Trevor Lawrence caught the recruiting world by surprise on Thursday night when seemingly out of nowhere, the top prospect in all of the 2018 class announced a commitment to Clemson on Twitter.
The nation had been awaiting the decision of Lawrence for quite some time. The five-star quarterback from Cartersville (Ga.) High School initially considered committing prior to the start of his junior season, but he pushed back the decision, needing more time to contemplate his two finalists, Clemson and Georgia.
Over the summer, Georgia was regarded as the favorite to land Lawrence and likely would have had he pulled the trigger on a commitment before the season. But after making a late push that caused Lawrence to delay his decision, the Tigers quickly and quietly improved their chances with him during the college football regular season, to the point that they arguably became the team to beat over the past few months.
From the outside looking in, Lawrence’s decision to choose Clemson makes sense. As he sat back and watched Clemson and Georgia’s respective seasons unfold, he saw two programs in a different place at this point in time. While the Tigers are thriving under an established coach in Dabo Swinney, who led them to a second straight ACC title and second straight appearance in the College Football Playoff, the Bulldogs struggled to a 7-5 record and are trying to restore previous prominence under first-year coach Kirby Smart.
Lawrence kept a low profile throughout the season, avoiding interviews and appearing periodically for visits to Clemson, LSU and Georgia. It certainly didn’t hurt the Tigers’ case that Lawrence witnessed Clemson’s thrilling top-five win over Louisville on Oct. 1. The 6-foot-6, 195-pounder was thought to be readying for an announcement sometime in the spring before suddenly doing so last night.
So, what does Lawrence’s commitment mean for Clemson? Well, a lot.
First, the Tigers are getting what every coach covets in a quarterback. He has the prototypical size for the position, a strong and accurate arm, and the athleticism to evade pressure in the pocket and throw precise passes on the move. Lawrence is a winner, as well, having posted a 40-1 record with two state titles in three years as a starter during which he threw for 118 touchdowns and more than 10,000 yards.
As a junior this season, Lawrence passed for 51 touchdowns to move ahead of Deshaun Watson into third place on the all-time, single-season Georgia high school passing touchdowns list. Watson had 50 touchdown passes in 2012.
And much like Watson, Lawrence is the type of addition to Clemson’s program that is capable of contributing immediately and serving as a difference-maker.
Clemson has recruited as well as anyone in the country under Swinney over the last several years, and with Lawrence’s commitment, the Tigers continue to flex their muscles in recruiting.
Lawrence’s pledge marks the fourth straight year Clemson has drawn at least one 5-star recruit, and his commitment could help influence and attract other five-star recruits in the 2018 class who are heavily considering Clemson.
Five-star defensive end Xavier Thomas and five-star running back Zamir White, two consensus top-10 prospects for 2018, have both listed Clemson among their leaders. This week, Thomas announced that he has narrowed his recruitment down to Clemson and South Carolina.
And take what Thomas told The Clemson Insider last night as an example of the domino effect that could follow Lawrence’s commitment:
“It was pretty big,” Thomas said of Lawrence’s announcement shortly after the news broke. “He contacted me over the phone before he made his announcement. Me and Trevor are pretty close and he told me wherever he goes he wants to bring a good group of guys with him. So it has a big impact on my decision yes. That is a huge get for Clemson.”
Thomas took notice of what Clemson is building for the future, and if others think the same way, Clemson’s 2018 class has the potential to be special even by the Tigers’ standards.
Right now, on the heels of back-to-back top-10 classes, Clemson’s 2017 recruiting class currently ranks 10th nationally according to Rivals.com and 247Sports despite being comprised of just 14 commitments.
Three of those commits in this cycle are five-stars, including Brownsburg (Ind.) five-star quarterback Hunter Johnson, who is a top-10 quarterback himself. The quarterback competition at Clemson will be fun to watch in the future with players such as Johnson, Grayson (Ga.) four-star Chase Brice and former four-star Zerrick Cooper also on board.
Life after Watson will be different for Clemson and its fans alike. But with a rich disposal of talent at the quarterback position and across the board, the future for Clemson’s program looks as bright as ever.
Clemson consistently restocks topflight talent through recruiting, and that recruiting has helped pave the way to sustained success among the nation’s elite.
Swinney always says “the best is yet to come” for his program, and after adding another impact prospect in Lawrence last night, it sure looks that way.