College football analyst Kirk Herbstreit handed out honors to a pair of Clemson quarterbacks and recognized a couple of other Tigers during the annual “Herbie” Awards show Thursday night on ESPN.
Clemson freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence won the Herbie Award for Newcomer of the Year, beating out nominees Rondale Moore of Purdue (WR) and Tylan Wallace of Oklahoma State (WR).
“They put a lot on him this year, and he stepped up,” Herbstreit said of Lawrence. “I called a number of their games and I continued to kind of tap Chris Fowler, like, ‘this kid’s a freshman.’ He’s out there acting as if he’s a junior or senior because of the way he responded.”
This season, Lawrence has shattered Deshaun Watson’s school records in passing categories for a true freshman. The Cartersville, Ga., native has completed 212-of-326 passes for 2,606 yards with 24 touchdowns and only four interceptions entering the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29. Clemson earned victories in all nine of Lawrence’s starts, more than doubling Watson’s previous school record for wins by a true freshman starting quarterback (four).
“The thing that I think people forget – he’s 6-6,” Herbstreit said. “When people want to compare him to what a young Deshaun Watson was able to do… Deshaun Watson was in that 6-2, 6-3 range. Trevor Lawrence is 6-6, 215 pounds. And as good as he’s been, wait till you see him in two years when he’s a third-year junior and ability to make plays throwing and running. But the thing I just continue to say is, you can’t look it up when you look at his stats. It’s how he’s played — his ability to recognize, process coverage, get the ball out accurately, and has become a leader. He’s a quiet guy, and he should be as a freshman, especially with a bunch of veterans on that team. But I’ve been very impressed with just how he’s carried himself and can’t wait to watch him in the postseason.”
Lawrence’s backup quarterback, Chase Brice, won the Herbie Award for Play of the Year thanks to his clutch completion against Syracuse on Sept. 29.
The redshirt freshman entered the game after Lawrence left with an injury and kept Clemson’s perfect season alive, tossing a 20-yard pass to Tee Higgins on fourth-and-6 with less than five minutes remaining in the game and the Tigers trailing by three points. Five plays later, Clemson punched the go-ahead touchdown into the end zone and never looked back en route to an undefeated season and another CFP berth.
“Remember the year before, they went to the Carrier Dome and lost to Syracuse, and they had quarterback issues that night,” Herbstreit said. “So, Chase Brice – not a lot of people outside of Clemson fans knew a whole about Chase Brice – but I think that team came together when he made that play.”
Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and defensive end Clelin Ferrell were also recognized by Herbstreit as nominees for different awards. Ferrell was a nominee for Defensive Player of the Year, which was given to LSU linebacker Devin White, while Wilkins was a nominee for Throwback Player of the Year, which was awarded to Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams.
“We always talk about that Clemson D-line, and they’re all great,” Herbstreit said. “But Ferrell because of the pass-rush ability, consistently getting to the quarterback on third down, which will be a big factor I think in his bowl game against Notre Dame and being able to get after Ian Book… A phenomenal year by that entire group, but Ferrell to me stands out.”
“Christian Wilkins is kind of a sparkplug of the defense and special teams and sometimes in the goal-line package on offense,” Herbstreit added. “Just a guy that you cannot help but appreciate his approach to the game – not just the raw numbers, but his approach and the mental confidence he plays with.”
Clemson’s jumbo “Fridge Package” that produced two touchdown runs by Wilkins and a touchdown run by defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence won Herbstreit’s award for Best Offensive Formation.