It’s a big news day in college sports if for no other reason than Clemson senior quarterback Kelly Bryant has elected to hang up his Tiger paws and transfer out of the program. Only weeks after playing a big part in the Tigers taking down Texas A&M in College Station, freshman Trevor Lawrence has supplanted Bryant as the starter, thus prompting the Piedmont, SC native to take advantage of the new transfer rule and play out his final year of eligibility elsewhere.
Now, this is important for a variety of reasons. The new rule should play out favorably for both players and programs, alike. For players like Bryant, who has played in 29 games for Clemson and has been apart of multiple playoff teams, it’s an express wire to join a P5 program with an immediate need where he can help strengthen his case as a legitimate pro prospect. Again, mutual benefits are reaped. For West Virginia fans, it’s also important because when a name like Bryant emerges in the college free agent market, the initial reaction for many is “go get him, whatever it takes”. After all, Jabril Robinson just hopped off the Clemson bus and has settled in just fine. Use him to recruit Bryant to Morgantown. Easy, right?
While I understand the sentiment, it’s important to acknowledge the bigger picture.
I don’t need to tell you about Will Grier and his future after the season ends months from now. Unfortunately and inevitably, it will be his turn to hand the torch off to likely heir apparent Jack Allison. The flashy, sexier option even, is to get a ready-made starter who has won a national championship to come to Morgantown and further elevate a program that is visibly on the rise. Again, I get it. But I also want to advise caution before launching an all-out media campaign to convince Bryant to take his talents to the mountain state.
I’d also be 100% remiss if I forgot to mention that Grier, West Virginia’s Heisman hopeful, was himself a transfer from Florida. The key difference between Will Grier and Kelly Bryant as it pertains to West Virginia football: need.
The Mountaineers currently have three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster in Grier, Jack Allison and Woodrow “Trey” Lowe, III. Allison is last year’s transfer pick up from Miami, was a near consenus former four-star recruit out of Palmetto, FL. Lowe, certain to retain his redshirt this year, is a fellow four-star recruit from Bolivar, TN. Allison is now in his second season with the program and has received glittering praise from the staff regarding his progress from year one to year two. While his in-game action is limited thus far, Allison projects as the next starter with Lowe next in line to inherit quarterbacking duties after him. In all the ways that matter, a line of succession is solidly in place.
Here’s the thing: Bryant will have one year of eligibility after this season which means he’s only landing somewhere where he can play immediately. Envisioning a scenario where Bryant decides he wants to come to Morgantown to step into Grier’s vacancy, he’d need essentially an up-front guarantee from Dana Holgorsen that it’s his spot from day one. That means Allison, with two years of eligibility left after 2018 doesn’t even get the benefit of a competition during camp. That means a third straight year on the bench. At that point, I’d bet every red cent I have that Allison bolts. That leaves Lowe as the next in line with no guarantee that West Virginia lands a standout recruit via the next cycle out of high school.
So what are we talking about here, really, other than grabbing at the latest flashy thing in the transfer market and potentially de-stabilizing what is the best quarterback room that West Virginia has had in, say… two decades? Being more sensitive to the bigger picture, perhaps. With the new rules in place, notable transfers will become more and more commonplace. While coaches have long been able from one program to another without hindrance or delay, players (albeit not to the same extent) now have a larger degree of liberty to maximize their playing window at the college level and because of this, the game has already started to change.
Should West Virginia do due diligence on Bryant as a possible catch via transfer? Yes, they should. Should they also consider just sticking with who and what they currently have in place? Absolutely. Make no mistake, Kelly Bryant has played at a high level for one of the premier programs in college football and he will find a starting job. Period. But what makes sense for one program rarely makes sense for another and while Bryant might be a saving grace for another program in the Big 12, he may not make the most sense for the Mountaineers at this point in time.
Ultimately, Dana Holgorsen and his will do their homework and make the level best decision for the future of the program. Whether it’s Jack Allison, Kelly Bryant or someone not currently on the Mountaineers radar that takes over after Air Grier departs, it’s important that Mountaineer fans not be easily swayed by whatever red hot, click-bait headline shows up on your news feed. Sometimes, it’s simply better to stay the course.