Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney likes to say his program has a windshield mentality. The Tigers are always looking ahead, not paying attention to what is going on behind them.
Though the 2019 football season is less than two weeks completed, it is in the rearview mirror and the start of the 2020 season is about to begin. The Clemson football team will begin its mat drills next week and spring practice is tentatively set to start on Feb. 26.
Clemson’s spring football game will be April 4 at 2:30 p.m., at Memorial Stadium in Clemson.
With all of that said, it’s time to start previewing what to expect in spring practice. The Clemson Insider begins its series with the quarterback position.
The Tigers head into spring ball with no college proven backup behind Trevor Lawrence now that Chase Brice has decided to transfer. That leaves redshirt freshman Taisun Phommachanh and true freshman DJ Uiagalelei battling this spring to replace Brice as the No. 2 quarterback.
Trevor Lawrence, Jr., 6-6, 220: Lawrence will head into the 2020 season very driven after losing his first game as a starting quarterback. The Cartersville, Ga., native was not pleased with his performance in the national championship game loss to LSU. In talking with reporters in the locker room after the game, Lawrence put the loss squarely on his shoulders.
He completed just 18 of 37 passes for 234 yards and no touchdowns in the title game. He did not throw an interception. However, he did lose a fumble for the first time in his career.
“I am going to be driven whether we won or lost, but really just the opportunity to make it back here and have a different outcome. It just sucks when you put so much into something like this group has and you fall a little bit short. We start practice in a couple of weeks, so we will be getting ready again and we will be really excited to start over.”
Lawrence’s numbers were still extremely impressive in 2019. He did not throw an interception in the last eight games of the season, ending the year with 239 consecutive passes without an interception thrown. His consecutive pass attempts without an interception is a Clemson record.
He finished the season completing 65.8 percent of his 407 passes for 3,665 yards. He threw 36 touchdown passes and had just 8 interceptions. Lawrence had a quarterback efficiency rating of 166.8, which led the ACC.
Taisun Phommachanh, *Fr., 6-3, 225: Phommachanh played in just three games in 2019, completing 6-of-12 passes for 85 yards. He also ran for 56 yards on 12 carries.
Phommachanh, who was ranked among the top quarterbacks in the country coming out of high school, saw his redshirt year as a positive in that it has allowed him to get some experience while also sitting out and soaking everything in from a knowledge standpoint.
“I think it’s gone well,” he told TCI prior to the Fiesta Bowl. “I ended up redshirting, so I got a lot of experience. I feel like I got an extra year to just learn everything.”
Phommachanh has grown a lot since he enrolled at Clemson in January, both mentally and physically. The 6-foot-3 signal-caller has added a significant amount of good weight since he arrived on campus.
“I’m at 225 right now, but I definitely got way stronger,” he said. “Coming in, I was like 190, so I’ve put on a lot of weight.”
DJ Uiagalelei, Fr., 6-4, 235: Though he is a true freshman, Uiagalelei will battle for the Tigers’ backup spot this spring with Phommachanh. Prior to the national championship game, Uiagalelei joined the Clemson team as an early enrollee. Lawrence said, from a physical standpoint, Uiagalelei was already prepared to play in the college game.
Quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter said Uiagalelei puts more zip on a football than any player he has coached, including Lawrence and two-time Heisman Trophy Finalist Deshaun Watson.
“First thing that you notice is how strong his arm is,” Streeter told TCI prior to the national championship game. “I mean, it’s incredible. I don’t know if I’ve seen a guy that has quite the arm strength that he does. Obviously, every time a kid comes in, you try to tweak a few things technically. So, we’ll work on that this spring a little bit.”
Uiagalelei, the nation’s top-ranked quarterback recruit, threw for 10,496 yards and 127 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions in his high school career at St. John Bosco in Bellflower, California. As a senior this season, the five-star prospect threw for 4,225 yards and 48 touchdowns against just two interceptions while leading his team to a 13-1 record and a state championship.
Streeter is excited to see Uiagalelei go through spring practice.
“It’s so fun to watch these kids progress from the first practice of spring, especially as a freshman, just like Taisun (Phommachanh) did,” Streeter said. “I’m anxious to see DJ his first day to the last day, and all I’m going to ask of him is that he improves every day – just continuing to improve, and he’ll do that. He’s a go-getter and he’s very anxious.”
—Gavin Oliver contributed to this story
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