When Trevor Lawrence was shredding the Alabama defense in last month’s national championship game, defensive coordinators all over the Atlantic Coast Conference were thinking, “this kid is just a freshman!”
Lawrence completed 20-of-32 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns in helping the Tigers beat the Crimson Tide, 44-16, to win the 2018 National Championship. On the biggest of stages in the college game, the true freshman looked as smooth as silk.
Nick Saban, a master at disguising coverages and confusing quarterbacks, especially young ones, had no answer for Lawrence, who was 8-for-10 on third down passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns.
So why was Lawrence able to throw the ball so skillfully against Alabama, as well as against Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl Classic?
“First off, it comes from him being willing to continue to learn,” Clemson quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter said. “He definitely has that quality. It was the same thing with Deshaun. Deshaun was really good as we all know, but he always wanted to know what he could get better at. So, with Trevor, he is the same way.”
In his debut season, Lawrence threw for 3,289 yards. He completed 65.2 percent of his 397 passes. He threw 30 touchdown passes to just four interceptions.
How good was Lawrence? He went his last 169 pass attempts without throwing an interception, a Clemson record. He had an efficiency rating of 157.56 and 18 of his 30 touchdown passes came in the red zone. More impressive, he did not have a single interception or turnover in the red zone.
But none of that means Lawrence is satisfied.
“He wants to learn, and he is continuing to learn,” Streeter said. “He is learning every single day. His talent is unbelievable. There is no doubt about it. Just things like his footwork and being consistent with his footwork in the pocket and not drifting in the pocket.
“That is hard to do when you have those big dudes coming at you and you are a freshman trying to figure it out.”
Lawrence figured it out, though.
No stage was too big. He was named the MVP of the Cotton Bowl, after he shredded Notre Dame’s secondary for 327 yards and three touchdowns with no picks, while completing 27-of-39 passes. He was also named the MVP of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
Against Alabama and Notre Dame combined in the College Football Playoff, Lawrence was 47 of 71 (66.1 percent) passing for 674 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.
“He has been very good with learning the offense,” Streeter said. “Obviously, whenever there was a mistake, he was able to bounce back and was able to learn from it and was coachable. The game continues to slow down for him and the more it slows down, the better he is going to get.”
And that is what is keeping ACC defensive coordinators up at night.
“The more he takes reps, and he has had a lot of reps, but he is still young, the more confidence he is going to have with this system and being able to understand that he needs to think as much like me, Tony (Elliott) and Jeff (Scott) as possible. Then he earns that trust,” Streeter said. “He has done that, but he needs to continue to do that so that I know before the snap, I know where the ball is going.”
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