In the past five days, Clemson has had two former 5-stars leave its football program, one everyone thought would transfer and another that came out of left field.
Freshman defensive tackle Josh Belk surprised everyone last Wednesday when he announced his intentions to transfer from Clemson due to personal circumstances back home. Monday morning, word got out that sophomore quarterback Hunter Johnson has decided to transfer from Clemson as well.
Johnson met with head coach Dabo Swinney over the weekend and talked about his decision to transfer to another school.
“While it is always disappointing to lose a great person and a great player, I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to work with Hunter and watch him grow and develop over the last year and a half,” said Swinney in a press release Monday. “Hunter is one of the best young men I have ever coached and has a very bright future ahead of him.
“I wish him all the best as he decides on his destination.”
What does Johnson’s departure mean to Clemson’s quarterback room?
It means the race to be Clemson’s starting quarterback is now a two-man race between incumbent starter Kelly Bryant and the former No. 1 high school player in the country in Trevor Lawrence. Chase Brice, who redshirted last year, now becomes the Tigers’ No. 3 quarterback and will compete for the starting job this summer as well.
With Johnson leaving it also means the Tigers have just three scholarships players on their roster for this coming fall and two with no college experience. Earlier this spring during the Prowl & Growl Tours, Swinney indicated he was going to play multiple quarterbacks this year.
Now, with Lawrence and Brice having no game experience at all, the Clemson coaches are going to have to figure out a way to get all three quarterbacks some playing time. Also, you have to consider the fact Bryant did get injured last season and missed the entire second half of the Syracuse game with a concussion.
It was the only regular-season game the Tigers lost in 2017.
The Johnson transfer also impacts the 2019 season. Though Lawrence and Brice are set to return, Bryant is a senior this year and will exhaust his eligibility. The Tigers do have a commitment from the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback for 2019 in four-star Taisun Phommachanh.
However, Clemson will need to sign another quarterback as well so they can get to the required four-scholarship quarterbacks they like to have on the roster.
Other targets, besides Phommachanh, the Tigers are looking at are Graham Mertz, another 4-star quarterback from Leawood, Kan. Mertz, who is 6-foot-3 and weighs 205 pounds, is committed to Wisconsin.
The other target for the Tigers is Brandon Clark of Midolthian, Va. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound quarterback is a 3-star prospect and is currently committed to Wake Forest.
Clemson has also offered Florida State commitment Sam Howell (6-1, 225). The Monroe, N.C., product is a 4-star prospect. He committed to the Seminoles last month.