Going into the spring, the Clemson Tigers had 6 quarterbacks. However, since the middle of January, they lost Zerrick Cooper and Tucker Israel who both decided to transfer for the opportunity to play. Cooper was a redshirt freshman last season, but Israel has already graduated. Israel is undersized, but he has some ability.
Kelly Bryant returns for his senior season after starting all of his junior year. Facing the unenviable role of replacing Deshaun Watson, Bryant passed for over 2,800 yards in 2017 and ran for 665 yards. He passed for 13 touchdowns and he ran for 11 more.
The challenge for Bryant going into 2018 will be hanging on to his starting role. He will face some
pretty hefty challenges.
Hunter Johnson was a true freshman last season and was one of Bryant’s back ups. Johnson was battling with Zerrick Cooper for second string snaps a year ago, but with Cooper gone that’s one less hurdle for Johnson. Johnson was the number one drop back passer prospect in the country in the 2017 recruiting class and he looked the role when he threw the football. In limited opportunities, the 6-2, 210 Johnson, from Brownsburg, Indiana threw for 234 yards. Completing 21 out of 27 passes, Johnson connected for 2 touchdowns with an interception.
He proved to be the pocket passer with a negative 2 yards rushing. In high school, Johnson was Indiana’s Mr Football in 2016 and was the top recruit in the state that year. Clemson doesn’t often recruit in the state of Indiana, but Johnson was too good to pass on. At one time, he was committed to the Tennessee Vols, but switched to Clemson just like super wide receiver Tee Higgins who played high school football in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Landing national players like Hunter Johnson and Tee Higgins shows just how far Clemson has come under Dabo Swinney.
Hunter Johnson will have to work his tail off this spring, and beyond, if he wants to beat out other players for some playing time at quarterback. But, he definitely has the talent and the skills to be a big time college player.
A surprise in the 2017 recruiting class may have been Chase Brice from Loganville’s Grayson High School. Brice redshirted last season as a true freshman, but the Clemson quarterback coach Brandon Streeter thinks very highly of Chase Brice. Clemson had the inside track while recruiting Brice because he’s the nephew of defensive backs coach, Mickey Conn.
Brice played for a big winner in high school and he started at Grayson since his freshman season. He led them to a 40-7 record and a state championship as a senior.
The 4 star Brice, rated as the 15th best pocket passer by ESPN, may surprise some people this year. But, like Hunter Johnson, Brice is going to have to really work to earn playing time. Supposedly, that may be his strong suit.
Trevor Lawrence might be the crown jewel of this group and he will be really hard to keep on the sideline. The 6-6, 220 Lawrence, from Cartersville, Georgia might be the best at his position anyone has ever seen as far as a prospect.
Stats aren’t everything, but as a high school quarterback Lawrence passed for just under 14,000 yards and 161 touchdowns. He threw 21 interceptions, but only 1 during his senior season. He helped his
Cartersville High School football team to a 53-4 record in 4 years as a starter on the varsity.
Lawrence is already on campus and will compete for playing time right away. He’s got the talent to make an instant impact if he can beat out Kelly Bryant, Hunter Johnson and Chase Brice.
It’s going to be a great spring at Clemson and I wouldn’t be shocked even a little, to see Trevor Lawrence starting at quarterback. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised, I still expect Kelly Bryant to be the starting quarterback because of his experience and running ability. Because so many coaches put a premium on starting experience I would think Bryant remains the starter.
My guess right now would be:
1. Kelly Bryant
2. Trevor Lawrence
3. Hunter Johnson
4. Chase Brice
Most Clemson fans would probably go:
1. Trevor Lawrence
2. Hunter Johnson
3. Kelly Bryant
4. Chase Brice