By Adam Hatlan
“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.” – Kelly Bryant on being demoted to second string
Days after being demoted to back-up quarterback, Kelly Bryant has decided to take his talents elsewhere and transfer from Clemson.
Bryant – a senior – will take advantage of the NCAA’s new transfer rule, which allows players to redshirt and maintain a year of eligibility as long as they haven’t played more than four games in the previous season. Bryant will be eligible to play immediately because he will be classified as a graduate transfer.
On Sunday, head coach Dabo Sweeney announced the Tigers would roll with five-star true freshman, Trevor Lawrence, as their primary signal-caller from here on out, resulting in Kelly Bryant announcing Tuesday he would be transferring. The decision by Sweeney came a day after Clemson beat Georgia Tech 49-21. Lawrence threw four touchdowns, completing 13-of-18 passes for 176 yards in that game.
Bryant and Lawrence had been splitting time thus far in the 2018 season. Lawrence has gone 39-of-60 for 600 yards, with a 9:2 TD-INT ratio. Bryant is 36-of-54 for 461 yards with a 2:1 TD-INT ratio.
With Kelly Bryant deciding to transfer, #3 Clemson is losing a quarterback who took over for Deshaun Watson at the start of 2017 and led the Tigers to a 12-2 record. He also led them to a college football playoff appearance. Bryant threw for 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns, running for another 665 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017. Not fantastic stats, but a very productive season. Bryant’s best attributes are his legs, which make him a threat to keep a play alive whenever he’s faced with pressure. In the right offense, Bryant is deadly.
So with that experience – not only as a starter, but developing behind Deshaun Watson – Bryant will be a valuable addition to a college program. Maybe a program looking for a senior quarterback they can use as a stopgap waiting for a younger player to develop. Or a program who may only be a quarterback away from taking the next step towards a college football playoff or championship appearance. Or maybe Bryant goes somewhere he can rack up stats and help his case for the NFL Draft when his time comes.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at five potential landing spots where Kelly Bryant would be a good fit (in no particular order).
1. FLORIDA ATLANTIC
Why not? Lane Kiffin tried recruiting Lamar Jackson to FAU via Twitter in 2017 – albeit facetiously – so why not try to go after Kelly Bryant? FAU features youth at the quarterback position, with a freshman starting quarterback in Chris Robson (five TDs, five INTs). The Owls currently have a three-star dual-threat quarterback headed to campus for 2019. Outside of that the outlook is bleak. FAU went 11-3 in 2017 and features a stud at running back in junior Devin Singletary, who had 44 rushing TD’s through his first two years and already has 10 in 2018. Although a non-Power Five conference rarely gets any respect, maybe a big name like Bryant could cause the selection committee to take notice. Bryant could also help his NFL stock big time in Lane Kiffin’s offense.
Bryant was recruited by Duke coming out of high school. By choosing Duke, Bryant would remain in the ACC, where familiarity with opposing teams would benefit Bryant (and he would get to face Clemson). Adding Bryant would allow the Blue Devils to compete against a tough ACC Coastal conference featuring Miami and Virginia Tech. They currently have two junior quarterbacks won have received playing time, but Bryant adds the dual-threat element neither quarterback possesses. The Blue Devils have a three-star high school quarterback headed to campus in 2019, so quarterback could be all the Blue Devils need to make a jump.
Bryant to the SEC, arguably the best conference in college football? Absolutely. In 2017, Bryant helped lead Clemson to a win over #13 Auburn and #24 South Carolina. He was part of a loss in the college football semifinal to Alabama, but Bryant has proven he can beat the SEC. Auburn currently features junior Jarrett Stidham at quarterback. Should Stidham decide to go pro, Auburn would be perfect for Bryant. Auburn currently has a four-star and the third-rated high school quarterback, Bo Nix, headed to campus in 2019, and having that stopgap of Bryant would be a perfect time for Nix to develop. Bryant would provide Auburn with continuity at the position for one of the SEC’s better teams. If Stidham stays, I don’t think Bryant chooses Auburn. It all comes down to Stidham.
4. NC STATE
The Wolfpack LOVE their transfer quarterbacks. Current signal-caller, Ryan Finley, came from Boise State. Jacoby Brissett came from Florida. Finley is a senior, and the Wolfpack do not have a recruit coming in for 2019, but will be adding – surprise, surprise – Florida State transfer QB Bailey Hockman for the 2019 season. Hockman will still have freshman status and could develop behind Bryant before being handed the reigns in 2020. Bryant is from South Carolina, and NC State – like Duke – could be a good “close-to-home” option for Bryant. It would allow Bryant to play in a conference he is familiar with. He was also recruited out of high school by the Wolfpack. With all the transfers who come to NC State, it just seems like a move that wouldn’t be surprising if it happened. Oh, and Bryant would get to play Clemson.
Bryant to the…Big Ten? The Badgers have gone the transfer route before, with a guy named Russell Wilson. Wilson was spectacular for the Badgers, completing nearly 73% of his passes for 3175 yards, 33 TDs, and only four interceptions. Bryant could have similar success for the Badgers, especially with the NFL-like offensive line the Badgers line up. Offensive line protection, a Heisman candidate running back, and pro-style offense could put Bryant and the Badgers – an annual threat in the Big Ten – over the top. Current quarterback Alex Hornibrook is a junior, but would be easily replaceable if Bryant came along. Hornibrook doesn’t have the “it” factor Bryant likely would bring. Hornibrook would be a fantastic asset to have as a backup, though. The Badgers have a four-star recruit in Graham Mertz headed to Madison in 2019. Giving him a year behind Bryant would be the perfect transition for the Badgers.
Bryant has a big decision to make. Possibly a career defining decision. Whatever program he decides to go to will be getting a very good player with experience playing at a fantastic program. And a quarterback who has won big games. Time will tell, but it will be an interesting storyline to watch.