COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — No. 2 Clemson will employ two quarterbacks when the Tigers visit a Texas A&M team on Saturday night that settled its quarterback question in Week 1.
Coach Dabo Swinney said this week that both Kelly Bryant and freshman Trevor Lawrence will play after both performed well in an easy 48-7 win in the season opener last week.
The Aggies will go with Kellen Mond, who competed with last year’s first-game starter Nick Starkel throughout camp before getting the nod in the first game. Starkel played in the second half last week with the game out of hand, but Mond is expected to get all the snaps this week against Clemson’s rugged defense.
Bryant, who threw for 2,803 yards and 13 touchdowns in leading Clemson to a 12-2 record last season, threw for 127 yards and a touchdown and ran for another last week. Lawrence took over after that and had 137 yards passing with three TD passes.
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher is preparing for both players and knows both will provide a challenge for his team.
“They’re probably more similar than they are different in some ways,” Fisher said. “You say one throws it better than the other, but the other has been very productive at times. Kelly has, in big games, and Trevor’s a very talented guy. They’re both good in all aspects.”
Despite sharing time with Lawrence, Bryant plans to keep the same focus no matter where he in on the field — in the game or on the bench.
“Whether I’m out there making calls or making sure I’m locked in an engaged,” he said.
For the 18-year-old Lawrence, this week will be the first time he’s dealt with a hostile road crowd. There are expected to be more than 100,000 fans at Kyle Field.
“It’s going to be crazy,” he said. “I haven’t experienced that before, but the coaches have done a good job preparing us and they’ll do a good job preparing us this week. Mentally, I’ll be ready, so I’ll be good.”
Mond threw for 184 yards and two touchdowns last week before sitting down in the third quarter with the Aggies up by 42 points in the 59-7 win over Northwestern State.
“He brings a lot of athleticism and I think Jimbo likes that,” Swinney said. “His ability to throw the ball on the run is very impressive. I think he’s matured and there’s a new staff, a new scheme there and there’s confidence that comes with that.”
The last time Clemson went to Texas A&M was in 2004, an entirely forgettable trip in Swinney’s eyes — and not just because of the Aggies’ dominant 27-6 victory. Swinney was in his second year as coach Tommy Bowden’s receivers coach. He said the Tigers stayed some 90 minutes away and the game-day bus did not have air conditioning. Players had their shirts off and pants rolled up trying to stay cool.
“We looked like North Dallas 40 getting off that bus,” Swinney said. “We were a bad-looking bunch.”
The Tigers have arguably the best defensive line in the country with first-team All-American end Clelin Ferrell and tackle Christian Wilkins and second-team All-America selection tackle Dexter Lawrence leading the way. The trio, which combined for 29 1/2 tackles for losses and 16 1/2 sacks a year ago, will be a big test for a Texas A&M line adjusting to the loss of Koda Martin, who transferred in the offseason.
“Clemson’s D-line is dynamic,” Fisher said. “They can beat you with power. They beat you with speed. They have good experience. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
MAKING A STATEMENT?
This will be Fisher’s first chance to see where his team stacks up against college football’s elite after leaving Florida State for a 10-year, $75 million contract with the Aggies. Texas A&M has struggled against ranked teams recently, dropping its last five meetings with Top 25 teams. The Aggies’ last win over a ranked team came in a 45-38 double overtime victory against No. 9 Tennessee in 2016.
AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli contributed to this story.
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