When Pat Narduzzi watches Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, he thinks of a future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback.
“No question, I mean, you know, I’ve seen a lot of great quarterbacks through the years here and he’s up there with the top three or four,” the Pitt head coach said as he prepares his team to visit Death Valley on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kick.
When he was a young linebackers’ coach at Northern Illinois back in 2002, Narduzzi recalls having to face a strong-armed quarterback who could make plays in and out of the pocket and never took his eyes off of what was happening downfield.
That young quarterback is current Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who at the time was beginning to break all the passing records at Miami of Ohio.
“I mean Ben Roethlisberger was pretty good when we faced him at Miami of Ohio back in 2002,” Narduzzi recalled. “I look at what he did that year that we played against him. He’s like Ben, he’s explosive.”
Since leaving Miami, Roethlisberger has gone on to a Hall of Fame career with the Steelers. He has won two Super Bowls and has taken Pittsburgh to another, while breaking every passing record. Currently, he has the Steelers in the hunt for another possible Super Bowl run, as they sit as the lone undefeated team at 10-0 heading into Week 12 of the NFL season.
Many consider Lawrence to be the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft this April, thanks to his quick release, decision making, size and strength and his strong arm. He is considered by many to be the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck back in 2012.
“Trevor is certainly one of the top two quarterbacks in the country, if not the No. 1 guy — I would say he’s No. 1,” Narduzzi said. “I would say he’s your Heisman Trophy guy. Went through COVID, and all of a sudden, he slips. I don’t understand how that works.
“We’re in a pandemic and he shouldn’t lose any votes for Heisman because he didn’t play in a couple games because of COVID. It wasn’t like he made a bad decision and got whacked in the backfield and went down and threw a pick at the same time. His play on the field speaks for itself.”
When the third-ranked Tigers and Panthers kick things off on Saturday, it will mark the first time in five weeks Lawrence has played. He missed the Boston College and Notre Dame games after testing positive for the coronavirus on Oct. 29. Clemson had a week off after its loss to the Irish and last week’s game was postponed by Florida State.
Narduzzi does not see that affecting Lawrence, who he remembers quite well from the two teams’ 2018 meeting in the ACC Championship Game.
“He’s got a quick release, as I think I talked two years ago, you watch it and it’s like, ‘zoom!’ He rifles the ball out there,” the Pitt coach said. “He knows where to go with the ball, he makes quick decisions. They don’t take many sacks, and they don’t make bad decisions. And he’s really getting the ball out to [Travis] Etienne out of the backfield more than ever.”
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