Nick Saban says Trevor Lawrence "is a special talent" after title game performance
|Tuesday, January 8, 2019, 4:22 PM- -|
SANTA CLARA, CA – Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama entered Monday night’s National Championship Game with all the credentials and highlight-reel plays that made many around the nation consider him the top quarterback in all of college football.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban thinks Trevor Lawrence of Clemson is right there.
Lawrence torched the Alabama defense with a stellar outing, finishing 30-of-42 for 347 yards and three scores. The 6-foot-6, 215 pounder led the second-ranked Tigers to a 44-16 win over No. 1 Alabama to claim the program's third national championship and second in three years, and become the first true freshman starting quarterback to lead his team to a national title since Oklahoma's Jamelle Holieway in 1985.
Lawrence’s success came as no surprise to Saban.
“Well, it was no surprise to me. I think he's played extremely well all year long. We knew that their receiving corps was probably the most talented that we've seen as a group all year long. 8 (Justyn Ross), 5 (Tee Higgins), 13 (Hunter Renfrow), those guys are really, really talented guys, and again, I said it earlier, we had opportunities to get off the field on third down, and we couldn't get off the field. I mean, they were like 8 of 11 at one point in time, 10 of 15 for the game, and we gave up big plays, not just first downs, but we gave up big plays.”
Lawrence -- the top recruit in the nation in the class of 2018 and the No. 6 overall prospect since 2000 according to the 247Sports composite -- put on a performance that will go down in college football history as one of the most impressive outings by any quarterback on the game's biggest stage.
“Well, Trevor Lawrence is a special talent. I saw him when he was a sophomore, and he was a special player as a sophomore in high school,” Saban said. “And he's playing in a good system, in a good scheme. That's somewhat similar to what he played in high school. And I think that -- I got this asked at the press conference the other day, why are more freshmen able to play, especially at quarterback, and I think there's a greater similarity with the offense that they grow up with and the offense that they play in college. So there's a lot more similarities. And I think the quarterback position is a little easier now because it's not all drop-back oriented.
“RPOs have made it very simple for the quarterback in a lot of ways. So not a surprise to me, and I think you'll see more and more young quarterbacks be able to contribute early on because of those similarities and their training. Their training is better. We have seven-on-sevens all over the country, we've got great quarterback coaches that help these guys develop early in their careers, but Trevor has always been a special talent in my mind, and it doesn't surprise me. He's got the right stuff as a person, and he's played phenomenally well for his team this year.”
Saban then credited Clemson’s offensive line with giving Lawrence a clean pocket and the time to do what he does best – throw the ball all over the field.
“Well, I thought that if we were going to have an opportunity, the best way to defend them is to rush four guys and play different kinds of coverages, and when we rushed four guys, we didn't get a lot of pressure,” Saban said. “Their offensive line did a good job. He was very comfortable in the pocket, had time to throw, and we didn't get him covered very well in the back end at times. A combination of those things I think really made it more difficult for us because one of the things that they do extremely well with the players that they have, a mismatch, 8 and 5 outside is when you play middle-of-the-field coverage and you try to pressure, they've been very successful against that all year long, and Trevor Lawrence is very good at throwing the fade ball, back shoulders, whatever it is.
“And their two guys are really, really good at making plays on the 50/50 balls, which we knew would be a big part of what we needed to do well in this game, and I think maybe we made one play on a 50/50 ball and got one other pass interference.”