Heisman Watch: Trevor Lawrence’s Heisman campaign takes hit with loss of Justyn Ross

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson Tigers. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson Tigers. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

Without Justyn Ross, Trevor Lawrence’s Heisman bid just got tougher.

2020 was supposed to be The Year of Trevor Lawrence. Then again, it still may very well be.

Though Clemson is viewed as the betting favorite to win the 2021 College Football Playoff, Lawrence may have suffered a hit he may not be able to overcome in the 2020 Heisman Trophy race. With Justyn Ross having to undergo spinal surgery and miss the entire 2020 season due to congenital fusion, Lawrence is without a proven No. 1 receiver?

Lawrence already lost his top receiving target from last year in Tee Higgins to the NFL Draft. Diondre Overton exhausted his eligibility at Clemson last year. Though Lawrence has guys like Amari Rodgers and Joseph Ngata returning, as well as promising true freshman E.J. Williams, it’s hard to put up gaudy passing numbers when you don’t have a No. 1 receiving target.

Trevor Lawrence will have to overcome the loss of Justyn Ross to win Heisman.

Of course, there is the possibility that Lawrence’s talents are in so much excess that he carries Rodgers, Ngata and Williams to 1,000-yard seasons. However, there are two huge internal factors that also hurt Lawrence’s odds of winning the Heisman: The conference he plays in and who he’s handing the football off to.

Given that Clemson embarrasses seemingly every ACC team it plays every week, Lawrence will get pulled from games early so D.J. Uiagalelei can get experience in garbage time. While that is something Clemson quarterbacks have to do with every year under head coach Dabo Swinney, Lawrence has running back Travis Etienne, a Heisman candidate in his own right.

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Along with Chuba Hubbard of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Etienne is a lock to be First-Team All-American and one of them will take home the Doak Walker during award season.

Only three running backs have won the Heisman since 2000. However, Etienne is high-profile enough to assert himself into the Heisman conversation right away. Heisman voters know who he is and what team he plays for after seeing him score 49 touchdowns and run for more than 3,200 yards the last two years.

So with a less-than-impressive conference schedule to navigate, a fellow Heisman contender already in the backfield and no longer having the luxury of a No. 1 wide receiver to sling it to, it’s only natural Lawrence’s Heisman candidacy takes a shot at this point of the offseason.

Can he overcome it? Absolutely, but it would be even more impressive given he’ll do it without Ross. Lawrence can still win the 2020 Heisman Trophy, but Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who was the No. 3 finisher last year, is the favorite.

Even if Lawrence or Etienne don’t win the Heisman, they’ll tell you they’d rather win another national championship anyway.

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