Coach Dabo Swinney, elated from what turned out to be an outstanding first day of the early signing period, had some really nice things to say about the Cartersville, G.A. native, including a comparison to legendary quarterback Deshaun Watson. Or, in this case, a statement suggesting he’s already better in one specific category:
“He’s just so physically developed for a young guy. Deshaun was obviously pretty special coming out of Georgia… He’s just way ahead of Deshaun from a physical standpoint,” Swinney said, according to The State. “We’ll see where he is mentally and how he transitions and all that once he gets here and we start coaching. I don’t think that you really know that until you start coaching a guy, but he’s been well prepared, well groomed.”
Already tabbed as the perfect prototype for a professional QB, Lawrence towers over the line at 6-foot-6, 210 pounds with more room to grow (Watson arrived at Clemson weighing about 180 pounds). His physical presence in the pocket allows him to have gifted arm strength that is rare for a high school player, resulting in an average of 16.6 yards per attempt in four years at the varsity level.
Swinney understands Lawrence hasn’t taken a college snap yet, but he clearly knows what to expect from the incoming freshman: sheer talent. Because it’s not just his size that stands out. It’s his eye-popping numbers and unbelievable film that makes him one of the most desirable quarterback prospects of the decade, serving as the first person at his position to be considered the No. 1 overall recruit since Matt Barkley in 2009.
The head of a spread offense that he says is very similar to Clemson’s, Lawrence threw for 13,745 yards, 160 touchdowns and only 21 interceptions throughout his four-year career, including only one pick as a senior. He’s never posted lower than a 60 percent completion rate, and completed over 70 percent in 2017.
“He’s got everything that you look for, you could possibly want. He’s just been a natural from Day 1, all the way from the ninth grade on,” Swinney said. “He’s got unbelievable arm talent. That’s pretty easy to see when you watch him, but I think he’s just a very poised guy that is a great competitor… He’s been a great leader for his program. He’s a very good student, and just a guy that I think knows what he wants and is willing to work for it.”
What does his arrival mean for current starting quarterback Kelly Bryant — you know, the one who has led Clemson to a 12-1 record and a playoff berth in his first season — and the rest of the Tigers signal-callers in freshmen Hunter Johnson, Zerrick Cooper and Chase Brice?
“We’ve got good players here,” said Swinney. “They all understand competition. …My job is to go recruit the best players that I can recruit for Clemson University, and then when they get here challenge them, grow them, mature them, develop them into being the best version of themselves.
“Competition is going to bring out the best in every one, and at the end of the day somebody’s going to win the job. You’re going to have starters. You’re going to have backups. And that’s life. That’s the way it is. So we have a process in place. You go through it and let the chips fall where they may.”