CLEMSON, S.C. — As Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant sat down to answer questions this week, he flashed a big smile and joked, "Y'all miss me?"
The seventh-ranked Tigers certainly did.
Clemson lost at Syracuse 27-24 after Bryant left the game with a concussion in the second quarter . That was the second straight contest the junior left the game early with an injury. He hurt his ankle in the second half of a win over Wake Forest on Oct. 7.
But now Bryant is out of the concussion protocol and practicing on the ankle that was encased in a walking boot three weeks back . Bryant, the successor to All-American Deshaun Watson, feels ready to lead the Tigers (6-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) against Georgia Tech (4-2, 3-1) on Saturday night.
"It's been a long season and we're right in the middle of it," Bryant said. "Nothing is really bothering me. The ankle is feeling good. It's feeling better than it was feeling last week."
That's important news for Clemson, which played like a different team with Bryant sidelined.
He led the Tigers to a 5-0 record in September, including decisive wins over top-15 opponents in Auburn, Louisville and Virginia Tech. The Wake Forest win was comfortably in hand when Bryant left with the ankle injury.
Not so at Syracuse, where Bryant was sidelined with the Tigers trailed 17-14. Clemson and backup Zerrick Cooper only had 148 yards of offense in the second half.
Clemson hopes Bryant's return helps Clemson reestablish its winning ways and build on its bid for the College Football Playoff. If the Tigers get past Georgia Tech, a showdown for the ACC Atlantic Division looms at North Carolina State next week before finishing at home against Florida State on Nov. 11.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney needs a healthy Bryant to be there for it all.
"Kelly looks good and hopefully he won't have any setbacks and play a great game on Saturday," Swinney said.