Kirk Herbstreit: Trevor Lawrence "was inserted for Alabama"
|Wednesday, January 2, 2019, 5:25 PM- -|
Kirk Herbstreit thinks Trevor Lawrence was given the reins to the Clemson offense for this moment.
For the third time in four seasons, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers will square off in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Kickoff from Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., is set for 8 p.m. ET, Monday, Jan. 7.
For Clemson, the player that might have the most impact on the game is Lawrence, the Tigers’ freshman quarterback. Lawrence has been terrific this season and will be making his 11th career start vs. Alabama. He hasn't thrown an interception since Nov. 10 at Boston College and has 2,933 yards with 27 touchdown passes on the season.
Lawrence took over for Kelly Bryant after four games, leading to Bryant’s subsequent transfer to Missouri. Herbstreit thinks the Clemson coaching staff had this moment in mind when they named Lawrence the starter.
"You’ve got to be able to avoid costing yourself the game by turning over the football. Trevor Lawrence was inserted for Alabama,” Herbstreit said. “I think (Clemson) was envisioning going up against this Alabama team with Trevor Lawrence’s ability to stretch the field. This is the matchup we've been waiting for, and we're excited about it."
Head coach Dabo Swinney disagrees with that assessment.
“Alabama had zero impact on our decision (at quarterback)," Swinney said. "Our decision was based on the present moment. We don’t make decisions based on potential. We make decisions based on performance here. After four games, Trevor’s performance made the change. When you start making decisions based on potential, you starting losing your team and you're gambling on things working out in the future."
Lawrence made his first postseason start last week in the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame, and all he did was win offensive MVP honors, and Herbstreit took notice.
“I don’t think the big stage is going to make (Lawrence) uptight or nervous," Herbstreit said. "He plays with unprecedented poise. The big thing will be the way Tosh Lupoi and Nick Saban create ways to disguise pressures. They do a very good job of showing one thing pre-snap and then going to another. If there’s one area you’ll see Dabo Swinney and his offensive staff come up with a plan, it'll be to make sure those late blitzes don’t affect him.”
Alabama head coach Nick Saban says Lawrence looks like a veteran player.
“Well, he certainly doesn't look like a freshman, that's for sure. I mean, he's got a lot of poise and does a really good job of executing their offense,” Saban said. “He's very instinctive in terms of making the reads that he needs to make and doesn't make a lot of mistakes in terms of where he wants to throw the ball, and he's got a great arm, and he's very accurate. He's got some really good skill players, and they've made a lot of explosive plays because of it. But he's also done a good job of taking what the defense gives in terms of making a read sometimes. They have great balance, so their ability to run and throw I think is what makes them effective, and he certainly does a great job of executing it for them.”