Alabama head coach Nick Saban has been one of the more progressive minds in the sport over the years, but he is not exactly on board with the new redshirt rule in college football this season.
“I do think that this is not a good rule,” Saban said of the redshirt rule, according to Yahoo! Sports. “The timing of guys being able to say ‘I want to get redshirted’ is not good — the fourth or fifth or sixth game of the season after they’ve played three or four games.”
Saban went on to suggest a player choosing to transfer after four games is unfair to the teammates that player is then leaving behind.
“We gave them a scholarship. I don’t really think it’s fair to their teammates to have the option to not continue to play,” Saban explained. “I think that’s not a good thing. I think the intent of the rule was so you can play a young player, a freshman player, and enhance his development. This has turned into something that I think is less than what we all desired it to be.”
The new redshirt rule allows a player to appear in up to four games without sacrificing a year of eligibility, as long as that player has a redshirt year to use. The transfer rule was implemented with the idea of providing some more roster flexibility throughout the season to get younger players some playing time and provide a possible buffer to fill in depth concerns that arise due to injuries as the season goes along. But one of the other impacts the rule is having is becoming more visible in that players can now appear in four games and then decide whether or not they want to transfer to another program for a shot at a better position on the field.
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant made his decision to transfer out of the program last week, shortly after Dabo Swinney had decided to give the starting job to freshman Trevor Lawrence. Bryant’s decision to leave Clemson in the middle of the season may become the new norm under the redshirt rule, which is what is what is concerning Saban and perhaps other coaches around the country.
The reason this is relevant at Alabama is that Jalen Hurts just played in his fifth game for Alabama, thus burning his year of eligibility this season despite Tua Tagovailoa being the team’s starter. Saban said he was not going to be concerned about the redshirt rule as he went through this season, and perhaps that was evidenced by the decision to play Hurts as often as he has in games that were lopsided matchups favoring Alabama.
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant will not get a chance to redeem himself against the team that knocked him out and handed the Tigers their only loss in the regular season last fall. Trevor Lawrence will be the new starting quarterback for Clemson when they face Syracuse at home this weekend.
The official roster decision was announced Monday, although head coach Dabo Swinney says the plan will still be to include Bryant in the game plan to some degree.
Through the first four games of the season, the freshman Lawrence has been the more productive of the two quarterback options for Clemson. Lawrence has completed 65.0 of his 60 pass attempts for 600 yards and nine touchdowns with two interceptions. Bryant has completed 66.7 percent of his 54 pass attempts for 461 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Bryant has been more of an asset with his running ability, rushing for 130 yards and two touchdowns this season, but production and potential for Lawrence seemed to be too much to tie down in a backup or secondary role in a split situation for too long.
The Orange may not be on the same level as Clemson overall, but this Syracuse team is not one being taken lightly by Clemson, and for good reason.
Although the Tigers are clearly the more talented team, it was Syracuse that handed Bryant an injury that knocked him out of their meeting last year at Syracuse, and the Orange handed Clemson their only loss until meeting Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Syracuse is also off to a 4-0 start with 50+ points scored in three of the four wins. Syracuse also has a 30-7 victory over Florida State.
With news that Bryant will not start for Clemson this weekend, he becomes the second quarterback who started a College Football Playoff game last season to be reduced to the sidelines, joining Alabama’s Jalen Hurts.
Clemson hosts Syracuse at 12:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 29.
While the offseason quarterback decision spotlight has been shining brightly on Alabama since the national championship game, Clemson has been almost hiding in the shadows of the Tide with their quarterback situation. Like Alabama, Clemson has two very good options for Dabo Swinney to play with in last year’s starter Kelly Bryant and stuff freshman Trevor Lawrence. After a tuneup season opener on Saturday, it appears both quarterbacks could again see playing time this weekend when Clemson travels to Texas A&M.
“We definitely will play both quarterbacks,” Swinney said, according to ESPN.com. “There’s no doubt about that. Nothing happened to warrant not playing both those guys.”
Those sentiments were somewhat echoed by offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.
“You couldn’t tell the difference, from my perspective,” Elliott said, according to Anderson Independent Mail. “It’s happening fast, but they were both able to move the ball up and down the field and make plays, so I didn’t see a difference.”
Bryant completed 10-of-16 passes for 127 yards and one touchdown against Furman. Bryant also rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown. Lawrence, in his college debut, completed nine of 15 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns.
There may be no wrong answer for Swinney to ride with, but giving both a chance to play against competition that should be considerably more challenging is not a bad idea either. Going on the road to an environment like Texas A&M will be a much better test for both quarterbacks, and this is a game that could decide which quarterback gets the nod moving forward as the full-time quarterback. Expect to see a planned rotation early on in the game, but do not be surprised if Swinney makes the call to stick with one passer over the other by the time the second half arrives.
Perhaps the two most notable quarterback decisions to be made in the ACC have now been made. At Clemson, Kelly Bryant will be the starting quarterback when the defending ACC champions begin the new season this weekend at home against Furman. At Florida State, Deondre Francois will make his return as the starting quarterback for the Seminoles on Sunday night in Tallahassee against Virginia Tech in an ACC clash.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had been keeping his distance from naming a starter for the upcoming season all summer. Bryant was battling to keep the starting job from freshman sensation Trevor Lawrence. While the future of Clemson football may look incredibly bright with Lawrence in the fold, relying on experience with Bryant may have been one of the deciding factors. Clemson’s 2017 season ended with a thud against eventual national champion Alabama in the Sugar Bowl semifinal of the College Football Playoff, but Clemson had accumulated a 12-1 record with Bryant playing all 14 games for the Tigers last season. The only loss on the year prior to meeting Alabama was on the road at Syracuse, when Bryant was knocked out of the game with an injury.
Bryant completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Obviously, he had big shoes to fill in following Deshaun Watson as the starting quarterback, but the pressure to keep Clemson in the title hunt never really seemed to get to him.
Francois never really got a chance to get his 2017 started after being knocked out of Florida State’s season opener against Alabama last fall. Francois, a sophomore in 2017, completed 19 of 33 pass attempts for 210 yards and a touchdown against Alabama before having his season prematurely ended with a knee injury. Francois had come off an impressive freshman season in 2016, in which he passed for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns with seven interceptions and rushed for five additional touchdowns.
Francois has had an eventful offseason, of course. In April, Francois was suspected of possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. The quarterback later agreed to enroll in a pre-arrest diversion program as a result. In January, Francois was cleared in a domestic violence investigation involving his girlfriend due to conflicting statements and a lack of independent witnesses led to an inability to press charges. With no legal liabilities standing in the way and with Francois appearing to be the most ideal fit to run the offensive style Willie Taggart wants to bring to Tallahassee, it was likely just a matter of how healthy Francois was before a starter was named.
With Clemson and Florida State now settled on starting quarterbacks, the ACC Atlantic Division race is now set to begin, with the Tigers likely still the team to beat and Florida State hoping to bounce back from a rough 2017 season to make some noise in the ACC championship hunt.
Not that Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has much need to name a starter for the opening game of the 2018 season, but the head coach of the defending three-time ACC champions says he has not made up his mind on who will be sitting on top of the depth chart at the position.
Speaking at ACC media day in Charlotte, North Carolina, Swinney said he has no timeline for when a decision will be made, which is typical coachspeak this time of year. In Swinney’s’ case, opening at home against an FCS opponent gives him a little more time to have to make a decision, and playing both quarterbacks in the season opener before making a final decision going into a Week 2 road trip to Texas A&M (against former Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher) may be an option.
The two most likely options are Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence. Bryant was Clemson’s starting quarterback last season and passed for 2,802 yards and 13 touchdowns with eight interceptions and 665 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. Despite having the starting experience from last season after replacing Deshaun Watson, Lawrence arrives on campus as one of the top recruits in the nation in the Class of 2018 and is expected to push for consideration right away.
For Swinney, as with most coaches, it is mostly about keeping things tight knit for now and not showing your cards until much closer to the season. Given the potential for Lawrence, it may be worth seeing what he does in training camp to see if there is a comfort level to give him such a significant role in the offense for a playoff contender.
Bryant will likely get the majority of the first-team reps at first, however, due to being the experienced option that was a part of an ACC championship team just last fall (and the only game Clemson lost in the regular season occurred when Bryant was injured and could not return).