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Hunter Johnson Elects to Transfer, Leaving Clemson With Only Two Five-Star QBs

Nihal Kolur

Clemson quarterback Hunter Johnson has elected to transfer, the school announced on Monday.

Johnson, a rising sophomore, was a five-star recruit in the 2017 class and threw for 234 yards, two touchdowns and an interception last year as the team’s third-stringer. His transfer was first reported by Tiger Illustrated.

After competing for the starting job in the spring with incumbent starter Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence, 2018’s No. 1 overall QB prospect according to 247Sports, the Brownsburg, Ind., product determined his best shot at playing time was using his redshirt year to transfer elsewhere and gear up for 2019.

Possible destinations

247Sports reports that Johnson, who Clemson claims is the school’s first signee from the state of Indiana on record, has expressed interest in Purdue and Northwestern as two possible destinations. He was recruited heavily by Tennessee, Penn State and Notre Dame as the nation’s top quarterback prospect two years ago—in fact, he committed to Tennessee in 2015 before flipping to Clemson. His brother Cole played for Northwestern as a reserve in 2016. The Midwest (and Big Ten) seems like a predictable fit.

According to NCAA transfer rules, Johnson will have to sit out the 2018 season, but would still have three years of eligibility remaining starting in 2019.

What it means for Clemson

Even without Johnson, Clemson's quarterback room is loaded with talent. Bryant took over for first-round pick Deshaun Watson and excelled last season, leading the Tigers to a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl and finishing with 2,678 yards and 13 touchdown passes. In January, Clemson lost rising redshirt sophomore Zerrick Cooper, who elected to transfer to Jacksonville State after serving as Bryant's primary backup in 2017, and Johnson’s departure leaves Bryant as the only QB who threw a pass last season still on the roster. With the dust settled on what was one of the nation’s most crowded QB rooms entering the offseason, it seems the Tigers will either move forward fully behind their returning starter Bryant—or perhaps turn the keys over to Lawrence’s precocious talent.