Sunshine in December: Tigers loaded at QB for the foreseeable future


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Lawrence and QB's coach Brandon Streeter at Swinney's camp in June
Lawrence and QB's coach Brandon Streeter at Swinney's camp in June

Clemson has been called Wide Receiver U, Linebacker U and Defensive Line U, but with the addition of the nation’s number one player and quarterback for 2018, is it time scratch all of those and just go with Quarterback U?

Deshaun Watson, Zerrick Cooper, Hunter Johnson, Chase Brice, Trevor Lawrence.

With all of the travel to the ACC Championship and then to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony over the last couple of weeks, David and I have had plenty of time in airports and on airplanes to discuss the future of Clemson football once Watson departs to the NFL.

One common theme that we always go back to is that No. 4 – Deshaun Watson – is a generational type player. For most programs not named Alabama or Ohio State, players of that caliber only come once in a lifetime or once every few decades.

When was Clemson’s next great player going to show up? We didn’t know, but now we do.

2018.

When news broke late last night of Lawrence’s commitment to Clemson, I immediately started contacting folks in the know in Georgia high school football to get a feel for just Lawrence’s potential, because with Clemson’s football schedule we don’t get a lot of time to make it to the Peach State to scout players, even the ones whose hair makes people think of Ronnie “Sunshine” Bass.

When names like Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck are thrown out, you listen.

Junior Baker, with Prep Sports Nation in Georgia, was on hand for five of Lawrence’s games this past season and had this to say about the junior signal caller.

“He is the third best quarterback prospect from Georgia, ever, following Deshaun Watson and Eric Zeier,” Baker told TigerNet. “His arm strength is his biggest and best attribute. He’s extremely accurate on all of his passes, the deep ball also. Great pocket presence and he hardly ever gets sacked. His most overlooked attribute is his scrambling ability. Dude can move to be a 6-6 bean pole. He definitely needs to put on a few pounds, which they’ll do that in college. And, he’s a stand-up guy, on and off the field. He volunteers a lot of his time at his local church.”

He passed for 3,655 yards and 43 touchdowns as a freshman, 3,042 yards and 26 touchdowns as a sophomore and this season passed for 3,904 yards and 51 touchdowns in leading his team to a state championship.

This takes nothing away from the other quarterbacks mentioned above. Former Elite 11 selection Cooper was redshirted this season and will compete in the spring with Kelly Bryant for the starting job. Cooper now has a year in the system, and he will do everything in his power to claim a starting spot for three or four years.

And they will be joined in the spring by a pair of incoming freshmen, both members of the Elite 11 fraternity, in Chase Brice and Hunter Johnson. Johnson is regarded by some as the best quarterback in the country this recruiting cycle, and he wowed us at Dabo Swinney’s high school camp in June.

Brice? This kid is just a flat out winner that we think is going to surprise some people. He can make all of the throws; he’s played against great competition, and he helped lead Grayson (GA) to the first-ever Georgia 7A football championship this season against major competition.

Clemson already has top-notch skill players – Tee Higgins, Amari Rodgers and Cordarrian Richardson – coming in 2017 to join guys like Tavien Feaster, Deon Cain, Ray-Ray McCloud, Trevion Thompson, Cornell Powell and Diondre Overton.

Now, the Tigers will have a quarterback competition like nobody else in the country with the top signal callers in the country for the 2017 and 2018 classes, along with Cooper – the top quarterback in Georgia for 2016 – duking it out to become Clemson’s field general.

So, if you’re a fan of an opposing school who thought Clemson’s ascent to national prominence would quickly end after 2016, well, you might want to prepare yourself to see the Tigers in the College Football Playoff discussion for the foreseeable future.

And, if you’re a Clemson fan, start saving your money now for season tickets, College Football Playoff trips and trips to the national championship because as head coach Dabo Swinney likes to say, the best is yet to come for Clemson football.

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