Clemson football fell short of their third straight National Championship appearance in a loss to Alabama last night. The Tigers’ Sugar Bowl loss highlights an interesting story-line at quarterback going into the offseason.
This is not your typical “the sky is falling” narrative following a loss, don’t worry.
That being said, Clemson has a few issues to address going into the offseason. The most pressing issue is their quarterback situation.
Junior, Kelly Bryant was impressive in his first year as a starter, completing 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns. Bryant was also effective on the ground, rushing for 665 yards and 11 touchdowns on the year.
I am not trying to discredit what Bryant was able to do this season, because by all accounts it was a successful year.
The problem is his inconsistency as a passer. While he completed a high percentage of his passes, majority of them were short-to-intermediate routes. As much as he’s improved, Bryant is never going to be an elite passer.
Bryant has more than enough ability to lead Clemson to 10+ wins next season, however, I’m not sure that he is balanced enough to bring them another National Championship.
Clemson has enough talent outside of Bryant to beat 90 percent of the teams in the country. Unfortunately, in order to win a national title, the Tigers are going to have to go threw teams with comparable talent. This is where Bryant’s inefficiencies rear their ugly head.
I liken Bryant and Clemson’s offense to J.T. Barrett and Ohio State’s offense. Both have a strong ground game, capable of beating good opponents. In the same breath, both lack the vertical passing threat to threaten elite opponents.
Bryant’s combined stat line against Auburn and Alabama – the two elite defenses Clemson faced this season – were as follows: 37-of-65 (56 percent) for 305 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
Sugar Bowl Loss
Against Alabama, Bryant averaged 3.4 yards per passing attempt. Granted the Tigers’ offensive line didn’t go a great job of protecting against Alabama’s front seven.
This game reminded me of Clemson’s 31-0 win over Ohio State in last year’s College Football Playoff.
Tide defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt crowded the line of scrimmage to stop the run, daring Bryant to beat him through the air. The pressure upfront clearly worked as Bryant was unable to answer the bell.
Clemson will have the talent to compete for a National Championship next season. The Tigers will also have a bevy of talent at quarterback. Kelly Bryant returns as does former 5-star recruit Hunter Johnson and incoming 5-star recruit, Trevor Lawrence.
Bryant is a viable option in the short-term, however, Lawrence and Johnson may be a better option for the Tigers’ offense long-term because of their ability to throw the football. With Travis Etienne and Tavien Feaster also returning, the Tigers may not need their quarterback to factor into the run game as much anyways.