CLEMSON – So how’s Kelly Bryant?
How did he look at practice?
Will he start against Syracuse?
Those are the questions surrounding the Clemson quarterback this week as the unbeaten and No. 2 Tigers prepare for a Friday night game at Syracuse.
The answers may not come until just before kickoff.
“He practiced all day yesterday, and I was very encouraged,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday. “He didn’t miss a rep yesterday, but we’ve got to see him go practice today.”
And Wednesday and Thursday, too.
Bryant has been the Tigers’ offensive catalyst season, averaging 277 yards per game while completing 67.3 percent of his passes and rushing for a team-leading 401 yards and seven touchdowns.
The junior quarterback suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter of Clemson’s 28-14 victory against Wake Forest on Saturday and did not return to the game. He was wearing a protective boot at game’s end, and he’s officially listed as questionable for Friday.
Syracuse coach Dino Babers says it just doesn’t matter who lines up at quarterback for the Tigers.
“They have really really good players,” Babers said. “Whether he plays or someone else plays, there will be another five-star (quarterback) back there that can hand the ball off or throw to those guys.”
Babers is right, for the most part.
Neither player had much game experience, until Saturday.
Cooper played two series in the third quarter, completing 2 of 6 passes for 16 yards; Johnson completed all five of his pass attempts for 42 yards, including the first touchdown of his career, a 13-yard toss to tight end Cannon Smith that gave the Tigers a 28-0 lead with less than 12 minutes left in the game.
“They practice every day, every week,” Swinney said of Cooper and Johnson. “This isn’t the NFL here, where the first guy gets all the reps and the second guy just kind of stands there and the third guy is just the scout team quarterback. That’s not the way do it.
“We rep our guys, so they get a ton of work every week. So even if they don’t get much game time, they’re repped. They’ve all scrimmaged; they’ve just got to draw on the experience that they have and play ball.
“I think they both got in at Louisville, maybe. There weren’t many people there when they got in, but they did get in, and it was on the road, so it still counts. Last week that game was in the balance against a good defense. So for them to go in and execute was a great experience for them.”
In the meantime, Bryant’s teammates aren’t ruling him out.
“He looked real good, ready (on Monday),” wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud said. “He was leading better than ever.”
Scott Keepfer, The Greenville News