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Clemson Football

Business as usual for Dabo Swinney after quarterback transfers

June 18, 2018

At the end of the 2017 season, Clemson's quarterback room was loaded with talent. Head coach Dabo Swinney repeated time and time again that he felt the Tigers could win with any of them as the starter.

But the room was crowded, and there were those who thought a transfer or two could eventually take place.

Then just a few weeks after the Sugar Bowl, Zerrick Cooper, who served as Kelly Bryant’s backup quarterback in 2017, decided to leave Tiger Town. A few days later Tucker Isreal also left Clemson's program. 

© Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Zerrick Cooper was the first domino to fall during a transfer filled offseason at the quarterback spot.

At the time, many fans barely batted an eyelash, knowing that four other quarterbacks were ready to compete for the starting role.

Then during Clemson's spring game, true freshman Trevor Lawrence put together a nice performance, announcing himself as a contender for playing time. Lawrence became the talk of fans and the media. Some outlets even listing the 6'5 star as one to watch for the Heisman.

That buzz was felt everywhere, but even with a good spring practice and an admirable performance in the Orange and White Game, it was a bit of a surprise to see Hunter Johnson announce his decision to transfer.

Johnson's transfer was especially strange given his comments postgame telling us that he "liked" where he was.

“We had four that I felt like we could win with, now we have three.”
- Dabo Swinney

Swinney noted that he was a little surprised in Johnson’s decision, saying he didn’t think a move like this would happen until the 2018 season concluded.

So a room that was at one point running out of oxygen now is bringing in Ben Batson to serve as Clemson’s fourth quarterback. Batson, a dual-threat quarterback out of D.W. Daniel High School was the 5A offensive player of the year in South Carolina but was supposed to get time at safety this upcoming season.

Now, Johnson’s transfer is Batson’s gain. Swinney said the incoming freshman would give Clemson’s defense the best look in practice.

The team that’s been known for its “embarrassment of riches” now has a bit of concern from its fan base regarding depth at the most critical position on the field.

Bryant started every game in 2017, but neither Chase Brice or Trevor Lawrence have any legitimate in-game experience. For Swinney, the quarterback situation is the same as it ever was.

“We had four that I felt like we could win with, now we have three,” Swinney said.

© Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Lawrence surveys the field during Clemson's spring game.

It was a simple statement, but one Swinney has believed since Deshaun Watson left Clemson’s campus. 

One positive about having fewer quarterbacks in the rotation is that there are more opportunities for Lawrence and Brice to push Bryant this summer and in fall camp.

More eyes will be on them, which will lead to a stronger evaluation during the additional reps they get. Two fewer bodies will equal more first-team reps shared between the three.

The bad side, of course, is if there happens to be a couple of injuries, Clemson’s game could wind up in the hands of someone who hasn’t taken a quality snap. 

It’s safe to say the opening weekend in September against Furman will be far more interesting than just the final score if all goes according to plan.

But Swinney, much like the rest of his staff, knows this is a good problem to have. He gave a laugh and repeated something he’s said a few times before this spring.

“I think we’re in a good spot. There’s a lot of people out there who don’t have one good one,” Swinney said. “We got three good ones, and we’ll let them battle it out and see who is going to lead the Tigers.”

Clemson’s fall camp is set to begin the first week of August.

Business as usual for Dabo Swinney after quarterback transfers

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