For a long time, Kelly Bryant has wanted to be a Tiger. What he didn't want to be, however, was an 'athlete.'
Projected by some as a college wide receiver or tight end, Bryant wants to play quarterback in college, and he set out to prove to Clemson, and others, that he can direct a fast-paced spread offense.
After transferring from an option offense at Abbeville to a spread attack at Wren, Bryant earned his chance as a quarterback with offers from Clemson and others, and became of the state's most highly-pursued players for 2013.
Tuesday morning, Bryant committed to Clemson over offers from N.C. State, Florida, Virginia Tech and Virginia, joining Orlando, Fla.'s Tucker Israel in the Tigers' 2015 class and likely completing Clemson's recruiting at the quarterback position for 2015.
Bryant is rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the nation by Rivals, who ranks him in the top 100 players overall nationally. He ranked as the nation's No. 12 dual-threat quarterback by ESPN.
Following is a feature story on Bryant written last September by the Independent Mail's Adam Regan:
During his sophomore season, Kelly Bryant would have been well within his right to take one of the scholarship offers from a major college program and run with it. He proved to Appalachian State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and South Carolina in just two years he is capable of playing the game at the highest level.
Bryant, however, believes he has a lot more to prove.
Classified as an “athlete” by most recruiting services, Bryant wants to show he can be much more than a receiver or an H-back on Saturdays, but a true quarterback who can be an asset as a passer and runner. He said sticking around at Abbeville High, a program he led to two state title game appearances, wouldn’t allow him to do that.
In July, Bryant transferred to Wren to better himself on both fronts.
“It wasn’t more or less offensive-wise,” Bryant said of the transfer. “I just wanted to better my academics and also play in the spread.”
Wren coach Jeff Tate’s spread offense has revitalized the Hurricanes program, creating an fun environment for players who, in this era, are infatuated with high scores and ballooning statistics.
In Abbeville’s A-Bone option attack, Bryant shined but didn’t throw the ball as much as he would have liked and missed a number of games due to injury. The transfer — Tate said paperwork provided to him confirmed in July that Bryant’s legal guardian lived in Wren’s sending district and was later approved by the South Carolina High School League — seemed to make sense.
And, Bryant was on full display in last week’s 24-21 win over T.L. Hanna. Starting QB Jacob Clary, who threw for over 2,000 yards last season for the ‘Canes, bruised his throwing arm in Week 1 and was needed on defense against the Yellow Jackets, opening the door for Bryant to take most of the snaps.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound signal caller was as dynamic as advertised, sparking the offense with touchdown runs of 74 and 49 yards. That part was never in question.
Tate said Bryant more than answered the lingering concern of whether he could pass with efficiency.
“He showed people he could throw the football. He made some good decisions,” Tate said of his Bryant’s 12-for-18, 96-yard passing performance.
The numbers may seem minimal compared to past Wren quarterbacks who regularly threw for 250-plus yards. Tate focused on the junior’s poise during the ‘Canes final drive with under 4 minutes to play and trailing by four points.
Bryant completed three passes for first downs with the biggest coming on 4th down at the Hanna 49. He kept the drive alive with an 8-yard throw to sophomore running back Nathaniel Ekwere.
In his remaining two years of eligibility, Bryant hopes to tear down all of the stereotypes that have been attached to him.
“People saw me as an athlete at that position, but now I want to be a quarterback who is an athlete,” said Bryant, who will lead Wren (1-1) against rival Easley on Friday at home. “I’m not worried about (recruiting) right now. I’m just trying to get better and roll with my team each week.”
That’s not a surprising statement from Bryant, according to Tate.
“The thing about Kelly is he’s a humble young man. He knows he’s been blessed with ability, but he’s not one of these guys who wants to tell you how good he is. He just wants to play ball,” Tate said.
Since Bryant’s arrival, Tate has installed just one additional play to fit his skill set, showing confidence that he can run the offense as it was designed for quarterbacks like Clary, Caleb McClain and Austin McCaskill.
“There’s going to be some growing pains. He knows that and I know that,” Tate said. “He’s willing to work. He’s willing to put in time. And he’s going to find a way to be successful.”
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