CLEMSON — Clemson football practice came to a close Tuesday night, and as dozens of sweat-soaked players were making their way from the practice field to the indoor facility for dinner, a pair of Clemson quarterbacks walked by.
Trevor Lawrence was on the left. Chase Brice was on the right.
Seeing the two of them – and only the two of them – was a powerful reminder that only made Clemson's current quarterback situation all the more real. Kelly Bryant's absence was undeniably noticeable. It was hard not to think about what the former Clemson quarterback, the senior who quit the team this week after he lost his starting job to Lawrence, might have been doing in that very moment somewhere else.
Lawrence gave a quick wave to members of the media there to address coach Dabo Swinney about the Bryant situation. Then Brice followed suit, acknowledging the dozens of reporters.
He's going to get to know this media landscape soon enough. That's because Brice, the redshirt freshman who has only thrown eight career passes (with one interception), is suddenly Clemson's second-string quarterback. He is next up behind Lawrence.
Those who know him best say he's ready. Unequivocally so.
"(This is) a kid (who got) thrown in halfway of his freshman year at Grayson High School (in Loganville, Ga.) as a starting quarterback and he just wins," said Brice's high school quarterbacks coach Dante Williams. "As a sophomore, he took them to the playoffs. As a junior, to the semifinals. As a senior, wins a state and national championship. This kid is just a winner everywhere he goes."
Brice, a four-star recruit who was not the flashiest name on the recruiting trail two seasons ago, arrived at Clemson after racking up 7,977 yards passing in high school with 89 touchdowns against just 25 interceptions.
Like Lawrence, Brice is known more for his arm than anything else. And even though Brice grew up a rabid Georgia fan, it was Clemson who was willing to take a chance on him when neither Georgia nor Georgia Tech would. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney saw something he liked and latched on.
Brice can be funny, even goofy, but is known for his ability to focus. When it is time to get down to business, he does not waver. That was evident in high school, when he was able to succeed in school and on the football field while his mother was battling breast cancer.
He also apparently has an incredibly high football IQ, per his coaches.
"Uncanny football IQ. Uncanny football IQ," said current Grayson coach Christian Hunnicutt, an assistant for part of Brice's high school career. "He will always, 100 percent, make the correct read. 100 percent."
Added Swinney: "Moxie. Winner. Big arm. Great athlete. He was a big-time baseball player, too. And if you just watch his tape, he's a little Brett Favre-ish, you know?
"I don't want to compare him to Brett Favre. That's not what I'm saying. I'm just saying he's a little unorthodox sometimes and he's just got this moxie to him, man. He just finds a way. He's tough."
Williams sent Brice a text message this week, offering him encouragement as he settles into his new role. Brice told Williams he was sad to see Bryant go because they were friends and teammates. He also said is ready to accept the responsibility of running Clemson's offense if something were to happen to Lawrence.
"If his number gets called, they won’t miss a beat,” Williams said. “Clemson will not miss a beat. They’ll continue to roll and be in the national hunt. I promise you that.”
Clemson players, coaches and fans certainly hope that’s true.