5 most painful Clemson transfer portal departures of all time

Clemson fans have adjusted to players leaving for the transfer portal, but some exits have stung worse than others.
Kelly Bryant (2)
Kelly Bryant (2) / BART BOATWRIGHT/Staff
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Transfers have happened in college athletics for ages, but the advent of the transfer portal combined with the lessening of restrictions by the NCAA has resulted in a transfer boom over the past six years.

Clemson has been fortunate to have had fewer transfers out of its programs during that time than most universities, mainly because the football program has taken a different approach to roster building that has yielded a higher retention rate for its athletes than most peer programs.

There have been several losses to the transfer portal for Clemson, however, and some of them are more disappointing than others. Sometimes it is because of the perceived importance of the player. Other times it is more because of the program where they landed. Sometimes it is both.

Clemson fans have adjusted to losing players to the portal, but certain players are harder to accept than others.

Here are five of the most painful transfers from Clemson programs in the past years.

Kelly Bryant

The transfer portal was officially introduced on October 15, 2018, but it had been conceived and planned earlier, so most people understood it was coming by the beginning of the 2018 season.

Another milestone that occurred right before that was the decision by the NCAA to allow players to redshirt while still playing in up to four games. Previously, the second a player took a live snap in a game, they were ineligible to redshirt.

Both the transfer portal and the redshirt rule converged with one of the most fascinating quarterback competitions in recent history and it yielded the first shocking transfer in college football.

Kelly Bryant had taken the reins of Clemson Football when Deshaun Watson parted for the NFL. He impressed for most of the 2017 season and led Clemson back to the playoffs. The Tigers’ offense floundered in the Sugar Bowl, and Bryants’s limited passing ability was exposed.

With the arrival of 5-star prospect Trevor Lawrence, there was an immediate competition. Swinney named Lawrence the starter following the Georgia Tech game, which happened to be the fourth contest Bryant played in that season.

Recognizing that if he left the program immediately he could preserve a season of eligibility, Bryant made the stunning decision to transfer. It was immediately impactful to Clemson as Lawrence was injured in the next game against Syracuse, and it was Chase Brice (who at one point in the spring was the fifth-string quarterback) who had to lead the Tigers in a comeback victory.

Nationally, the transfer made headlines too, as most people considered the new redshirt rule as a way for young players to get a little bit of experience without having to waste an entire year of eligibility. They hadn’t considered it would be used in the manner Bryant used it.

While Clemson moved on and won the national championship, the experience soured the once-healthy relationship between the fanbase and Bryant and created a general disdain for the portal.

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