With Kelly Bryant missing practice for a second straight day on Tuesday, some may be wondering why Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made a change at quarterback this week.
It would have been easy for him to just keep things the way they were for one more week to prevent Bryant from having the option of redshirting the rest of the football season, which would prevent him from transferring to another school.
“I could have huddled the coaches up and said let’s make sure we start him for Syracuse. That way he is locked,” Swinney said. “That is not how I operate. I do not operate that way. I’m just trying to do what is right and I am not ever going to apologize for that.
“We talked about a lot of things. It was a deep, long, emotional conversation and it was something that we needed to talk through.”
That’s probably what a lot of coaches would not have done. However, like Swinney has proven again and again over the years, he is not like other coaches.
As the case has always been, the Clemson coach put his player’s needs before his own. Bryant was informed about Swinney’s decision to start freshman Trevor Lawrence for Saturday’s Syracuse game on Sunday night by quarterbacks’ coach Brandon Streeter. On Monday, Swinney met with the senior in his office at the Allen Reeves Football Complex in what Swinney described was an emotional meeting.
With the NCAA changing transfer rules to benefit the student athletes even more, a player who has not used a redshirt can play up to four games in a season and still be eligible to redshirt and/or transfer to another school without using up that year of eligibility.
“If that is what he wanted to do, I would be all for it. I love Kelly,” Swinney said. “I would be disappointed in that, in him leaving, but I would not judge him for that.”
At the time of the meeting, Bryant did not convey to Swinney any interest of a transfer. Swinney gave him Monday night off from practice because it was an emotional day for the senior. Bryant was expected to return to practice on Tuesday, but he was a no-show.
Missing Tuesday’s practice, which is the Tigers’ heaviest workload of the week, is a big deal. It’s the day when they have heavy installation regarding the game plan.
However, all is not lost for the week if Bryant were to return to practice today. Wednesday is the second biggest day of the week and getting to practice helps a player catch up on what they missed from the day before. But, if Bryant were to miss Wednesday’s practice, he is likely to miss Saturday’s game, which could be an indication of what his intent might be.
Again, all of this could have been avoided if Swinney just would have waited one more week before making a change at quarterback. But again, that’s is not who Swinney is.
Though he does not want his senior quarterback to transfer, the Clemson coach wanted to be upfront with Bryant. It was a classy move by Swinney, even though it has put his team in a sticky situation.
If Bryant were to leave the team, it would mean the Tigers would have just three quarterbacks on the roster. Chase Brice, who has played some in mop-up duty this year, would move up to second-team quarterback, while Ben Baton would be become the third string quarterback.
The interesting note here is Batson has missed the last few weeks due to a broken finger, an issue he is still dealing with as the Tigers’ prepare to play Syracuse this Saturday.
So, as the Kelly Bryant saga continues to play out today, Clemson fans will have to wonder if suddenly, they went from having perhaps the best quarterback situation in college football, to now being an injury away from having perhaps the worst of the national championship contenders.
Dabo Swinney knew this could happen, but once again he put his player’s needs above his own and the team’s. He did right by Bryant to give him an option. Now, he just must hope Bryant stays a Clemson Tiger.