Clemson's QB room once again should be the envy of college football


by - Senior Writer -
Trevor Lawrence helped lead Clemson to a 15-0 campaign in 2018
Trevor Lawrence helped lead Clemson to a 15-0 campaign in 2018

Brandon Streeter’s quarterback's room just might be the envy of the country, and it has nothing to do with the décor and everything to do with the talent he’s assembled.

Everybody knows about Trevor Lawrence and his fabulous freshman season, but what makes Streeter’s group so special is the talent behind Lawrence. Chase Brice is – in my opinion – the best backup quarterback in the ACC and maybe in the entire country. Ben Batson spent a year learning behind those two and saw limited action. However, Streeter now welcomes talented freshman Taisun Phommachanh into the fold.

The talent level isn’t where it was when Kelly Bryant, Lawrence, Brice, and Hunter Johnson competed for the starting spot. ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill told TigerNet at the ACC Kickoff last July that the Tigers had the best four quarterbacks ever assembled on one college football roster.

Bryant will handle his business at Missouri this season and Johnson will likely start at Northwestern, but the Clemson coaches feel like they can win with any of the four currently on the roster.

Lawrence started the final 11 games in 2018 as a true freshman in helping Clemson become the first major college football team in the modern era to go 15-0. Under the leadership of Lawrence, the Tigers won each of their last 10 games by 20 points or more and he became the first true freshman quarterback to lead his team to a national title since 1985.

He enters 2019 having previously completed 259-397 passes for 3,280 yards with 30 touchdowns and four interceptions as well as 60 carries for 177 yards and a touchdown in 768 snaps in 15 games (11 starts) and will be on everyone’s Heisman Watch list.

However, don’t shortchange Brice.

Brice enters 2019 having completed 32-51 career passes for 442 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions over 174 snaps in 12 games. Brice was the unsung hero of Clemson’s 2018 national championship campaign, entering in relief in a 27-23 come-from-behind victory against Syracuse to preserve what would become Clemson’s perfect 15-0 campaign. Brice entered in relief of an injured Lawrence against the Orange and completed 7-13 passes for 83 yards while helping engineer a 13-play, 94-yard game-winning drive to overcome a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit in the win.

Batson redshirted last season but did play seven snaps in two games. He will be counted on to provide depth at the position this season.

That brings us to Phommachanh, who impressed all of his coaches during the spring.

“Obviously, he is a guy that has come in with a good background, but at the same time probably not the same preparation that Deshaun (Watson) and Trevor had coming out of high school, but I have been pleased with his command of the offense,” co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “Just the little things we always talk about. You have heard me say handling the motions, handling the snap count, making things right and understanding what everybody is doing. He sees that big picture. Better than I anticipated.”

Phommachanh took over in the second half of the spring game and completed eight of 14 passes for 85 yards, including a 25-yard strike to wide receiver Justyn Ross.

Head coach Dabo Swinney wasn’t surprised by Phommachanh’s performance.

“Just what I hoped I would see. Not overwhelmed. Smooth operator. Total command of what we're asking him to do,” Swinney said. “Sitting back there while I'm watching and he made the right decisions. He's incredibly athletic. Accurate. The ball comes out, and he's a smart decision maker. I'm really encouraged by that.

“It's a great luxury for us to have a guy like that and then to have Chase (Brice) and Trevor as a model. They really truly have complete ownership of what we're doing. So it's been really good. That's helped him really speed up the improvement process this Spring. Taisun, he's got a lot of the build.”

The coaches will tell you that most freshmen experience that biggest growth during the summer following their first spring, and Elliott expects Phommachanh to take that next step.

“Now the biggest thing is when the bullets start flying, can you process all of that as quickly as you need to process it and that is where he is growing every single day,” Elliott said. “So, I am excited to see him in a situation where the coaches are not on the field and he is out there by himself. I think he will rise to the occasion.”

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