CLEMSON — Decision time is here.
On Wednesday, the day Clemson football players began classes, the coaching staff hunkered down in the team's indoor facility and were expected to come to a quarterback decision, according to coach Dabo Swinney's own timeline.
The winner of the Tigers' quarterback competition will be notified on Thursday, Swinney said earlier this week.
The coach also has said the battle for the starting position will play out through a season in which No. 2 Clemson is expected to reach the College Football Playoff for a fourth straight year.
Kelly Bryant, the senior incumbent, believes he has done enough to keep his job. He said as much Tuesday afternoon.
"I feel like I've done everything I needed to do. I'll leave it in the coaches' hands," he said. "I've prepared like I'm the starter. I feel like I came out here and stepped on the field like I'm the starter."
But he has had to battle Trevor Lawrence, the flashy freshman. Each have specific traits that could win the job; each have specific traits that could lose them the job. Here's a case for each:
Why Kelly Bryant will be the starting QB
Experience. There is no such thing as too much experience when it comes to leading a football team of Clemson's caliber, and Bryant has 14 games under his belt and a 12-2 record as a starter. Having seen most of the teams Clemson will play this season already, Bryant is ready for competition at the highest level and is a proven winner. When everyone doubted what he would do in Deshaun Watson's shoes, he took the nation by storm.
Leadership. Bryant is one of the most outgoing players on Clemson's roster, right up there with defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. Bryant has an infectious personality that his teammates cling to and rally around. Defensive end Clelin Ferrell said at ACC Media Day that Bryant had the better overall spring and that the team was going to treat him as "the guy" until coaches told them otherwise.
History. Swinney has a track record of staying loyal to older players, at least to begin with. The Clemson coach said Bryant has done nothing to lose his job and indicated he would love to see his senior win it on the field.
Why Kelly Bryant won't be the starter
Down-field passing. Bryant knows he is not as accurate with the deep ball as he would like to be and when it came to passing yards per completion a season ago, he ranked No. 102 in the nation. He ranked No. 59 in the country for passing efficiency and said that has been his biggest focus of the summer. It's no secret Clemson's deep-threat wide receivers are secretly salivating at the idea of going long for a pass from Lawrence.
"The biggest thing I wanted to get better on was just giving the guys a chance rather than overthrowing them and not having an opportunity for them to make a play on the ball,” Bryant said. “That’s something I’ve been stressing."
Why Trevor Lawrence will be the starting QB
Talent. Lawrence had one of the best arms in all of high school football a season ago as a senior. Lawrence even broke two of Deshaun Watson's high school state records in Georgia, which speaks for itself. Obviously he has not taken a college snap yet, but the fact that he was, to some, a better high school quarterback than the best Clemson quarterback speaks volumes about his upside.
The spring game. The closest thing Lawrence experienced to a real game was the spring game and he dazzled in it — completing 11 of 16 passes for 122 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown.
History. This one works both ways. While Swinney tends to have a loyalty to older players, who knows what would have happened if Watson was the Game 1 starter as a freshman?
Why Trevor Lawrence won't be the starter
Experience. Lawrence does not have the locker room like Bryant does. That isn't to say he can't get there one day, but Bryant is a proven commodity.
Lawrence is still an unproven — albeit thrilling — prospect.