Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant was demoted as the Tigers starter on Sunday in favor of freshman Trevor Lawrence, who will take over against Syracuse on Saturday.
Coach Dabo Swinney gave Bryant the day off on Monday so he could process the decision after being the team’s starter since the beginning of the 2017 season, per ESPN. Bryant missed practice Tuesday, and then Wednesday morning, The Greenville News reported that the senior quarterback has decided to transfer.
“They asked me how I felt about it,” Bryant said, recalling his meeting with Swinney. “I was like, ‘I’m not discrediting Trevor. He’s doing everything asked of him, but on my side of it, I feel like I haven’t done anything to not be the starter. I’ve been here. I’ve waited my turn. I’ve done everything y’all have asked me to do, plus more.’
“I’ve never been a distraction. I’ve never been in trouble with anything. To me, it was kind of a slap in the face.”
Bryant told the paper that it was a tough decision, but this is what’s best for him and what’s left of his college football career. He and Lawrence have shared the playing time so far this season, but Bryant has been Clemson’s starter for the last 18 games, which included an appearance in the College Football Playoff last season.
But why is he making this decision now four games into the season?
The NCAA changed its redshirt rules this year, allowing players to participate in up to four games in a season and still qualify for a redshirt. Bryant is a senior, and thanks to this new rule, he can transfer and retain another year of eligibility because he’s only played in four games so far this season.
Even though Swinney gave the starting job to Lawrence, he could have still opted to have the two share the snaps. Or, if Lawrence gets hurt, he could have returned to Bryant. Whatever the hypothetical scenario, if Bryant played one more game for the Tigers, his college career would be over at the end of the season.
Announcing his decision to transfer now gives him the opportunity to immediately play another full season in 2019 as someone else’s starter.
In Clemson’s first four games, Bryant had a 66.7 completion percentage with 461 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also had a 146.9 passer rating this year, along with a 16-2 record as a starter. His two losses were last season against unranked Syracuse, 27-24, and to Alabama, 24-6, in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
In his first season with the Tigers, Lawrence, however, has thrown for 600 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions with a 65.0 completion percentage.
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“I was just going to control what I could control and try to make the most of my opportunity, but at the end of the day, I just don’t feel like I’ve gotten a fair shot.”
Clemson is ranked No. 3 by the AP Poll and No. 2 by the Coaches Poll, and it’s currently among the four top teams projected to be in the College Football Playoff this year.
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