Though Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was disappointed to learn quarterback Kelly Bryant has decided to leave school and transfer someone else, he has no ill will toward the comments his former quarterback said regarding his demotion from the starting quarterback spot.
Swinney named freshman Trevor Lawrence as the starting quarterback this past Monday, but he indicated in his Tuesday press conference that Bryant was still going to play when the Tigers hosts Syracuse Saturday at Death Valley.
However, Bryant did not practice on Tuesday and subsequently left the team on Wednesday, telling The Greenville News he did not get a fair shake and he felt like it was a slap in the face for being a good player and teammate all these years.
“He is totally entitled to his opinion,” Swinney said during the ACC Coaches’ Teleconference call with the media on Wednesday.
Swinney feels he have given the senior more than a fair shot to compete with Lawrence for the job.
“I have always tried to be as opened and honest and transparent as possible with Kelly throughout the process, as well as all of our players,” Swinney said. “He won the job after Deshaun Watson so (nervous laugh) … and he beat out the number one quarterback in the country to do that in Hunter Johnson and another highly recruited quarterback in Zerrick Cooper, who have both gone on to play elsewhere.
“He won the job. He was the starter for us all of last year and he did a great job, and then he came out of camp slightly ahead and so he continued to start these first four games. Like I said, I definitely feel like he has been given a fair shot, but at the end of the day this is not middle school. Tough decisions have to be made and you have to do what is best for the team.”
Swinney pointed out he has had many young players that have beaten out veteran players over the years, including Watson beating out four-year veteran Cole Stoudt for the starting job when he was a freshman in 2014.
“Nuk Hopkins, when he came here in (2010), after a couple of games he was the best receiver and beat out several veterans,” Swinney said. “Sammy Watkins, he beat out seniors as a true freshman. Dexter Lawrence, we had had a bunch of veteran D-Tackles when Dexter Lawrence got here, but he won the job. He was the best player. Christian Wilkins, the day he got here, he was just the best player. We had several veterans on the team.”
Swinney again cited he had to do what was best for the program and he has to be responsible for everybody on the team. His decision to start Lawrence over Bryant was nothing personal and he has no regret in making that decision.
He also has no ill will towards the comments Bryant made on Wednesday.
“It is unfortunate, but again, he is entitled to his opinion and how he feels. You just have to respect that,” Swinney said. “I’m sure there may be more of this coming down the road for other programs. I hope that coaches don’t say I’m going to play them five games, so they don’t have an option. I don’t think that is right, either.
“I think at the end of the day, you just do what is right and what you believe is right and then you all live with it and then time will tell on how it all plays out. When you are in a leadership role, sometimes you have to make very tough decisions.”