The first practice of preseason camp had just wrapped and Kelly Bryant stood with his back to the wall of Clemson's mammoth indoor practice facility, facing cameras and recorders and questions -- mostly the same questions he has been answering for months. After three years as a ghost on Clemson's roster, everyone seems to want something from Bryant these days, and usually what they want is for him to talk about Deshaun Watson. Bryant is not a superstar. He's not even the most famous quarterback on his own roster right now. Former ESPN 300 recruit Zerrick Cooper, who redshirted last season, and last year's top-ranked QB signee, Hunter Johnson, are banned from speaking to the media until they take their first college snaps. That leaves Bryant as the unofficial spokesman, providing updates on arguably the most important position battle in college football. Of course, Bryant does understand stardom. He lived in its shadow for the past three years, the understudy's understudy to Watson -- national champion, legend and the best player to ever suit up in a Tigers uniform. And while Watson is no longer here, his presence is felt. To paraphrase Joe Biden, every interaction Bryant has these days tends to include a noun, a verb and the name Deshaun Watson. "It's about every question, and I answer it to the best of my ability," Bryant said. "But I don't try to be Deshaun Watson." That is the ubiquitous advice, despite how empty the words might be. Perhaps Bryant is great this year. Perhaps not. Either way, he won't be Watson, so why bother trying? So that's what his QB coach told him when the season ended. That's what head coach Dabo Swinney said when spring ball wrapped without a clear starter and dubious Clemson fans wondering what would become of their offense. But how do you forget a guy who just scripted the most glorious chapter in program history? Bryant, certainly, isn't the first to try. Two years ago, someone had to replace Marcus Mariota at Oregon and Jameis Winston at Florida State. Before that, the shadow of Johnny Manziel loomed over Texas A&M. Before that, someone had to fill the shoes of Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford and Matt Leinart and Andrew Luck and on and on and on. This is the epitome of college football. Greatness arrives with a flourish, and leaves far too soon, often with a mere mortal QB left to pick up the pieces.
Clemson's Bryant: 'I don't try to be Deshaun Watson'
ESPN | Aug 19