Fall Camp Preview: Deep and talented QB room goes to work
|Monday, August 3, 2020, 8:01 AM- -|
Fall camp starts this week and even though we don’t know the first opponent, or even a date and time -- we can take a look at the ten position groups heading into the week.
As always, we will start with the quarterbacks, where Clemson has an edge on everybody else in the country. Why? Because the Tigers have the best quarterback in the country in Trevor Lawrence and a stable of talented backups.
Jr. Trevor Lawrence (6-6, 220)
RS Fr. Taisun Phommachanh (6-3, 226)
Fr. D.J. Uiagalelei (6-5, 243)
Fr. Hunter Helms (6-2, 205) -- preferred walk-on
Lawrence has a chance –- a chance -- to bring home the Triple Crown in what might be his final season on campus (he will graduate in December). Lawrence can win the Heisman Trophy, a National Championship and become the top pick in the NFL Draft next spring.
Lawrence enters 2020 having completed 527-of-804 career passes for 6,945 yards with 66 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 1,610 snaps in 30 career games (26 starts). He also enters 2020 with 967 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns on 163 career carries. The only loss of his collegiate career was the setback to LSU In the title game in January, and he’s ready to put that firmly in the rearview mirror. He said he took time to dissect the game and his part in it but is now ready to move forward with a new season.
"I think any time after a game like that especially it takes time to let it sink in and move on. So it took me a little while, just the way it happened the national championship and knowing you worked all year to get there,” Lawrence said. “It all starts over which is a good feeling. Everyone is already looking toward next year. We feel like we are back in the fight and you can work to get where you want to know. Just taking it day-by-day, because it's going to be a long offseason and a lot of time to get ready.
"Definitely with that sting, we want to make sure we build on it so it gives us that extra edge. We start so early so we finish up a little earlier than everyone, so we get a little break before the summer. I think it's really good to get the young guys involved and get them going before it's March."
Lawrence is looking for a strong third season, and he feels like the adversity he faced last season will only serve to make him a better player.
“Through my two years, I feel like I've been in every situation you can be in. Just getting more and more perceptive I think is the biggest thing,” Lawrence said. “Going through some adversity -- I hadn't lost since I had been here -- it definitely gives you some more perspective. You appreciate all the little things. It makes you want to work even harder to get back there and have a chance at that moment again."
There will be a battle for the backup spot between Phommachanh and Uiagalelei. Phommachanh has been in the system for well over a year and was making strides during the spring and impressed quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter with his offseason work. Phommachanh appeared in three games this season and carried the ball 12 times for 56 yards. He completed 6-of-12 passes for 56 yards and an interception. Despite the lack of playing time and reps in practice, Streeter urged his freshman to take every opportunity to learn.
“When he was standing there watching those other guys he was learning from them. It was good to see. I would stand back there with him, obviously, and I was asking him questions all the time,” Streeter said. “And he knew them. So it was very, very neat to see that. And then his improvement from spring ball last year to where he is now - a tremendous amount of improvement. I am very pleased with where he is. Obviously a dual-threat. He can run. He gained 25 pounds, so I am really excited about his future and where his mind is and where he is right now. I am very impressed.”
Streeter said the three games provided Phommachanh invaluable experience.
“It was very important for a young kid that came from a small school. To put that pressure on him, even when it was at the end of games, was important,” Streeter said. “It was a very big deal for him to get that experience. That was a tremendous amount of experience for him to get in there and feel what it's like to get hit by a college player.”
Uiagalelei is the former 5-star with all of the arm talent and swag who needed to earn playing time this season, and he impressed everyone during the nine spring practices. Even Lawrence took notice.
“He looks good,” Lawrence said this spring. “Just kind of the way he carries himself, I feel like we’re similar in that way. So, we’ve got a good relationship, and obviously he’s a great player. He’s picking it up quickly. That’s the one thing I can tell is just he knows football. He gets it. It clicks quickly with him. Even though he doesn’t know all the plays yet, when he sees them once or twice, he’s already learning them and getting them down. So really smart, just a natural. He’s got a knack for the game. So, he’s going to be great.”
Head coach Dabo Swinney loved what he saw out of the California native.
“He has everything that the great ones we’ve had had, just bigger. He’s not 6-6 like Trevor, but none of those guys were 240 pounds, and he can run as well as anybody we’ve had,” Swinney said. “Trevor, Deshaun, both of those guys can run. And he’s special with his arm and his legs like those guys… Just a special young man. Just a very humble young man. No entitlement. No drama. Been committed a long time.”
Streeter said Uiagalelei is exactly what you want in a quarterback.
“Just an awesome kid character-wise. We have known that for a couple of years since we started recruiting him. He comes from a great family and he is the type of kid you really love to have,” Streeter said this spring. “You have to love his size - he is a good 6-4, 245, and he is a kid that can move and he has incredible arm strength and the ability to throw the ball.
“He is exactly what you want. I had the opportunity to work with him for two days and he did a great job just kind of absorbing what we are doing offensively and the procedural stuff that we do and to get a feel for what is to come in the spring. It's a great opportunity for him to get that head start. It was really good to work with him. He is exactly what we thought he was. He is going to be special.”