As the news of Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant’s pending transfer from the program hit the headlines yesterday, fanbases across the country became excited about the prospect of landing the signal caller to steer their team to new heights.
Make no mistake, Bryant isn’t a world-beater at quarterback, but he’s better than a lot of current starters out there. Trevor Lawrence won the job in Clemson a lot more than Bryant lost it, and there are plenty of teams that would benefit significantly from his addition to their roster.
For the purposes of this article, I’ve identified five programs that I think make sense from a variety of angles.
1. Florida Gators
I think this is the fit that most want to see happen. Florida has just been awful at quarterback for so long, and there is currently no end in sight to their nightmare at the game’s most pivotal position. A host of young wide receivers and running backs simply await a player who can get them the ball consistently, and Bryant is certainly more likely to be that guy than Feleipe Franks.
Florida’s rebuilding defense is stacked with talented underclassmen who should be ready to peak next season. The offense is loaded with weapons, and Bryant will have a coach in Dan Mullen who would consistently put him in position to succeed. Mullen made Nick Fitzgerald a household name at Mississippi State, and Bryant is the far superior passer and athlete. As Fitzgerald is poised to pass Tim Tebow in career rushing yards largely due to Mullen’s offense, Bryant could be poised as the next player the Gators head coach helps turn into a star.
This marriage would be perfect schematically, fill a huge need and could finally help return the Gators offense to national prominence. Georgia is obviously top dog in the SEC East, but the division is wide open outside of the Bulldogs. Adding Bryant is a move Florida needs to make.
2. Auburn Tigers
If Jarrett Stidham leaves early (he’s a redshirt junior) for the 2019 NFL Draft as expected, Auburn will be heavily in the market for Bryant. The Tigers recruited Bryant initially out of high school, but didn’t ultimately offer him. Now, with Stidham set to move on and no obvious future on the roster, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them make a move.
Gus Malzahn’s system is simple for quarterbacks, but it would allow Bryant to improve his deep accuracy, mechanics and field vision off play action, all areas of his game that need work. From Malzahn’s perspective, a quarterback that can be more of a threat with his legs than Stidham could add another dynamic to Auburn’s attack.
3. Arkansas Razorbacks
Razorbacks head coach Chad Morris recruited Bryant to Clemson before leaving for the SEC, and landing a quarterback to help turn around a destitute program could be a huge move for Morris. Bryant in a spread offense with plenty of rushing opportunities is a good fit, even if he is limited in how much he can threaten defenses vertically.
Right now Arkansas is a program in big trouble after losing to Colorado State and North Texas in back-to-back weeks by a total of 34 points. They simply aren’t competitive, and could very easily be looking at a one-win season. Morris better make a splash if he doesn’t want the leash to shorten quickly.
4. Louisville Cardinals
Much like Arkansas, the Cardinals are not going to be good this year. But Bobby Petrino’s bunch still has a lot of talent, they just have to figure out the quarterback position. Jawon Pass has already been benched for redshirt freshman Malik Cunningham, but the youngster has already been a mixed bag in his minimal playing time.
The Cardinals will obviously need to see more of Cunningham, but Bryant is a great fit for Petrino’s offense and could immediately help move Louisville back into competition in the ACC. There are plenty of pro concepts in that offense as well, which could pique the interest of NFL teams if Bryant does the job well.
5. Virginia Tech
Maybe Bryant can beat out Josh Jackson, maybe he can’t. The incumbent Hokies quarterback will be working to come back from a broken fibula next season, and hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in Justin Fuente’s offense. Bryant is the superior runner and at least comparable as a passer, and could finally provide Fuente with the piece needed to take his unit to the next level.
The ACC factor is at work here as well, plus Bryant will join a team ready to compete at a high level in 2019. Almost the entire defense returns for the Hokies, and the offense will have very few departures for the NFL Draft. The marriage could come at the perfect time, provided Fuente isn’t in love with Jackson as his starter.