Freshman has won the respect of his teammates on both sides of the line of scrimmage
To Trevor Lawrence, it was just another play. To Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, it was a pass nine other quarterbacks in college football could not make.
“I remember vividly where he rolled out and made this throw in the corner of the end zone through the defender’s hands and everything,” Simmons said. “There was one place the ball could be without it being intercepted and he put it there on the run. I will always remember that. That really impressed me the most.”
The funny thing is, Lawrence does not remember it all. However, what he does remember is he started to fill more confident as the spring went along that he could make such plays.
“There were a few plays that I made that were big plays in the spring,” he said. “It came from just being more consistent and learning things through the summer and in fall camp, really. It was really about knowing the offense better. I felt more confident in what I was doing.”
The play happened this past spring. All Simmons and the defense could do was tip their hat to the freshman and walk back to the sideline knowing they just got beat by a great player.
“He made a great play. There isn’t much you can do about that but give him props,” Simmons said.
Clemson’s defense gave Lawrence a lot of props in the spring and in the summer as he continued to “wow” them with not only his natural arm talent, but his ability to understand schemes and looks defensive coordinator Brent Venables was showing him.
He was doing things most freshman quarterbacks cannot do.
“He knows exactly what to do and he has done that since he has gotten here,” Venables said. “He is very, very unique. It has been fun to watch him getting more and more comfortable with his assurance. We have seen that assurance, but just that growth to where maybe where we were at (Texas) A&M to where we are right now.
“What y’all have seen is what we have seen really since he has gotten here. It’s only going to get better, but it is pretty dang good right now.”
Lawrence has been extremely good in leading the Tiger to a 4-0 record since he became the starter prior to the Syracuse game at the end of September. In the last three games, he has thrown seven touchdown passes, while the Tigers have scored 163 points in blowout wins over Wake Forest, NC State and Florida State.
Heading into today’s game against Louisville (noon on ABC), Lawrence leads the ACC in touchdown passes (16) fewest interceptions thrown (2), yards per attempt (8.5) and passing efficiency (164.2). He also ranks second in the league in completion percentage (65.3).
“I’m just seeing things more clear,” the freshman said.
And that has Lawrence playing with even more confidence than what he was already playing with. In the last three games, he has completed 66-of-101 passes (65.3 percent) for 797 yards. In those three games, he has touchdown throws of 55, 46, 58 and 68 yards.
“I think the play of Trevor has been amazing,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “He’s just been awesome, done a great job with managing the game, and he’s made some incredible throws.”
In the month of October, second-ranked Clemson thrived with Lawrence at the helm. The Tigers averaged 54.3 points and 564.3 yards per game. Both figures lead the ACC, while their scoring led the nation last month.
Lawrence admits, since he has become the full-time starter, it has helped him get more comfortable in his role as not only the quarterback, but as a leader too.
“Being the definite starter and knowing I can lead these guys…It is my job to get everybody ready and make sure everybody is on the same page,” he said.
Everybody has been on the same page so far. Overall, Clemson ranks first in the ACC in scoring (44.1 pts/game) and total offense (522.6 yds/game). Both figures are ranked sixth and eighth respectively in the national rankings.
The Tigers (8-0, 5-0 ACC) are second in the league in rushing offense (237.0 yds/game) and third in passing offense (285.6 yds/game).
It’s obvious Lawrence has gained the respect of his teammates. Following Tre Lamar’s 43-yard interception return to the Florida State 30-yard line with 4:52 left in the second quarter of last week’s win, Lawrence kept the ball on a read-option and went around the right side for a 6-yard gain. Everything seemed pretty normal until Seminoles’ free safety Hamsah Nasirildeen literally tried to take Lawrence’s head off.
However, what nearly cleared the Clemson bench was the extra little shot Nasirildeen added at the end of the play.
“He is our quarterback. That’s our job. You have to protect him no matter what,” offensive lineman Gage Cervenka said. “We are not going to go over there and get in a fight, but we are going to go over there and make sure no one is going to take cheap shots on him.”
It meant a lot to Lawrence to see his teammates come to his aid, especially his offensive linemen.
“It’s football,” Lawrence said. “I did not think it was a dirty hit or anything. I thought it was cool the O-line had my back and came over there. It was kind of getting chippie over there, so it was cool to see those guys have my back.”
And it seems cool the freshman already has the respect of his teammates.