In three games as a starter, Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant has completed 68.7 percent of his passes for 733 yards and accounted for seven touchdowns (two pass, five rush). He’s also led Clemson (3-0) to wins over Auburn and Louisville, both of which were ranked in the top 15 at kickoff – and are still ranked in the top 20.
Bryant has been so good that former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Waston said that Bryant will be even better than him.
Dabo Swinney’s reaction? Slow down.
“I wouldn’t even entertain the conversation,” the Clemson coach said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “They’re so different. They really are. Deshaun stands on his own merit and what he was able to do in his own career, which is unbelievable. Kelly’s played three games. That kind of talk is way, way premature. I think he needs to just continue to stay focused and just do such a great job of leading us like he’s done. He’s really done a great job of taking care of the football. He’s got command of our offense, he’s become a great leader for us, his confidence is really, really good – which is awesome – and he just really understands what we’ve got to do play in and play out to attack defenses on the field. And again, his decision-making. I just want him to be the best Kelly Bryant he can be, and everybody else can do all the comparisons.”
Clemson opened the season with a 56-3 beatdown of Kent State, hung on in a 14-6 defensive struggle against Auburn, and whipped Louisville 47-21 on the road this past Saturday. Bryant threw for 316 yards and a touchdown and ran for two others against the Cardinals.
Not bad for a guy making his first road start – against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, no less.
Swinney has been impressed by Bryant, but not surprised.
“I think we’re all learning about Kelly because he hadn’t played in much,” Swinney said. “I think he had maybe 100 career snaps coming into the season. They were good snaps, but he hadn’t played a whole lot in his first two years. Now, I now what I saw in practice. He was just amazing. He answered every test in our camp, in our scrimmages, going against our D, he handled adversity – I saw all that in practice, but in college football without having preseason games, when we go play, it’s for real. You just can’t simulate that. I was hoping in the first game, in the opener, I was really, really hoping that what I had seen in practice would transition over to the game – and it did.”
Clemson has won eight straight games dating back to last season. That run includes wins over Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, and Louisville. The Tigers have also won two straight against Florida State.
It’s been a good run – one that Bryant hopes to continue.
“He’s just stayed locked in,” Swinney said. “He stayed focus, he’s kind of had his blinders on, and I’m really proud of him. I think that shows his maturity. He’s not a freshman. He’s a new player, but he’s not a freshman. He’s been in those meetings for the past two years, he’s had Deshaun to be a great model for him and mentor for him as far as how he handled things, how he prepared week in and week out, how he handled the bright lights and so forth, and I think that’s really helped him. He’s answered every question. Now it’s can he be a consistent performer week in and week out and manage the lights as they get a little brighter for him as he goes through a good season?”
We’ll find out. No. 2 Clemson hosts Boston College (1-2) this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET before a Sept. 30 showdown against No. 13 Virginia Tech (3-0). After that, it’s nothing but unranked opponents until No. 12 Florida State (0-1) comes to town on Nov. 11.
Right now, it’s good to be Swinney, who has played in back-to-back national championships and looks well on his way to playing in another.
“I’m good, man,” Swinney said. “Just traffic, that’s about it. Everything else is pretty good.”
But wait a minute, Brian Jones said, there’s no traffic in Clemson, South Carolina.
“It’s like a four-car pile-up at the stop sign right now, and it’s like where are all these people coming from,” Swinney said, prompting laughter from Gio and Jones. “I don’t know what’s going on.”