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Kelly Bryant set to transfer after losing starting job

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant announced that he’s transferring from the program Wednesday morning in an interview with The Greenville News. Bryant’s decision came just two days after head coach Dabo Swinney announced that freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence would be starting the game against Syracuse this weekend.
A new rule regarding redshirts was implemented this past offseason that allows player to play in up to four games before they lose redshirt eligibility. By making the decision to transfer now, Bryant saved his final year of eligibility and will become a redshirt senior. Had Bryant elected to play in this weekend’s game against Syracuse, the fifth game of the season, Bryant would have no longer been eligible for the redshirt.
The decision to make Lawrence the starter was seemingly a no brainer by the Clemson coaching staff. To this point in the season, both quarterbacks have played well but Bryant has certainly been outplayed by his freshman counterpart. Thus far, Lawrence has accumulated 624 total yards and nine touchdowns to Bryant’s 600 yards and four touchdowns. The deciding factor came this past weekend against Georgia Tech when Lawrence became the first player since Deshaun Watson in 2016 to throw for four touchdowns in a single game. The move to start the young quarterback with the hot hand was certainly one that many Clemson fans saw coming, but  Kelly Bryant apparently did not. In the interview with The Greenville News, Bryant said the decision came as, “a slap in the face” and, “at the end of the day, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten a fair shot”.
While the decision to transfer makes sense from Bryant’s perspective, it was still seen as a shock even to those closest to the situation. After naming Lawrence the starter on Monday, Swinney said, “I don’t have any doubt that he’ll show up and go back to work”. While Swinney was disappointed with Bryant’s decision, he made it clear to the media that there is no bad blood on his end. Swinney said that the decision, “doesn’t change anything that I feel for Kelly. I love him, I care about him, I wish him nothing but the best… All I can say is another program… is going to get a quality quarterback and a very quality young man”.
Wherever Bryant lands, he will certainly be a valuable weapon for his new team. Just a season ago, in his first year as a starter, Bryant lead the Tigers to a 12-2 season, which included an appearance in the College Football Playoff. Bryant accumulated 3467 total yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior and it is certainly reasonable to think that he can improve upon those numbers with another year of experience under his belt. Tiger fans will hope that Bryant elects to play outside of the ACC, though both NC State and Syracuse have quarterbacks working in their last year of eligibility making them possible landing spots.
While it is true that Swinney could have kept Bryant as the starter for one more week and forced him to stay with Clemson for the remainder of the season, Swinney said, “That’s not how we operate here. It’s not who we are”. The decision to start Lawrence was based solely on performance and was, “in the best interest of the team”.  
With Bryant gone, a position that once had great depth quickly became very thin. Just a few months ago, the Clemson quarterback depth chart consisted of three players that were capable of executing the offense effectively. Besides Bryant and Lawrence, the Tigers had Hunter Johnson, a former five-star prospect, entering his sophomore year. In June, Johnson decided to transfer to Northwestern amid the three-way battle for the Clemson starting job. With Johnson and Bryant gone, only Lawrence and fellow freshman Chase Brice remain. In limited playing time, Brice’s ball security troubles have shown that he isn’t ready to lead the Clemson offense. Without Bryant as a plan B, the success of the Tigers is now contingent upon Lawrence’s health more than any other factor.
While Bryant’s Clemson career came to a bitter end, it will not shape how he will be remembered. Bryant’s leadership, character, and accomplishments will be admired by Clemson fans for years to come and his presence will be missed both on and off the field. In the words of his head coach, “There’s not a better leader… He’s what you want your son to be like. I love him like a son.”

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