South Carolina backup quarterback Jay Urich has been playing the role of Kelly Bryant for the scout team this week as the Gamecocks prepare to host Clemson Saturday night.
Quarterbacks instructor Ramon Robinson, who trains both signal callers, suspects Urich is doing a pretty good job simulating Bryant.
“I always said to Kelly, ‘I’ve got another you,’ ” Robinson said of when he first starting training Urich. “He just started laughing, but I said, ‘He’s very athletic. He’s hungry. And he has a lot of things to work on. He has the same dreams and aspirations of wanting to be a college quarterback like you.’”
There is plenty of animosity between South Carolina and Clemson as players from both teams have openly stated throughout this week that the two programs simply do not like each other.
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But there are also friendships that are much bigger than football.
Perhaps the closest bond is between the two former Wren quarterbacks, Bryant and Urich.
Bryant, who has led Clemson to a 10-1 record in his first year as a starter, signed with the Tigers as a part of the class of 2015.
He totaled 4,299 yards and 55 touchdowns his senior year of high school before Urich took over as the Hurricanes’ quarterback the following year.
Urich transferred to Wren after spending two seasons at Blue Ridge, so he never played on the same team as Bryant, but the two started training together with Robinson heading into Urich’s sophomore season at Blue Ridge and a friendship was quickly formed.
“My senior year, that’s when we really became close because right after I left, he was coming into Wren,” Bryant recalled. “So that’s when that connection and that bond started, then jumpstarted from there.”
Robinson sees plenty of similarities between Urich and Bryant, not only in their play but in their background.
Bryant played his first two seasons of high school football at Abbeville, leading a triple-option offense before transferring to Wren and working to prove himself as a complete quarterback.
Urich started his football career as a wide receiver before transitioning to quarterback early in his high school career with very little knowledge of the position.
“Everybody’s different in their own way of course, but they have so many similarities. You have both kids that are 6-4, over 200 pounds. One runs a 4.4 and I think the other runs a 4.5 or 4.6,” Robinson said. “They’re very athletic and can make plays with their arm as well as their legs. They have big statures and very athletic and you don’t find that a lot in kids.”
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp also sees similarities in the two, which is why Urich is playing Bryant in practice this week.
“Jay is a very similar guy as far as stature is concerned and body-wise. Jay is a really good athlete. He runs extremely well and throws it extremely well, so there’s a lot of carryover there,” Muschamp said.
Even without having backgrounds as traditional quarterbacks, Bryant and Urich earned scholarships to the top two programs in the state.
Bryant had to wait his turn behind Deshaun Watson for two seasons at Clemson before bursting onto the scene in 2017.
Urich is redshirting this year and waiting for an opportunity to show what he can do once established starter Jake Bentley finishes his college career.
“If you’re a competitor, regardless of a situation if you’ve got a starter or not, you’ve always got to put your mind where you want to compete at all costs,” Robinson said. “But you have to wait your turn. Jay’s in the same situation that Kelly was in when Deshaun was there. It’s just a matter of now waiting your turn and seize the moment when that opportunity comes.”
Urich has leaned on Bryant as he has made the adjustment from being the star quarterback in high school to having to wait on the sideline for an opportunity.
“Whenever we just talk, it’s not just going to be everything about football — just like what’s going on with him, how is he handling the schedule and just seeing what he’s got going on,” Bryant said. “That’s a guy I’ve known for such a long time and I know what he’s going through.”
The two trained together multiple times this summer and have talked throughout the year, but face-to-face interactions have been scarce.
However, South Carolina and Clemson both had the same bye week in mid October, allowing the two longtime friends to meet up at a Wren game.
“I just got to talk to him a little bit, just talk about his experience being there his first year,” Bryant recalled.
The Clemson junior is looking forward to another opportunity to chat with Urich Saturday night in Columbia.
“It’s going to be neat being down there trying to get to talk to him during pregame and after postgame,” Bryant said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Bryant has proved doubters wrong this season and has Clemson in position to return to the College Football Playoff for a third consecutive year.
Urich had plenty of doubters coming out of Wren as well as he was rated as a three-star prospect with only a handful of Power 5 offers.
Just as Bryant has surprised some people with his play, Robinson expects the same from Urich when his time comes.
“The potential for these kids, the sky’s the limit,” Robinson said. “Yea, they’re playing quarterback, but they’re still learning. They’re still getting better and better as they go.”