Following Clemson’s loss to Alabama in the 2018 Sugar Bowl Classic, Trevor Lawrence enrolled in school last January. At the time, it gave the Tigers six scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.
However, as second-ranked Clemson gets set to play Syracuse on Saturday, the Tigers now have just two of those six quarterbacks left on their roster.
“Welcome to 2018! That is all I can tell you. Welcome to 2018,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said.
Welcome to 2018 indeed. With Kelly Bryant’s decision to transfer four games into the 2018 season, the Tigers (4-0, 1-0 ACC) now have Lawrence and redshirt freshman Chase Brice left from the original six back in January.
After Lawrence, who was the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit coming out of high school, got on campus Clemson’s wealth of quarterbacks slowly began to pick off.
First, Tucker Israel and Zerrick Cooper decided to transfer in January. After a tough competition in the spring between Bryant, Lawrence and Hunter Johnson, Clemson lost another quarterback in May when Johnson decided to transfer.
That left the Tigers with three quarterbacks, which stayed that way until Bryant’s surprising announcement on Wednesday of his plans to transfer.
Bryant’s news comes just two days after Swinney announced Lawrence would start against the Orange on Saturday. The former Clemson quarterback felt as if he did not do anything to deserve a demotion. Though Swinney told him he was still going to play, like the way he and Lawrence were used in the first four games of the season, Bryant felt like it was a slap in the face and he decided it was best that he leave school.
Now there are just two quarterbacks left on the roster … Lawrence and Brice.
“I hate it for Trevor because he has done nothing but just show up and go to work,” Swinney said. “His job is to be the best version of himself. He should not apologize for being a great player.”
Swinney says the situation reminds him of when Deshaun Watson eventually beat Cole Stoudt for the starting job back in 2014. Stoudt, like Bryant was a senior, while Watson was a true freshman like Lawrence.
“Deshaun hurt for Cole. I hurt for Cole. We had tears together,” the Clemson coach said. “It was bad. I am glad he hung in there. He was the MVP of the Russell Athletic Bowl.”
Swinney jokingly asked the media following Wednesday’s practice if anyone had any eligibility left to play quarterback. Never did he imagine back in January he would be sitting here at the end of September with just two of his original six quarterbacks left on campus.
“I didn’t, but that is where we are. We will go recruit,” he said. “We are still in pretty good shape, though. Chase Brice is ready to go play. We have two guys that I know we can win with.”
Ben Batson, who was recruited to Clemson as a safety, but moved over to quarterback following Johnson’s departure, will move up to third-team. He was just cleared to practice this week after suffering from a broken finger the last month.
“We have to get Ben back up to speed in a hurry. His role is fixing to have to change quickly,” Swinney said. “Then we will work out all the other options when we can. That is just where we are. It is 2018 and we just have to deal with it the very best you can.”
The other options are wide receivers Hunter Renfrow and Derion Kendrick. Renfrow actually worked some at quarterback on Tuesday. Both played quarterback in high school. Swinney said they will work in packages for both players just in case they have to go that route.