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2017 Clemson Football Participation Review: Quarterbacks

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NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Alabama vs Clemson Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: Games started and games played are not always the best metrics to define experience. Sometimes players get 5 snaps in a game while others get 40. Because of this we review the snap counts of each player at the end of the season to see who has really gained experienced and how much experience Clemson will really be losing.

Ahead of the 2017 Clemson’s biggest concern was at QB. The battle to replace Deshaun Watson was the number one topic of conversation for most, and the decision on QB1 was not made until Fall Camp was well underway. Many of us thought that even with Kelly Bryant being named the starting QB we would see Hunter Johnson, or even Zerrick Cooper, supplant Bryant during the season. That didn’t happen. Instead Bryant played well and retained the starting role through the entire season. Below is the participation chart for our quarterbacks not including the Sugar Bowl.

QB Snap Count

Player Position Year Kent State Auburn Louisville Boston College Virginia Tech Wake Forest Syracuse Georgia Tech NC State Florida State Citadel South Carolina Miami Total
Player Position Year Kent State Auburn Louisville Boston College Virginia Tech Wake Forest Syracuse Georgia Tech NC State Florida State Citadel South Carolina Miami Total
Kelly Bryant QB Junior 48 64 74 80 63 66 29 70 78 82 34 67 61 816
Zerrick Cooper QB RS Freshman 14 4 4 4 2 16 29 0 0 0 18 4 9 104
Tucker Israel QB RS Sophomore 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Hunter Johnson QB Freshman 20 0 3 0 0 7 0 10 0 0 16 14 6 76

Because of that the QB participation start isn’t particularly noteworthy. Bryant got most of the snaps at QB this year while Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson split the rest. It is worth noting though that the only difference between snaps for Johnson and Cooper is the Syracuse game. A coincidence more than anything, but had Bryant not been hurt against Syracuse both QBs would be separated by a single snap, If Johnson had been given the nod to replace him instead of Cooper, we would have clear evidence that Johnson was QB2 this year despite what the depth chart would have said for a large portion of the season.

One thing I do want to note is that the coaching staff gave more snaps to the backup QB this year than in past years when the starting QB was established. In 2015 and 2016 Watson played almost 88% of the snaps on the season. This year Bryant played 81%. That works out to an extra 5 snaps a game over the entire season for backup QBs. We’ve had several conversations about how to get backup QBs the proper experience and it seems like the coaching staff attempted to get enough snaps for both Cooper and Johnson this year.

Some of this may also be because Clemson had more blowouts this year, or because the staff wanted to be more aggressive with substitutions, but it is fair to say that the backups got more experience than we might have expected based on previous years.