With Hunter Johnson reportedly set to transfer, as first reported by Larry Williams of Tiger Illustrated, Clemson’s quarterback race becomes much clearer. It also means:
- Heading in to fall camp, Kelly Bryant is still a contender, if not the leading candidate to start at quarterback
- Despite moving up the depth chart at the end of last season, Hunter Johnson was not in line to win the starting job
- Trevor Lawrence is the real deal and will compete for playing time immediately
Johnson came to Clemson as the top-ranked quarterback recruit in the class of 2017. The idea of waiting his turn did not deter him from choosing Clemson. An already-crowded quarterback room with highly-touted recruits like Lawrence on the way did not deter him from staying.
Choosing to transfer now means things have changed.
Had Johnson’s transfer been based on Bryant, he might as well have transferred after Clemson’s third straight ACC Championship. Bryant was named the MVP in that game, ran his record as a starter to 12-1 (with the only loss coming in an injury shortened game at Syracuse), and took Clemson to a third straight College Football Playoff.
Johnson chose to wait, playing through the 15 practices in the spring to see if he could win the starting job and how he stacked up against the early-enrollee Lawrence.
Coming out of spring practice, the quarterback position felt more muddled than before.
Dabo Swinney said after the spring game, he truly felt like Clemson could win with any of the four quarterbacks he had on his roster. For a guy wrapping up his true freshman year like Johnson, that cleared the way for an early exit and an opportunity to seek playing time elsewhere.
While losing a former number-one prospect, especially at quarterback, usually is seen as a huge loss, Clemson fans should be encouraged. This transfer says more about the future of the Clemson quarterback position than Swinney would ever reveal. The Trevor Lawrence era is nearly upon us – and Hunter Johnson is a believer.
That’s good enough for me.
(Daren Stolzfuz is a sports reporter for ABC News 4 in Charleston, SC and has covered Clemson for the past four seasons, including three College Football Playoff appearances and two National Championship games. Follow him on Twitter: @DarenStoltzfus)
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