CLEMSON — Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant did not practice with the Clemson football team for the second consecutive day Tuesday, which raises questions about his future with the program.
Bryant, the senior incumbent who started four games for the Tigers to open the 2018 season, was demoted to second string behind freshman Trevor Lawrence on Monday. Lawrence forced the coaching staff's hand with the way he played against Georgia Tech, and to process the news, Bryant was given Monday off from practice. But Bryant sitting out again Tuesday has many wondering if he is considering transferring — a possibility that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he would support. Even if it was not in his team's best interest.
"If he walked in here today and said, 'Hey coach, I don't want to play the rest of the year unless you've got to have me,' OK. If that's what you want to do, I'm all for it because I love Kelly," Swinney said. "I would be disappointed in that because we need him, but I wouldn't judge him for that."
The Clemson head football coach met with his senior quarterback Monday, one day after the Tigers' coaching staff internally told Bryant he would be demoted, to offer a little clarity. The duo talked at length about myriad topics.
Both got emotional.
"It's a bad day to be the head coach. Most days it's good, but it's a bad day because I love Kelly," Swinney said Tuesday, offering some insight as to how their chat went. "As long as I've been at Clemson, there's not a guy that's more committed to Clemson than Kelly Bryant. There's not a better leader. This guy, he's the epitome of what you want. He's what you want your son to be like. I love him like a son.
"I hate being in that situation, but that's my job. My job is to critique, judge, evaluate, hold people accountable, be fair and do us right. It doesn't make it easier, but where we are and what we're doing this weekend (by starting Lawrence), it's what's right. It's what's right."
In their conversation, Swinney wanted to make a couple of things clear to Bryant if he does indeed decide to stay with this program despite Tuesday's development. First: he did nothing wrong. It wasn't that Bryant lost the job, Lawrence simply won it.
Second, if Bryant wants to continue to play college football at Clemson, there is a place for him in the Tigers' offense.
"We trust Kelly. We believe in Kelly. Kelly's a great football player," Swinney said. "This is the MVP of the ACC Championship."
And third, however Bryant wants to handle his future moving forward, Swinney is going to support him.
Even if that means transferring.
The NCAA's new redshirt rules allow a college football player to play in four games of the season without losing his redshirt status. Bryant has played in exactly four. If he plays against Syracuse this week, that will be his fifth game of the year, meaning he will not be eligible to play for any other team at any other time.
Asked if Bryant indicated during their conversation that he was considering that option, Swinney said Bryant did not. But that was before Bryant sat out of practice again Tuesday.
"No, no. I don't have any doubt he'll be right here and ready to go," Swinney said.
Neither Bryant nor Lawrence will be available to reporters this week, with Swinney saying he wants to give them both a break from outside noise.
To his credit, Bryant has appeared supportive of Lawrence from Day 1 and has mentored him throughout this competition. The senior also has an admirable ability to not let external factors change who he is.
"I think competition brings out the best in everybody," Bryant said earlier this season. "I learned a lot from (Lawrence)."
Now, Clemson hopes he’ll stay and learn more. Swinney will find out soon enough. But Tuesday offered no more clarity.