Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant left last week’s game against Wake Forest with an ankle injury. While Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney is optimistic his signal caller will play this Friday against Syracuse, there still are no guarantees. Clemson is traveling on a short week and coming in to face a much more inferior opponent. There’s a chance the Tigers don’t want to risk anything with Bryant and opt for their more than capable backup. Except in Clemson’s case, it’s backups.
When Bryant went down last week, freshmen Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson split time under center, making either a viable option if Bryant doesn’t play. Swinney wouldn’t tip his hand when asked about the possibility earlier in the week, but here’s what we know about both Cooper and Johnson:
Cooper has appeared in three games this season, but has never thrown more than six passes in a single game, however, two have been close contests. Cooper came in during the Tigers 14-6 win over Auburn as well as the blowout against Kent State in the opener. In the Auburn game, the redshirt freshman was the one who got the call off the bench when Bryant went down after taking a big hit. He only attempted two passes before Bryant came back in the game. Cooper is a dual-style quarterback, however, he has yet to really showcase his legs. While Cooper seems to be the go-to guy out of the gate, he has not been as impressive statistically as Johnson.
Johnson has only misfired on one pass all season long. Like Cooper, Johnson appeared against both Kent State and Wake Forest. However, the true freshman also got some snaps against Louisville and completed his only pass. Johnson was also rated by some recruiting sites as the top pocket passer in the entire country. He may seem like the more intriguing option against an SU pass defense that sits right in the middle of the country.
The Tigers certainly have options (and talented ones) if they want to play it cautious with Bryant. Now, it’s a waiting game to see what Dabo wants to do.