As you go through life, it is inevitable that there will be times you feel underappreciated or even overlooked despite the good things you do. If you have ever dealt with these issues, then Kelly Bryant succeeding be something you want to root for. The Clemson Tigers are ranked second in the nation and likely to make a fourth consecutive run to the College Football Playoff. Their senior signal caller is now 14-2 as a starting quarterback. Somehow, despite his production and success, he is still fighting for the respect and recognition he deserves.
From pundits to his own fan base, Bryant has never been looked at for what he has accomplished. Instead he had to play in the shadow of Clemson’s greatest ever player, Deshaun Watson, in his first season. Now in his second year as the starter, he is seen by some as merely a place holder for the next superstar in orange, Trevor Lawrence.
Kelly Bryant Succeeding at Each Step
Watson is thought by many to be the best player in program history. The All-American quarterback led the Tigers to back to back national championship game appearances. His touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow on the last play of the 2017 title game secured Clemson’s first championship since 1981. Last year Bryant, the Calhoun Falls native, was not only tasked with playing at a level that kept the Tigers among the nation’s elite, but doing so beneath the shadow of Watson’s greatness. Kelly Bryant succeeding at the level he did was not expected before the season. Clemson was expected to take a step back. He responded to the challenge, leading the Tigers to a 12-2 record. The dual threat quarterback showed his abilities in the passing game and as a weapon running the ball.
Bryant finished the season with 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air. He also added 665 yards and 11 scores on the ground. His elusiveness was his best asset in his first season as the starter. With the defense Clemson has, they don’t need him to win games by himself. His steady production and leadership proved more than enough. He was still underappreciated, as fans and pundits had gotten used to Watson’s ability to carve up opposing defenses with his arm. Bryant was an effective passer, but not yet an explosive one. He had one 300 yard passing game in a win at Louisville, and was brilliant in the ACC Championship win over Miami. He was 23-29 for 252 yards as they won their third straight conference crown.
Summer Of Under Appreciation
The 2017 season did not end well, however, with a resounding 24-6 loss to Alabama in the CFP semifinal Sugar Bowl. Bryant struggled in that game and the Clemson offense was not able to move the ball against the Crimson Tide. After a year in which he led them to a conference title and to the College Football Playoff, one bad performance seemed to dominant the narrative. Let’s not forget that that Alabama defense had eight players drafted in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Enter the five-star true freshman Lawrence, with the potential and ability to be a superstar at quarterback. The incumbent had to hear all through the spring and summer that this star freshman should take his spot. Once again, most didn’t foresee Kelly Bryant succeeding at holding off the big time newcomer for the starting spot. It seemed as if all the wins, yards and touchdowns from 2017 had been forgotten. One bad game against Alabama and the potential of an unproven freshman was now looming over his head.
Fighting Off the Future
Lawrence came to Clemson as one of the most highly recruited high school players to commit to the Tigers. He is the prototype when constructing a quarterback. Standing 6’5” 210 pounds, he has a cannon for an arm. He is a future star in this program. His arm talent is undeniable and it is the reason fans and pundits are clamoring to see him play. The Tiger coaches are confident in their rotation, keeping the experienced Bryant as the starter but still allowing Lawrence the chance to see the field. The freshman has 230 yards and four touchdowns through two games.
Through all of the scrutiny and questions about whether he should be replaced, Kelly Bryant has remain unfazed. He worked all off season to improve his passing abilities. He has beaten out five star recruits for his starting spot before, and seemed determined to prove his worth as a senior. With former five star Hunter Johnson and former four star Zerrick Cooper transferring, only Bryant and Lawrence remain on Clemson’s quarterback depth chart.
Two games into the season and Kelly Bryant has solidified himself as the leader of this offense. He has improved his accuracy in both short and down field throws. As he develops as a better passer, his ability with his legs becomes more dangerous. He was efficient in the first big game of the season on Saturday. The senior was 12-17 for 205 yards and added 54 yards on the ground. Bryant accounted for two touchdowns in the Tiger’s 28-26 win at Texas A&M. Clemson is still working both quarterbacks into the game, as Lawrence played three straight series in the second quarter. Make no mistake though, this is Kelly Bryant’s team. He is the clear leader on and off the field, and has proven he has what it takes to lead Clemson where they want to go.
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