Clemson football: 5 way-too-early predictions for the 2017 season

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Jan 7, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Zerrick Cooper (6) during Clemson Tigers practice at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Quiet quarterback competition

Quarterback competitions are always a major topic of discussion coming into football season. Clemson has had the luxury of avoiding that distraction for the last two seasons due to one Deshaun Watson.

The same cannot be said for the 2017 season. Clemson’s starting quarterback job is up for grabs. I believe there are four quarterbacks with a legitimate shot at becoming the starter, Kelly Bryant (Jr), Zerrick Cooper (RFr), Hunter Johnson (Fr), and Chase Brice (Fr). While the media may talk about the Clemson football team often, I do not expect Dabo Swinney and his staff to offer much about the quarterback competition through the spring.

Kelly Bryant has an inside track to becoming the starter because of his athleticism and his in-game experience. That being said, Bryant still has work to do throwing the football. For this reason, I expect Zerrick Cooper, Hunter Johnson, and Chase Brice to make this competition interesting.

Zerrick Cooper is an intriguing prospect because of his skill set. I liken Cooper to Deshaun Watson in his balance as a passer and a runner. Though, I do not think that Cooper posses the next level athleticism that Deshaun does. It will be interesting to see how quickly Zerrick can mesh with the receivers and get comfortable in the offense.

Hunter Johnson and Chase Brice are both true freshman so their biggest challenge will likely be digesting the playbook. Both quarterbacks are physically talented, as such, their chance to separate themselves will come mentally.

Unless Hunter Johnson or Zerrick Cooper completely separates from the pack during winter conditioning and spring ball, I expect Dabo Swinney to play it safe and name Kelly Bryant the starter during fall camp. Swinney will likely handle this year as he did with Cole Stoudt and Deshaun Watson, slowly bringing along the younger quarterbacks.

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