Dabo Swinney did not have much to say about former Clemson defensive tackle Josh Belk’s decision to transfer to South Carolina Wednesday, but he was very talkative and supportive of Hunter Johnson’s decision to transfer to Northwestern.
As you know, Belk and Johnson both made their decisions to leave Clemson last month, with Belk’s based on personal situations and needing to be close to home and Johnson based on playing time.
Swinney told the media prior to the start of his high school camp on Wednesday that he spoke with Johnson after he made his decision to transfer to Northwestern earlier this week. However, when Swinney was asked about Belk’s situation, the Clemson head coach kept things short and to the point.
“No comment is new other than what I said (already),” Swinney said at the Poe Indoor Practice Facility. “He is a good kid. Good family. The situation and the circumstances changed for him. He felt like that is what he needed to do and I wish him well.”
The situation changed for Johnson as well, but Swinney was very long winded with his answer, saying that Johnson was one of the best kids he has ever coached and one of the best young people he has ever been around.
“I’m really glad it worked out that way,” Swinney said. “He told me early on that was probably what he was going to do. I reached out to (Northwestern head coach Pats Fitzgerald) and I have a lot of respect for him. He is a friend. It was a tough decision for Hunter.”
Swinney did admit he was surprised to see Johnson transfer before the season.
“I’m not surprised we have a quarterback who decided to transfer,” he said. “I was just surprised at the time. I really felt like, if anything happened, it would probably be after the season. It was what he felt was best for him and what he needed to do.”
Of course Johnson was in a quarterback battle with incumbent starter Kelly Bryant and freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence this spring. Though the coaches thought Johnson made big strides in the spring and was in the mix to compete for the starting job, the sophomore felt like he had a better chance to compete and play elsewhere after redshirting this fall.
“He is an unbelievably talented player and he is going to be a pro,” Swinney said. “He will be a kid that is going to play this game a long time. He is a guy that I will be connected to forever. We will be friends forever. He is truly one of the best players and one of the best young people that I have ever been around.”
Swinney said they will miss Johnson in the quarterback room this fall, but he wishes the former 5-star and high school All-American well at Northwestern.
“We know he is at a good place where I think he can achieve his objectives and goals. I will pull for him all the way through and I can’t wait to watch him be successful,” Swinney said.
As for Belk, he is now a Gamecock and for the first time the Clemson coach did not have much to say. Belk ultimately chose to attend South Carolina, after enrolling at Clemson in January, where he went through spring drills before deciding to transfer last month.