Former Clemson lineman Eric MacLain knows why Trevor Lawrence is a game changer for the third-ranked Tigers in their rematch with No. 2 Notre Dame.
The co-host of the ACC Network show ‘The Huddle’ joined a teleconference on Thursday in advance of Saturday’s ACC Championship Game.
Lawrence missed Clemson’s 47-40 double overtime loss to the Irish in October due to COVID-19 protocols after a positive test.
But, freshman D.J. Uiagalelei stepped up in his absence with 439 yards passing and two touchdowns. A key to the Irish’s success was limiting the Tigers’ ability to run the ball, they finished the game with 34 yards rushing.
MacLain noticed a lot of analysts have not explained the difference Lawrence will make in the second game.
“A lot of people have talked about how Trevor Lawrence being back will be good for Clemson but not explain why. The reason is his impact in the run game will make a huge difference in this game,” MacLain said. “The zone read is their bread and butter and base run play and they didn’t run it against Notre Dame the first time. They ran it maybe two times and it was shocking to see but I think it wasn’t in D.J.’s skillset because of injury or it wasn’t in his repertoire right now.”
Lawrence has rushed 44 times for 121 yards this season and six touchdowns. But, his threat as a willing rusher forces defenses to stay honest instead of keying on running back Travis Etienne, which opens up lanes on the ground.
“Things will be different on Saturday and I expect them to run that ten plus times whether Notre Dame respects the fact Trevor can run it or if they don’t it makes a big difference,” MacLain said. “I think it could look a lot like the Ohio State game last year in terms of production where if they zone in on Travis Etienne, which they did a great job of last time, Trevor is going to burn them.”
Clemson gets its shot at revenge against the undefeated Irish at Bank of America on Saturday at 4 p.m. in its sixth consecutive ACC Championship Game.