Dabo Swinney indicates Clemson's quarterback battle may bleed into the season

Think Kelly Bryant will automatically be the starting quarterback for Clemson at the start of the 2018 season? Even coach Dabo Swinney isn't 100 percent sure.

In fact, he's not sure the ongoing competition among Bryant, Hunter Johnson, Trevor Lawrence and Chase Brice will be settled by Week 1 against Furman. Speaking at an event on Tuesday, Swinney gave an update on where the quarterback battle stands heading into the long summer months. His answer was eyebrow-raising, to say the least. 

"Regardless of where we are today we've got a long way to go before we play in September, and no matter what happens in September I don't think the competition's just going to end," Swinney said via The State. "I think we've got guys on the roster that are going to be driven each and every day to either be the guy or beat the guy out or make the guy better or whatever it may be."

Lawrence probably had the biggest day during Clemson's spring game last weekend, going 11-of-16 for 122 yards and a touchdown. Bryant, on the other hand, went 8-of-15 for 35 yards. Spring game stats aren't everything, but it was clear there's a push behind Bryant for the starting job. 

Swinney's comments bring to mind something former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy told CBS Sports in February about a similar battle at Alabama between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa

"Unless you have Tom Brady, there should be a competition at quarterback every year. It should be just like every other position," McElroy said. "What you did last year doesn't matter, it's about what you're doing currently."

Put another way, unless a team is returning Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson or the like -- someone who has established themselves as giving the team the best chance to win -- there's likely going to be a competition. So, no, it doesn't matter that Bryant led the Tigers to an ACC Championship and playoff appearance last season. When you're signing big-time recruits like Swinney is, the message is usually that everyone will have a chance to earn playing time even if nothing is a given. 

It's also a message to Bryant. Remember, too, that he entered last spring as the front-runner to succeed Deshaun Watson. While there was technically a competition that year, too, it was clear Bryant was the guy to beat. 

That's still the case this time -- Swinney said if the season started today the senior would be No. 1 -- but this feels different. The depth chart behind Bryant is better equipped to breed a true competition. Lawrence was the No. 1 overall high school recruit in 2018 per 247Sports and enrolled early. Johnson was also a five-star prospect in 2017. Being a blue-chip athlete doesn't guarantee anything, but it paints a picture of the possibilities. And while recent history of the quarterback position says at least one of these players will transfer later on, they're all skilled and confident enough to be the guy right now. 

Swinney is enabling that confidence -- and that's a good thing. It sends a message not only to the quarterbacks, but to the entire team, that no job is safe if the starter isn't getting better. No one is above proving themselves all over again. The longer the competition goes on, the more likely it is one of the younger players is going to see the field. Otherwise, for chemistry's sake, there'd be no reason to keep it going. 

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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