One might forgive any Texas Longhorns fans immediately intrigued by now-former Clemson Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant, who started the last 18 games for the Tigers, but revealed on Tuesday that he’s leaving the program two days after he was benched in favor of freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence.
Bryant has already graduated and will have one season of eligibility remaining.
“I feel like it’s what’s best for me and my future,” Bryant told The Greenville News in an exclusive interview. “I was just going to control what I could control and try to make the most of my opportunity, but at the end of the day, I just don’t feel like I’ve gotten a fair shot.”
After all, Bryant has experienced a great deal of success during the time he was the starter under head coach Dabo Swinney and gazing longingly at every transfer quarterback is understandable — Texas fans have justifiably been doing it for years as the Horns have wandered in the quarterback wilderness since Colt McCoy’s departure.
But now is not then. There’s now a dividing line between the current quarterback situation and the struggles of past years.
While this isn’t any attempt to say that sophomore Sam Ehlinger is definitively the answer, there’s now more depth and talent at the position then there has been in a long time — more than I can recall at any other time in the last 16 years — with more talent in the pipeline.
Consider that if Ehlinger gets injured or otherwise craters, junior Shane Buechele can step in and take his place. He could even play four games this year, redshirt, and then have two years remaining as the starter.
There’s talent and depth behind the two experienced players, as head coach Tom Herman and offensive coordinator Tim Beck managed to land two quarterbacks in the 2018 class who have enough upside to become potential starters. Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson both enrolled early and will almost certainly have time to develop. Some fans even believe that Rising could take over the starting job before Ehlinger graduates.
While that seems like a bit of a stretch given that Rising hasn’t thrown a pass in college yet, there’s no questioning his arm talent and the fact that the staff genuinely believes that he has a bright future.
Thompson doesn’t have the arm talent of Rising, but he has nice touch and is the most electric athlete of the group, probably by a fairly significant margin.
Recruiting is going well in future classes, too. In #fUTure19, Roschon Johnson is an intriguing blend of throwing ability and athleticism who fits the system well and ranks No. 4 among all dual-threat quarterbacks nationally.
And there’s already a commit in the 2020 class, local product Hudson Card of Lake Travis, who is smoothly making the transition from wide receiver and part-time quarterback to his new starting role. There were no guarantees that would happen when Card committed before his junior season, but let’s be real about one thing — no one is surprised about how well he’s playing right now.
So there are currently five quarterbacks projected to be on campus next season. In all likelihood, that won’t be the case. In any case, there’s no room or need for Bryant, who is looking for a better opportunity anyway. Placed into perspective, there are numerous schools around the country that are a better fit for both sides.
Bryant will end up at one of those schools.
So take a moment to appreciate the fact that Ehlinger is doing things right now that no Texas quarterback has done since Colt McCoy and few quarterbacks have done in the history of program, look at the depth, think about Buechele’s continued presence on the team, then have yourself a happy sigh of relief.
This is better than things have been for a long time — it’s a sign of increasing stability and, one might say, even privilege not to have the space or need for a player of Bryant’s quality.
Otherwise, the only real takeaway here is that the new redshirt rules mean that quarterbacks who get benched during the season, but before they’ve played four games, are increasingly going to leave school immediately. There are potential ramifications there for the Longhorns in the future.