(AP)-Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence smiled when asked about expectations for this season. It’s something Lawrence has dealt with throughout his football career.
He was a high-school sophomore when he took over as Carterville’s starting quarterback. leading the program to 41 straight victories and two Georgia state titles.
Lawrence played just four games as a backup passer as a freshman at Clemson before he was named the starter, winning 11 straight including a dominating 44-16 victory over Alabama for the 2018 national championship.
Now, Lawrence enters his junior season leading the country’s No. 1 team and a heavy favorite to claim the Heisman Trophy.
He believes he and the Tigers are ready.
“This fall camp, one of my priorities is what can I get better at,” Lawrence said.
It sure doesn’t seem like much. He’s comfortable running the offense — he threw for 3,665 yards and 36 touchdowns against just eight interceptions — and in leading not just his group, but the Tigers
And he’s eager to wipe out perhaps his worst college showing when he went just 18 of 37 passes for 234 yards and no touchdowns as Clemson’s 29-game win streak ended with 42-25 loss to national champ LSU last January.
“We have a great plan in place and everybody’s super into it,” he said.
Lawrence has been front-and-center this season in issues as wide-ranging as the COVID-19 pandemic, social justice iniatives after the murder of George Floyd last May and ensuring college players had their voices heard as Power Five conferences debated whether to play this fall or now.
“He’s absolutely grown as a leader,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said.
Lawrence set up a fund-raising initiative in the spring for coronavirus victims and their families. He led a Clemson march in June to highlight racial inequality. And he joined a coast-to-coast effort of players including Ohio State passer Justin Fields to put out the word that players wanted to play, no matter the risk.
Lawrence also spoke with President Donald Trump earlier this month about the #WeWantToPlay movement.
Lawrence understands why he’s in the spotlight. Now, he said, he is “just glad we get to play” football.
Some other things to know about Clemson’s season:
Lawrence isn’t the only Tigers superstar back on offense. Also returning is defending two-time ACC player of the year in tailback Travis Etienne, who passed up the NFL for his senior year. Etienne already holds the ACC mark for rushing touchdowns (56) and total touchdowns (60). He’s college football’s active career rushing leader.
If there’s any area of concern, it’s Clemson’s defense, which lost versatile linebacker Isaiah Simmons to the NFL and defensive end Xavier Thomas to the coronavirus. Thomas will red-shirt this season as he attempts to regain playing shape. Swinney believes Clemson has plenty of rising talent to make up the difference, including freshman Bryan Bresee and sophomore K.J. Henry.
Clemson’s Swinney has said several times this offseason that he believes Clemson’s secondary is the deepest and most talented in his 11 seasons as Tigers’ coach. Converted receiver Derion Kendrick and senior Nolan Turner will lead a group that lost three of four starters from last year to the NFL.
Clemson has rebounded strongly after a troubling start with COVID-19 for its football team. There were 37 players who tested positive for the virus the first three weeks since re-opening its facility in June. In in last update on Aug. 21, the football team had had only positive test for football since July 10.
The Tigers were supposed to open at Georgia Tech on Thursday, Sept. 3. Instead, they’ll start at Wake Forest on Sept. 12. They open at home with their lone non-conference game, against FCS opponent Citadel, on Sept. 19. Clemson closes with a difficult stretch on the road, going to Notre Dame on Nov. 7, Florida State on Nov. 21 and Virginia Tech on Dec. 5. The Tigers lose out on their yearly state-rivalry game with South Carolina of the Southeastern Conference.