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Four-star lineman transferring from Clemson, wants to be 'closer to home'

The State (Columbia, S.C.) — Ben Breiner, Matt Connolly And Bret Mccormick The State (Columbia, S.C.)

May 16--Josh Belk's time with Clemson football was a short one.

The four-star defensive lineman from Lewisville High who enrolled in college in January will leave the school and the team, he and the school announced Wednesday afternoon.

"I will be transferring from Clemson University," he said via Twitter. "I appreciate the Clemson staff, fans and Coaching staff. Thanks to Coach Swinney for the opportunity. Nothing bad to say about the University and my time there. Just feel that it's the best decision for my family and I. #GodsPlan"

Belk presumably would have to sit out a year if he transfers to another Football Bowl Subdivision school, per NCAA rules. He and his high school coach, Will Mitchell, confirmed that Clemson granted Belk an unconditional release, meaning he is free to transfer without added restrictions.

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"Ongoing health issues in his family have created a need for him to be closer to home to help out," Mitchell said. "It's an unfortunate situation. But it shows what kind of class program that coach (Dabo) Swinney is running up there. They understood that this was a family thing. They care about family first and they were willing to give him that release and make it so that he was able to be there for his family."

Belk did well football-wise in his first semester of college but also in school, finishing the spring with a 3.0 grade point average, according to Mitchell. But he had to make multiple trips home during the semester to help the family, and the two and a half hour trip wasn't easy.

"Josh is a good young man from a great family," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement. "Sometimes circumstances change, as is the case with Josh. We are disappointed he is leaving, but I enjoyed being around him the past few months. He did everything that was asked of him and had an excellent semester academically. I wish him all the best in the years to come."

Mitchell was not surprised by the news, saying the Belk family had talked about it and felt it was the best thing.

"There has been no prior contact with any other programs but I imagine that will change now that Josh has his release," Mitchell said.

A lawyer's statement that accompanied Belk's Tweet said, "Mr. Belk requests that he and his family be given privacy at this time to explore decisions related to the next chapter of his life."

Rivals and 247Sports were among the outlets that reported Wednesday that Belk has interest in going to South Carolina, which is about an hour from his home.

I will be transferring from Clemson University. I appreciate the Clemson staff, fans and Coaching staff. Thanks to Coach Swinney for the opportunity. Nothing bad to say about the University and my time there. Just feel that it's the best decision for my family and I. #GodsPlan pic.twitter.com/sk2t1KgvVL

-- Josh Belk (@jbelk50) May 16, 2018

Clemson freshman DT Josh Belk intends to transfer, and sounds like he could end up at a rival school down I-26. https://t.co/EDi9ZOB7sK

-- Larry Williams (@LarryWilliamsTI) May 16, 2018

Attorny Everett B. Stubbs III of Chester told SportsTalk's Phil Kornblut that Belk wants to decide on a new school soon and that he a anticipates it will be a program on the Power 5 level.

"This is a very amicable parting between him and the University, not do with anything with him in trouble," Stubbs told Kornblut. "It has less to do with him and more to do with his circumstances between him and his family."

Belk came in with a decorated class that included quarterback Hunter Johnson and defensive end Xavier Thomas.

He was the No. 102 player in the final 247Sports composite rankings. He was a five-star for much of the recruiting process out of Lewisville High and had heavy South Carolina interest before picking the Tigers in January 2017.

During an open period of spring practice, Belk stole the show, easily handling five-star offensive lineman and fellow freshman Jackson Carman.

The two faced off twice in the Oklahoma drill and Belk easily handled Carman both times.

"When it's just low man wins and leverage, he's pretty good. He gets his hands on you, he's strong, he can move people," Swinney said of Belk at the time "You weigh him down with all the scheme and alignments and all them details that really kind of matter, he's a freshman. So he's going to be a good one. He's got all the good stuff, all the tools, but we've got a lot of work to do there as far as getting him to where he can be an every-down player."

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