Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant did not practice Monday afternoon after freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence was named the starter for the Tigers earlier in the day, according to Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
Bryant also missed Tuesday’s practice, a source told The State Tuesday evening. Clemson confirmed the news but did not comment on why Bryant was not in attendance.
Bryant spoke with Tigers quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter Sunday night and discussed the latest on the depth chart. Swinney then texted with Bryant Sunday night to set up a meeting to discuss the decision further Monday afternoon.
The two had an “emotional” talk Monday before Swinney said he gave Bryant the rest of the day off.
“It’s a bad day to be the head coach. Most days it’s good. This was a bad day, because I love Kelly. It was emotional. Emotional for him. A tough day. I gave him the day off last night,” Swinney said. “There’s not a guy that’s ever been here, as long as I’ve been at Clemson, there’s not a guy that’s more committed to this program than Kelly Bryant. There’s not a better leader. He’s the epitome of what you want. He’s what you want your son to be like.”
Swinney was then asked if the possibility of Bryant transferring was brought up during the talk.
“We talked about lots of things. It was a deep, long, emotional conversation,” Swinney said. “It’s something that we needed to talk through and go from there.”
Swinney added that Bryant did not convey to him that he is planning to transfer, but Bryant does have the option to do so with the new redshirt rule.
A player can play in up to four games during a season but still keep their year of eligibility and redshirt. Bryant has not used his redshirt year yet and could sit out the rest of the year and play somewhere else next season if he would like.
“Certainly if he walked in here today and said, ‘Hey, coach, I don’t want to play the rest of the year unless you’ve got to have me,’ well ‘Ok, if that’s what you want to do, I’m all for it.’ I love Kelly,” Swinney said. “I would be disappointed in that because we need him. But I wouldn’t judge him for that.”
If Bryant does indeed stay at Clemson and serve as the backup to Lawrence, he will still receive playing time moving forward.
“Kelly didn’t do anything wrong. He played well. But Trevor, he’s really after four games, productivity and data, he deserves to run out there first this game,” Swinney said. “But that doesn’t mean Kelly doesn’t deserve to play. Man, we trust Kelly. We believe in Kelly. Kelly’s a great football player. This is the MVP of the ACC Championship ... He’s already helped us win, and he’ll continue to help us win.”
Swinney was also asked if the move to Lawrence was made to help the Tigers down the road because Clemson might have a better shot at winning the national title with Lawrence instead of Bryant.
He quickly dismissed that notion.
“Everybody wants to put last year’s Sugar Bowl on Kelly. They don’t have a clue what they’re watching. No idea. They don’t understand what happened in the game, the flow of the game, the circumstances of the game. That is such a bad narrative, and it is so far from reality it’s not even funny,’ Swinney said. “So now it’s ‘Kelly can’t win a national championship.’ Give me a break. He can beat anybody on any given day, no doubt about it.”
If Bryant plays in one more game at any point throughout the rest of the season, he will not be eligible to play college football next year.
Swinney pointed out that if he was worried about tying Bryant down and keeping him on the roster for the rest of the year, he could have kept Bryant as the starter for one more week. Instead, he made the decision he believes is most fair to everyone.
“If I was worried about that or I was deceitful in some way, I could’ve huddled the coaches up and said, ‘Hey, let’s make sure we start him for Syracuse. And that way he’s got no options.’ That’s not how I operate,” Swinney said. “We don’t operate that way. I’m just trying to do what’s right, and I’m not going to ever apologize for that.”