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Northwestern names former Clemson QB Hunter Johnson starter over ex-South Carolina QB Ryan Hilinski

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Defending Big Ten West champion Northwestern has been searching for ex-starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey’s successor during fall camp, and coach Pat Fitzgerald has found his man. Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson beat out ex-South Carolina starter Ryan Hilinski and senior Andrew Marty for the starting nod against Michigan State on Friday, Sept. 3, the team announced on Tuesday.

“Earned it. And he knows the rest of the QB room is going to keep pushing him every day to maintain it! #GoCats,” Fitzgerald tweeted after the news became official. 

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior played in two games and logged no passing stats last year for the Wildcats. He started five and played in six games during the 2019 season, when he went 50-for-108 for 432 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. He was replaced midway through the season by Aidan Smith.

“We’ve been rolling the whole group through and trying to get an understanding of what our young players can do while having the competition to be our starter really be the focus,” Fitzgerald said of the competition last week. “Hunter and Andrew are our two oldest guys in the offense and they’ve been here the longest and Ryan comes in with a great first year in the SEC, maybe not from a record standpoint, but from an experience standpoint when he was down at South Carolina. Those three guys are going to be the finalists as we get closer and closer. But we’ll see as camp goes on.”

Johnson was ranked No. 30 overall and No. 2 among pro-style passers in the Class of 2017, and is the highest-ranked recruit to ever play for the program. 

The Brownsburg, Indiana, native was 21-of-27 for 234 yards and two touchdowns with Clemson in 2017. He was beat out by Kelly Bryant prior to the season. Bryant was eventually replaced by then-freshman Trevor Lawrence five games into the season.



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