Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw for five more touchdowns and over 400 yards in the win vs. Georgia Tech, but dissecting every throw tells more than the box score numbers.
The biggest name in college football has continued to play well to begin his critical junior season. The Clemson Tigers have been nearly unbeatable with Trevor Lawrence under center. His high-level of play has continued through four games.
Lawrence has been under the microscope since the start of his career because of his recruiting status and immense talent. The lanky passer has proven clutch, deadly, and capable of tremendous accomplishments. Though Joe Burrow laid claim to the best season ever for a collegiate quarterback in 2019, Lawrence has the chance to be the best all-time college quarterback.
We’re going to track him closely each week and analyze his play with close scrutiny as the future top draft pick progresses. His raw stats don’t matter as much as his process, which we’ll track by counting catchable passes and situational effectiveness. I’ve tracked over 70 individuals’ seasons since 2012, and Lawrence’s data already compares to some of the best prospects we’ve seen in that timeframe.
The Tigers were able to serve a beatdown to Georgia Tech, leading 52-7 at halftime before finishing with a 73-7 margin. Lawrence was a pivotal part of this thanks to his excellent accuracy and ability to find big plays. This was arguably the most efficient game he’s played against a D1 opponent in his career.
We’ll dissect his 24-of-32 passing for 404 yards and five passing scores as we do weekly. Lawrence is now up to 73 percent passing, 1,544 yards, 15 touchdowns and just one interception on the year. His plays have been as good as those numbers.
Trevor Lawrence had career-highs in yards and touchdowns vs. Georgia Tech
Lawrence only needed one-half and one drive in the third quarter to deliver several knockout blows. His performance was nearly flawless, and his mechanical improvements were on full display throughout the game. His highlights matched his gaudy raw accuracy numbers.
The first play of the game was an attempted statement as Lawrence dropped back and heaved an almost perfect pass to his target. I considered this a drop since the receiver tried to scoop the ball instead of getting underneath it, and it cost him his balance.
The trajectory of the pass continued his streak of games with a gorgeous deep ball. This was a problem area in past years because he’d misjudge the air needed underneath it or rely on his strength too much, but there’s a good reason why his 20-plus yard accuracy has jumped from 50 percent in 2018, 47 percent in 2019, all the way to 58.3 percent thus far in 2020.
It’s the complete control of his body and how that affects the ball that has grown to an extremely impressive level. Some quarterbacks, like Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa last year, have the touch but lack the high-end strength to overcome some passing window angles. Others are like Josh Allen and don’t consistently find the touch.
Lawrence has evolved into an elite-NFL arm even as a junior at Clemson. I mentioned last week wanting to see more red zone attempts to see how he’d deal with complex reads and angles, and he responded with three excellent touchdown throws this week. The one above is translated flawlessly as he beat the defender’s outstretched arm with a strong but feathery pass to the far side of the end zone.
These throws were the eye-catching part of his efficient half. Taking out his one throwaway, Lawrence threw a catchable pass on 26-of-31 attempts. Three drops and one interception constituted most of his incompletions.
His first interception finally came this week. It was the first interceptable pass of the year after he was so careful to protect the ball after earning criticism last year for being too aggressive to attack certain passing windows or forcing throws. This one was ugly and uncharacteristic.
Lawrence rarely panics under pressure or relies on his arm while fading backward. He compromised his deep passing attempt the moment he felt he’d be hit hard, and the ball was nowhere near the intended target. It was a reckless reaction that’s thankfully not a trend for the star.
That was the lone bad play and decision. He missed on three deep passes and one intermediate pass but those were basically irrelevant when considering the plays he created and connected on.
The variety of strengths within these plays shown is exactly why he’s become the slam-dunk top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. I thought Justin Fields may have been able to ascend over him but there’s simply no room to criticize Lawrence at this point. He’s mobile with “A-plus” arm strength and “A” accuracy to every level, on top of creativity within and outside of the pocket.
He’s not perfect and will surely hit a cool spell at some point but his upside each play is massive. Defenses will need to blitz him heavily at the next level just to hope he makes mental mistakes since physical errors are rare at this point.
There’s more to be unlocked in a less-talented surrounding cast offense as well. Clemson has thoroughbreds all around Lawrence, and it’s more likely than not that the team that drafts him (the Jaguars, Washington, or Jets?) won’t next year. That means accentuating his strengths and tapping into aspects of his skill set that Clemson hasn’t needed to because they’re so good they only need some of his powers.
He doesn’t attempt many passes outside of the pocket but he’s shown comfort outside the tackle box. His mechanics are more refined than his attempt number would indicate, meaning there’s room to grow success here. He can square his shoulders quickly and deliver a well-placed ball that protects his receiver.
This reminds me of how Drew Lock wasn’t fully utilized in college either. Sure, Lawrence is dramatically better than Lock already, but the pathway for guys like Lock and Allen to be good in a role is to consistently put them in advantageous situations. That rings true even for the most dynamic talents like Lawrence.
This performance, overall, was fantastic. If the interceptions continue under pressure then we’ll re-evaluate the importance of his first pick of the year, but the 2020 Heisman campaign continues to swell with good evidence for Lawrence.