Clemson has lost a pair of former five-star recruits from its roster in the last few weeks, but the Tigers keep chugging along. Most programs couldn’t shrug off having a quarterback like Hunter Johnson leaving campus.
Johnson was the No. 30 overall player in the class of 2017. 247Sports ranked him second among pro-style quarterbacks.
Even with that pedigree as a recruit, Johnson was likely set to begin the season as the third quarterback on the depth chart for the Tigers. Starter Kelly Bryant led Clemson to the College Football Playoff last season, while true freshman Trevor Lawrence is set to take the spot behind him on the depth chart.
While Johnson was a five-star player, Lawrence was the top recruit in his recruiting class. He is considered one of the top quarterback recruits in recent memory, and some think he may even push Bryant during the season.
Hunter Johnson has transferred to Northwestern, and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney will be rooting for him from ACC country.
Swinney was asked about Johnson during a media session today. He had nothing but positive things to say about the former Tiger, when asked if he had spoken to him since the announcement. Via 247Sports:
“I have. I talked to him and Fitz (Pat Fitzgerald). I’m really glad it worked out that way. He told me early on that that was probably what he was going to do. I reached out to Fitz, who I have a lot of respect for and he’s a friend. It was a tough decision for Hunter. I am not surprised that we have a quarterback who decided to transfer. I was just surprised by the timing. I really felt like if anything happened, it would probably be after the season. He’s an unbelievable talent. He’s gonna be a pro. He’s gonna play this game a long time. A guy that I’ll be connected to forever. I’ll be friends with him forever. He’s truly one of the best players and one of the best young people I’ve ever been around. I wish him well and know he’s in a good place. I’m pulling for him all the way through and can’t wait to watch him be successful.”
Johnson, an Indiana native, considered in-state Big Ten programs Indiana and Purdue as well. He ultimately settled on the Wildcats, which have a recent history of solid quarterback play.
Swinney’s handling on players leaving his program has been refreshing. Defensive tackle Josh Belk was one of the top defensive tackles in the class of 2018, and just months after enrolling at Clemson, he decided to leave the program.
He was granted a full release, and will now play for Clemson’s hated rival South Carolina instead. Of course, it is a bit easier to be lenient with these things with a national championship and three straight College Football Playoff berths in your back pocket.