throw perfect passes to big targets — something that Hunter Johnson, five-star recruit out of Brownsburg, Indiana has proven to be able to do. 

Johnson could help the Tigers quickly, with his  accuracy and arm strength. Johnson’s performance junior and senior year of high school reflects his abilities, as he had a total of 56 touchdowns. Despite these successes, he also threw 12 interceptions both his junior and senior year, which could be a red flag for Clemson’s offense.

As spring practice continues into the summer, the “Quarterback

Battle” will maintain heat – each player tirelessly fighting to throw the first pass in the 2017 season on Sept. 2 vs. Kent State. 

Who will it be?

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