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2019 Clemson Football Season Preview: Quarterbacks

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NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it happened.

When Coach Dabo Swinney named freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence the starter during preparation for the Tigers’ fifth game of the 2018 season against Syracuse, the Clemson quarterback room suddenly became the attention of much of the college football world. The attention still remains heading into 2019 but for different reasons now. Kelly Bryant is off to live out his senior year at Missouri, and the Tigers can finally move on from all the drama surrounding the decision to start Lawrence over Bryant, which paid dividends in the end.

Clemson enters the 2019 season with one of the more developed quarterback rooms in the country, if not one of the deepest. The room is a young bunch; nobody sits above the sophomore ranking on the field. The advantage the Tigers have is that their starter is potentially the best player in the sport right now, and their QB2 has more reps and experience than probably any backup in the country (disregard the Tua/Jalen duo at Bama last year).

So, let’s dive into these QBs, shall we?

QB1: Trevor Lawrence, SO, 6-6 220 lbs, Cartersville, GA

Let’s face it: Trevor Lawrence has been the best quarterback in summer and fall camp for both years he’s been on campus. Lawrence’s gifted arm and knowledge for the game has put him in a class of his own right now (sorry not sorry, Tua). It also doesn’t hurt the sophomore that he’s 6-foot-6, giving him the ability to see over the defense tremendously. Lawrence burst onto the scene last season after his first pass on the road against Texas A&M went for six. Lawrence eventually took over during the Georgia Tech game, and then was named starter the next week versus Syracuse. Lawrence was injured during the ‘Cuse game, but returned to action the following week against Wake Forest, and the race was on from there.

Lawrence easily stepped into the quarterback position and took over the offense. With his arm strength and ability to throw the deep ball to his receivers, he quickly wooed the Clemson fan base over. Lawrence started the final 11 games for the Tigers en route to the school’s second national title in three years. Following in the steps of Deshaun Watson, the Georgia native led Clemson back into the national title game behind a dominant playoff game performance against Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl, before destroying the Alabama defense in the National Championship Game. Lawrence finished as a freshman All-American, won ACC Rookie of the Year, and was placed on the All-ACC second team (still a disgrace on the ACC’s part). Lawrence finished the season 259-for-397 for 3,280 yards and 30 touchdowns, with only four interceptions on the season. The rookie also added 177 yards and a touchdown on the ground. No longer will the sophomore be splitting reps, which makes that stat line look even scarier.

Lawrence enters his sophomore year already having accomplished more than most players accomplish in their entire collegiate career, so the question is: What is there to accomplish in 2019? Well, glad you asked. Lawrence enters as one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy award, something no Clemson player has ever done. The Tigers are the favorites to win their fifth straight ACC title, something never before done in the conference’s existence. On top of that, another national championship would be nice. Lawrence has added weight over the offseason and has become quicker with his feet. He should be able to run better and develop his deep ball even more this season. The sophomore loses running back Tavien Feaster to transfer, running back Adam Choice to graduation, receiver Hunter Renfrow to the NFL, and receiver Amari Rodgers to injury, but Feaster will be replaced by the speedy Lyn-J Dixon and first-year receivers Frank Ladson Jr. and Joseph Ngata are already looking like the next pair of lethal receivers to roll through Wide Receiver U. Lawrence has plenty of weapons, and that should terrify the college football world.

QB2: Chase Brice, RS SO, 6-2 230lbs, Grayson, GA

Chase Brice may be the best backup quarterback in the nation. Brice’s heroics in the fourth quarter against Syracuse saved the Tigers’ season and helped Clemson stay on track in its title game pursuit. Brice began that week as a third stringer before finding himself being QB1 for a day. He proved to be a solid backup who got lots of playing time in the second half of most the Tigers’ games for the remainder of the season. Brice is a physical runner outside of the pocket, but his posture in the pocket makes him a solid choice if something were to happen to Lawrence. Brice was a top-10 QB coming out of high school and led his school to the Georgia 7A state championship, so he is more than capable of producing here at Clemson.

In 2018, Brice finished 32-for-51 for 442 yards and five touchdowns versus three interceptions, adding 93 yards on the ground as well. Brice’s confidence as a passer has grown during his time at Clemson and he continues to trend upward as a quarterback. If Trevor Lawrence was not wearing orange and purple, Brice would more than likely sit atop the depth chart. The redshirt sophomore will look to contribute even more in the 2019 season.

Reserves

Two Tiger quarterbacks will fill out the remainder of the depth chart. Redshirt freshman Ben Batson will likely be competing with incoming freshman Taisun Phommachanh for the third-string position. Phommachanh was a four-star in the 2019 class and was regarded as the top player in the state of Connecticut by ESPN and Rivals.com. Batson, a 2018 redshirt, appeared in two run-out-the-clock situations last season against Wake Forest and Florida State, earning six yards in seven total snaps. Phommachanh was not listed on the depth chart in July but there has been some talk about the freshman as of late, so we will see soon whether or not he slides into that third spot.

Final Thoughts

Clemson is stacked at quarterback for the next couple of years, especially with the arrival of 2020’s top quarterback DJ Uiagalelei next year. Although Uiagalelei will likely redshirt, it is almost certain Tiger fans will get a taste of the St. John Bosco product at some point during the 2020 season. His arrival should give Clemson the deepest quarterback room in the country, especially if Lawrence hangs around for one final ride in the 2021 season (don’t get your hopes up, but it’s possible). As for now, Trevor Lawrence is the guy, and Tiger fans can soak up every bit of the next two years with him at the helm, barring injury of course. Lawrence is the best player in the country and should have an oustounding resume whenever he leaves Clemson. The likes of William Perry, Charlie Whitehurst, CJ Spiller, and Deshaun Watson should watch out because the golden locks are headed for a career no other player in Clemson history has ever seen. Buckle in, folks.