The biggest “free agent” on the college football market is former Clemson Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant. The NCAA’s new redshirt rule allowed the 6-foot-3, 225-pound signal caller to leave Clemson after Dabo Swinney chose freshman Trevor Lawrence as the team’s starter. Bryant played only four games, earned a redshirt this season, and can compete for a starting job next season as a graduate transfer.
Taking visits to multiple major programs in search of a dual-threat quarterback with tons of big-game experience, Bryant’s decision will either shift the balance of power in the SEC, or he’ll be gearing up for a massive revenge tour playing in the ACC once again.
According to The State, Bryant has scheduled three weeks of official school visits before he makes his final announcement on December 4, and with the NCAA’s early signing period from Dec. 19-21, Bryant will be eligible for spring football next year.
Six schools are frontrunners to land Bryant in 2019, and with official visits still waiting in the wings for a few of them, the scope is starting to narrow on where Bryant could ultimately land.
6. Missouri Tigers
Bryant’s official visit to Mizzou came back on October 27 when the Tigers lost a heartbreaker, 15-14, to the Kentucky Wildcats. With quarterback Drew Lock headed to the NFL next season, there’s a huge whole to fill for head coach Barry Odom.
While Missouri’s high-powered passing attack could cater to Bryant’s accuracy — his career completion percentage sits at 66.1 percent — the bigger factor would be the lack of use for Bryant as a runner. His best season at Clemson saw him run 192 times and score 11 touchdowns on the ground. Mizzou is a fine program, but are they the right fit?
5. North Carolina Tar Heels
For a kid from Calhoun Falls, South Carolina, the Tar Heels would love to see Bryant compete for an ACC Coastal title. Plus, Bryant would get to play Clemson next season if he’s wearing Carolina blue and white.
Problem is, UNC isn’t very good. The Tar Heels are barely competitive, evidenced by their 1-8 record this season, and they rank near the bottom of the country in both points scored and points allowed per game. Bryant has one season to make some noise, and I don’t think he’s going to risk this move, especially with head coach Larry Fedora‘s job in jeopardy.
4. Mississippi State Bulldogs
With an official visit coming during the same week he announced his decision date, the Mississippi State Bulldogs figure to make a huge play for a quarterback that fits this system like a glove.
Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald will be on his way out after this season, and in Joe Moorhead’s run-heavy offense, Bryant could thrive. Sophomore quarterback Keytaon Thompson looks ready to take the reins, though, and the kid has flashed serious potential in spot duty. This visit could mean everything for MSU, but there’s another SEC West team that totes better credentials…
3. Miami Hurricanes
One of Bryant’s final visits will be to the University of Miami, and they very well could steal Bryant at the final hour. The Hurricanes under head coach Mark Richt have style, young talent and operate in a weak ACC Coastal division.
With senior Malik Rosier gone in 2019, and four other freshman quarterbacks on the roster, Bryant would become an instant favorite for the starting job should he commit. Before this season spiraled, the ‘Canes were ranked, and all they needed was an elite quarterback to pilot this offense. Could you imagine a Miami-Clemson ACC title game?
2. Arkansas Razorbacks
The silent giant working to bring in Bryant are Chad Morris and the Razorbacks, and analysts like Paul Finebaum believe the quarterback could very well land in Fayetteville.
It’s a total system reboot for Arkansas, so this seems like a tall task, but this could be the perfect fit for Bryant. He’ll be their focal point on a run-first offense, he’ll get national exposure playing SEC competition, and he’s definitely interested.
“It made me feel wanted, it kind of felt like home,” Bryant said after his official visit.
Anyone else thinking it’s Pig Sooie for Kelly Bryant in 2019?
1. Auburn Tigers
There’s one school that makes the most sense, figures to be the best of the bunch as a complete team next season, and the program is hungry for a quarterback like Kelly Bryant.
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham is likely to jump to the NFL after this season, and with a loaded roster of SEC talent, Bryant would be leading a legitimate playoff contender onto the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium next season. His official visit is coming right before his decision, and once he sees the culture in place in Auburn, and the magnitude of what he could accomplish next season, nobody feels more like the right choice.
The wait begins, and “Kelly Watch” is live in action. It’s going to be an interesting few weeks, with anticipation building towards his December 4 commitment.