Battle Ongoing to Replace Deshaun Watson at Clemson & Odds Favor …

kelly bryant clemsonkelly bryant clemson

Matthew Jordan

Monday, July 31, 2017 11:08 PM GMT

One of the most important quarterback battles going on in college football’s fall camps this August will be at Clemson as it decides who must fill the big shoes of Deshaun Watson. Bookmaker offers odds on the winner of the QB derby.

It’s safe to say that Deshaun Watson wasn’t just the greatest quarterback in Clemson football history but the best all-around player ever at that school. In his final two seasons as a starter, Watson led the Tigers to 28 wins and back-to-back national championship games. He torched Alabama’s No. 1 defense in the country in both games as Clemson lost a thriller following the 2015 season and won incredible game another following last season.

Watson was a Heisman finalist in both 2015 & ‘16, becoming the first ACC player to finish in the top three of the voting on multiple occasions. He was also a two-time recipient of the Davey O’Brien Award, one of only four quarterbacks who can make that claim, and two-time winner of the Manning Award. Watson finished third in ACC history in total offense (12,094 yards).

Of course Watson is now with the Houston Texans trying to win that job. There’s a three-man competition to replace him at Clemson’s fall camp, and Bookmaker offers college football odds on each to be the Week 1 starter: Kelly Bryant (-126), Hunter Johnson (+161) and Zerrick Cooper (+808). That’s just for Week 1, in which Clemson is a 38.5-point home favorite over Mid-American Conference school Kent State.

Bryant, a 6-foot-3 junior, has been Watson’s backup the past two seasons and thus should be the favorite. He is 13-for-22 for 75 yards in his college career while adding 178 rushing yards on 35 carries over 12 games. Bryant was ranked a Top 10 duel-threat QB nationally out of Wren High School in Calhoun Falls, S.C. His cousin is Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant.

Johnson is a true freshman and Cooper a redshirt freshman. This will mark the first time since the 2014 season that Clemson does not have a returning quarterback with a start on his resume entering the season. The Tigers went 10-3 that year with Watson eventually taking over as a freshman.

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There wasn’t much separation between the three in the spring game. Bryant was 4-for-13 for 43 yards with a pick and 66 yards rushing with a TD but was dealing with a hamstring injury and then tore a tendon in his pinkie finger in the game and played through it. Cooper was 11-for-18 for 81 yards with a TD and INT while rushing for 26 yards, and Johnson 5-for-13 for 48 yards with an interception and minus-19 yards rushing.

Swinney has said he will narrow the competition down to two 10 days out from the season opener so both players get the same amount of reps.

“It is going to be a battle,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “Obviously, Kelly is in the poll position coming out of the spring.”

The Tigers better pick the right guy or their chances of returning to the College Football Playoff could be over by mid-September with a tough Week 2 game at home vs. Auburn and then a Sept. 16 trip to Louisville vs. reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.

NCAAF Free Pick: Bryant -161Best Line Offered: Bookmaker