Fans for No. 2 Clemson eager to see QB backup Lawrence

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              FILE - In this Jan. 1, 2018, file photo, Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant (2) passes in the first half of the Sugar Bowl NCAA college football bowl game against Alabama, in New Orleans. Veteran Kelly Bryant is Clemson's starting quarterback, holding off promising freshman Trevor Lawrence. The second-ranked Tigers open the season Saturday at home against Furman. The team released its first depth chart Monday, Aug. 27, 2018, with Bryant on top in the closely watched competition. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza, File)
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CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Forget Clemson’s front four of potential NFL draft picks or its talented group of young wide receivers. The loudest cheers at Death Valley in Saturday’s opener might be for the second-ranked Tigers backup quarterback.

Many who follow Clemson have awaited the chance to see long-haired, strong-armed Trevor Lawrence o n the field when it counts.

No matter that the 6-foot-6 Lawrence lost the starting job to returning senior Kelly Bryant, the freshman remains the X-factor to another national title. Lawrence is expected to see his first college action when Clemson starts against Football Championship Subdivision opponent Furman.

“Kelly has earned the right to be the starter,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said this week. “But Trevor has earned the right to play and continue to compete. It’s going to be exciting to see.”

Furman seems like a soft starting spot for Bryant, Lawrence and third-stringer Chase Brice ahead of bigger games.

Count on more fan excitement if Lawrence puts on a show like he did at the spring game last April when he went 11 of 16 passes for 122 yards, including a pitch-perfect, 50-yard scoring pass to Tee Higgins.

Bryant worked hard throughout the offseason to maintain the spot he’d won a year ago by out-dueling five-star passer in Hunter Johnson, who has since transferred to Northwester.

Those on the outside, though, see Lawrence’s tight spirals, quick command of the offense and pedigree — he broke the Georgia prep passing marks for passing yards and TDs previously held by Clemson national title game hero Deshaun Watson — as reasons to play now.

Not so fast, Swinney says.

“I always laugh when people (say) that we just give people stuff. It’s just laughable. We wouldn’t last very long here if that was the case. You have to earn it,” Swinney said. “And especially if you’re a young guy trying to beat out a starter.”

Still, Lawrence brings back memories of Watson’s freshman season in 2014. He led a touchdown drive in his first college series at Georgia, then came two games later at Florida State to take the job for good.

Two seasons later, the Tigers were on top of college football.

“It’s different circumstances and a different competitive situation,” Swinney said.