Clemson center Jay Guillermo has never been around anyone quite like Dexter Lawrence since he’s been at Clemson.
Guillermo said the size, athleticism and mentality Lawrence possesses at such a young age simply isn’t normal.
“He’s a freak. He’s got God-given talent, and he’s one in a million,” Guillermo said of the defensive tackle. “You don’t see that. He’s not the norm. It’s insane just to see how he is, and to think he was going against guys 15, 16 years old last year… His production on the field (at Auburn) was not surprising to us at all.”
Lawrence, who stands at 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, runs a sub-five-second 40-yard dash. In his first career game, a 19-13 win at Auburn last Saturday, the true freshman played 37 snaps and finished second on the team with 10 tackles, which included a tackle for loss and a sack.
“I don’t think we’ve had anyone be that physically monstrous,” Guillermo said. “There’s not anyone, since I’ve been here, that I can really compare him to.”
Lawrence was among the topics Guillermo discussed during his Tuesday press conference this week. The following is an edited transcript of his meeting with the media:
Question: What did you learn about the offensive line at Auburn, and is it a positive, in retrospect, to have faced adversity in the first game?
Guillermo: “It’s definitely a plus. We didn’t score as many points as we wanted, and we left some points on the field, but overall, we didn’t play bad at all. There are a few things, technique wise, that we can really clean up, but we were going against a good defense. They had a good plan coming in. We had a good plan coming in, as well, but they executed well. There were a few things we targeted right, but maybe we let our technique slip from us a few times. But it was good. Overall, it was a clean mental game as an offensive line.
“It is really good that we can get that experience out of the way. To go to Auburn and play in front of that many people, and not have any communication issues, that was the big thing. We knew where we were supposed to go, and for the most part we blocked it correctly. It was a really good experience, especially for those guys like Jake (Fruhmorgen) and Taylor (Hearn). Taylor was our offensive player of the game, getting his first start against Auburn against a really good defense. So, I think we just have to get better from there.”
Q: What does it say about the program that in the eyes of some, it’s not enough just to win a game, but the team is expected to win by a large margin each week?
Guillermo: “I think that really speaks to our culture around here and where we’ve come as a program. It’s not just good enough for us to win — we’ve got to win with some ‘style points.’ It is a bit amusing, but at the end of the day, getting the win is the most important thing. Us being able to learn from our mistakes, and not make the same mistakes, is something that we’re really going to focus on this week and weeks coming up.”
Q: What did you think of Lawrence and Christian Wilkins in their debut on the offensive line as part of the ‘Jumbo Package’?
Guillermo: “Didn’t surprise me at all. We had practiced that. I remember whenever they told us in practice, and those guys came over, we were like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is going to be a good one.’ I’m sure it surprised some guys for Auburn to see those two big bodies come in there and running straight at you.”
What did you see from the first-year starters on the offensive line, right tackle Jake Fruhmorgen and left guard Taylor Hearn?
Guillermo: “With (Fruhmorgen), he’s come along mentally more than anything. Where I feel like last year he would have beaten himself up a little bit for giving up a pressure… He’s a perfectionist just like I am, so it was really good to see him maybe not have a great play, but then bounce back the next play and do great.
“That’s the biggest thing that I was proud of him for, and Taylor, coming in his first start in that kind of environment and just playing lights out. Grading over 90 percent, I think he had four and a half knockdowns against that type of defensive front — that was really encouraging because Taylor is a guy I’ve taken under my wing and tried to lead along. It’s really encouraging to see him do that.”
After playing five straight games away from home, how excited are you to get back to Death Valley?
Guillermo: “We have the best fans in college football, and to finally be back with our Clemson family is great. I missed playing in Death Valley. We’ve been away for so long, and it’s going to be really great to be back.”