CLEMSON — As ESPN2 was on hand Saturday to televise Clemson’s Orange and White Spring Game to the college football world, Death Valley video board operators saw fit to offer fans some of the broadcast. That included a long look at the list of prominent transfer quarterbacks on the way to new schools for the 2019 season.
Justin Fields from Georgia to Ohio State, Jalen Hurts from Alabama to Oklahoma, Tate Martell from Ohio State to Miami, Kelly Bryant from Clemson to Missouri. Among others.
Not sure if that glimpse was a perk for the 60,000 people on hand, or a close-to-home prediction.
But one Clemson player sure noticed.
“Yeah, I saw it too,” backup quarterback Chase Brice said “There were a lot of quarterbacks.”
Brice is content as the No. 2 guy behind college football’s ultimate No. 1 guy, reigning national championship game star Trevor Lawrence. Brice as a redshirt freshman in 2018 got to throw 51 passes over 12 games — 32 completions with 3 interceptions and 5 touchdown passes — while Lawrence settled in as a freshman phenom.
That included Brice taking the final five snaps in a 44-16 victory over Alabama in the national title game in Santa Clara.
I asked him after Saturday’s spring game if he has considered transferring.
“It’s whatever,” Brice said. “I haven’t really thought about it much. I like where I’m at. I’m getting to play and Clemson is a great spot.”
Eventually, the confluence of Brice’s NFL-caliber skill, the arrival of DJ Uiagalelei and only so many snaps to go around might lead to another high-profile departure at Clemson.
Which is a good possible problem to have for the Tigers.
‘He could play anywhere’
The 6-2, 225-pound Brice, after all, got the baseball pitcher’s credit for the win in Clemson’s biggest ACC victory last year. He subbed for an injured Lawrence and rallied Clemson to a 27-23 win over Syracuse on Sept. 29.
The real confidence boost came on Oct. 27 in Tallahassee. Brice, in by the third quarter of a 59-10 clubbing of Florida State, completed 4 of 7 passes for 90 yards with a touchdown pass to T.J. Chase.
“I got a lot of playing time that game and I threw it a little bit more,” said Brice, a pre-business major from Grayson, Ga. “I just felt really comfortable. I’ve always had confidence wherever I’m at.”
Clemson coaches considered Brice good enough to lead the Tigers to a national title last year if something happened to Lawrence.
They think the same thing this year. So does Brice.
By the way, other quarterbacks who have transferred in this year of Quarterbacks Who Have Bolted include Alex Hornibrook from Wisconsin to Florida State, Josh Jackson from Virginia Tech to Maryland, Brandon Wimbush from Notre Dame to UCF, Austin Kendall from Oklahoma to West Virginia, Shane Buechele from Texas to SMU …
It's easier to just list well-known college quarterbacks that stayed put.
The transfers aren’t moving for better pizza; they all want to eventually play in the NFL.
As does Brice, a player beloved by teammates.
“He’s awesome,” Lawrence said. “He’s a guy that wants the best for everyone. Whenever anyone is making a play, he’s the first guy to run out there. He’s a great teammate.”
No doubt about the talent.
“He could play anywhere,” Lawrence said. “He’s a great player. Since I’ve gotten here, he’s gotten so much better.”
DJ Uiagalelei factor
Brice’s stock will keep rising as he gets more experience in lopsided Clemson victories, but a starting role is no certain thing after Lawrence leaves.
DJ Uiagalelei, a top national recruit for the Class of 2020, was back on campus for the spring game. That’s a great sign for a Clemson signing. The 6-4, 240-pound quarterback from Bellflower, Calif., has a Tim Tebow-like build but probably projects as a better college passer.
Brice is well aware of how Lawrence relatively quickly supplanted Bryant for the starting gig in 2018.
Of course, wacky twists are part of the sport, but logic lends itself to a near-future Clemson quarterback scenario like this:
• 2019: Lawrence is a Heisman Trophy candidate; Brice gets lots of mop-up snaps.
• 2020: Lawrence solidifies his standing as an elite prospect for the 2021 NFL draft; Brice gets lots of mop-up snaps; Uiagalelei redshirts. Unless Brice transfers before his junior year or four games in.
• 2021: Uiagalelei eventually takes command. Brice transfers before his senior year or four games in.
Or maybe he sticks around.
A name Clemson coaches will start dropping in the next year or so is Matt Cassel. He’s the former Southern Cal quarterback who spent his college days as a backup behind Carson Palmer and Matt Leinhart. But it worked out; Cassel, 36, has played for seven teams in the NFL since 2005.
He’s thrown 104 touchdown passes.
He made the Pro Bowl in 2010.
It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Chase Brice follows the Matt Cassel path.
But would anyone be stunned if Brice eventually opts to go down a trail blazed by Bryant, Fields, Hurts, Martell, Hornibrook, Jackson, Wimbush, Kendall and Buechele?
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff