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Taking over as a starting college football quarterback is difficult, but following another successful quarterback makes it even more challenging. Though Kelly Bryant and Josh Jackson may have taken different paths, they ended up in similar places.
Bryant had the tall task of following Deshaun Watson, one of Clemson’s most successful quarterbacks in program history. It appeared as though new Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente had found the perfect quarterback to run his system in Jerod Evans. After just one season as Hokies quarterback, Evans surprisingly declared for the NFL draft.
This opened up the opportunity for Josh Jackson to start at Virginia Tech. Bryant, who is a junior, had a bit longer of an opportunity to gain experience from the sidelines. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney told ESPN that Bryant’s ability to sit behind Watson has only helped him.
“He’s [Deshaun Watson] a proud father,” Swinney told ESPN. “He mentored [Bryant] for two years. Don’t discount how big that is for Kelly.”
Jackson is a red-shirt freshman making his college football debut this season.
This does not mean Jackson is not experienced. Jackson’s father, Fred Jackson, was a long-time Michigan assistant coach. He has now moved on to become the head coach at Ypsilanti High, but his son grew up around ball. Fred Jackson explained to the Daily Press that he knew his son was capable of playing football.
“He didn’t sit and watch film the way a lot of guys would sit and watch film,” Fred Jackson told the Daily Press. “He watched film while he took notes, then he’d ask me questions based on what he saw. … He could write and do all that stuff at a very young age. He’s a very bright kid and just always wanted to know. Right now, I listen to all the things he asks me about, and it’s a true reflection on what he learned at a young age.”
Jackson has had a stellar start to the season for the Hokies. Through four games, Jackson has thrown for 1,127 yards, 11 touchdowns and just one interception.
Football also runs in the Bryant family. Bryant’s cousin, Martavis Bryant, plays wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bryant has punished teams with both his arm and legs. Bryant has thrown for 873 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Bryant has also rushed for 268 yards and seven touchdowns.
Tonight, the two quarterbacks square off with an eye towards the ACC conference title. Here’s some of the best highlights of Bryant and Jackson.