Dabo Swinney wouldn’t ultimately commit to starting Kelly Bryant on Friday night against Syracuse, but said he was “encouraged” by the progress he’s seen from him since missing most of the second half against Wake Forest.
Bryant turned his ankle on the first scoring drive of the third quarter on a helmet-to-ankle shot from a Wake Forest defender, causing Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson to split the rest of the game time at quarterback in his absence.
Swinney said Bryant practiced fully on Monday, without missing a rep, and said they were fully expecting to forward with practicing him fully the rest of the week.
Dabo commented on Bryant’s health, and also how they made the best of a bad situation with Cooper and Johnson getting snaps with a game still in the balance:
Swinney on Bryant and backup QBs
This week’s test is a unique one, with a trip to Syracuse and one extra work day involved.
Swinney said the team practiced Sunday, which is usually a rest day for the team, in preparation for the expedited work week. Like the rest of Clemson’s conference opponents, Swinney has a deep respect for what the Orange bring to the table, including receivers Steve Ishmael and Erwin Philips.
The Tigers Head Coach called the pair, “the two best receivers we’ve seen”.
Swinney on Syracuse
This is a pivotal stretch for Clemson, as they embark after this week on a respite with the open date breaking up the final stretch drive to the championship portion of the season.
Swinney believes that while the test of Syracuse remains on their minds, it’s human nature to think about the looming bye week as a welcome reward.
Swinney on bye week and tests of mental toughness
Clemson’s scoring defense and total defense numbers continue to improve as the season progresses. The Tigers have given up an average of 11.3 points per contest, fifth best in the country, and tops in the ACC. Clemson has averaged 264.3 yards allowed per game, eighth best in the country.
One area that has been a big improvement, is cutting down on defensive penalties, especially those which lead to first downs. Clemson’s allowed just six first downs via penalty this year, and only 14 first downs per game, a mark that’s fifth highest in the country in the FBS.
Swinney says he’s changed the way they’ve coached defensive technique due to the evolution of offenses, and borrowed a unique tool from a future Hall of Fame NFL coach to cut down the penalties in the defensive secondary.
Swinney on how defenses have changed
One final injury note, Justin Foster should also return for the Tigers this week after being hampered by an ankle injury through the last couple of weeks. Marcus Edmond is listed as questionable, but Swinney said going into the Wake Forest game that it’s more reasonable to expect him back during the open week.
Clemson (6-0, 4-0) faces Syracuse (3-3, 1-1) Friday night, with a 7 PM kickoff on ESPN.