Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott says it was not a difficult decision to name Trevor Lawrence as the Tigers’ starting quarterback for Saturday’s game against Syracuse.
“It just came down to you got to award productivity,” Elliott said on Monday after Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney made it official earlier in the morning. “If you look at his opportunities, he has taken advantage of them.”
Elliott insisted that Kelly Bryant, who has started the last 18 games for second-ranked Clemson, did not do anything wrong.
“It is just a situation where he has been in the game and he has been productive,” Elliott said about Lawrence. “To be fair to competition, just like we do at every position, coach decided to name him the starter for this game.”
Like Swinney and Elliott have said before, Lawrence is only being called the starter for the Syracuse game, it does not mean he is the starter for the rest of the season.
“He has to prove it in practice and he has to prove it in the next game, and when Kelly gets his opportunities, he will have a chance to compete,” Elliott said.
Through four games, Lawrence has completed 65-percent of his 60 passes (39-of-60) for 600 yards. He has thrown nine touchdowns to two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 191.83
Bryant has completed 36-of-54 passes (66.7 percent) for 461 yards with just two touchdowns and one interception. He has a passer rating of 146.8.
In the last 18 games, Bryant has produced a 16-2 record as a starter, while leading the Tigers to an ACC Championship last year and to the College Football Playoff for a third straight year.
“I am not going to say it is difficult because, again, that is the mindset and culture that we have in place here in the program,” Elliott said. “These guys know that you have to bring it every single day. They recognize the competition level.
“Obviously, Kelly is guy that has done a lot for us. But, he understood going into it that he was a guy that was going to have to compete, just like every position. It is the same thing with Clelin (Ferrell), Travis (Etienne) and all the guys, Dexter Lawrence. They know every single day that when they come on to this practice field, and every single game, they have to be productive or somebody else is going to get a chance.”
Elliott said Swinney and quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter will sit down and determine how they want to manage how they use Lawrence and Bryant. He would not say if the situation will be the same as it has been through the first four games when Bryant started and then brought in Lawrence for a couple of series and then rode with the hot hand from there.
“They will determine how they want to run that through the course of the game, but the biggest thing, because of his production, they want to give Trevor this opportunity and he has earned that opportunity,” Elliott said.
Lawrence earned the opportunity when he completed 13-of-18 passes for 176 yards, including a career-high four touchdowns in the Tigers’ win over Georgia Tech this past Saturday in Atlanta. He threw touchdown passes of 17, 53, 3 and 30 yards. He also threw five explosive passes to five different receivers.
An explosive pass play, according to the Clemson coaches, is anything over 16 yards.
“Again, it is week to week,” Elliott said. “We will still continue to evaluate the same way we do, but obviously, right now, Trevor has earned that right to run out there first.”