No. 1 Clemson comfortable building depth, not player resumes
It is, he said, it is a way for the top-ranked Tigers to continue their quest for a second straight national title.
Lawrence, a Heisman contender when the season began, left a few seconds into the second quarter after his second touchdown pass and Clemson ahead 24-0 and cruising to 52-10 win over Charlotte Saturday night. He knows other high-profile players like Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts put up large yardage numbers and scores of TD passes game after game.
The 6-foot-6 Lawrence said he’s content on the sidelines as the country’s tallest cheerleader.
“I feel like that’s what makes this place special,” Lawrence said. “That guys get opportunities. I love that and if I were in their shoes I would want the same thing.”
The Tigers (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) head to North Carolina (2-2, 1-1) on Saturday.
Lawrence watched four of his backups, including fifth stringer Patrick McClure, play behind center. In all, Clemson played a school record 111 Tigers in the blowout win.
“If we leave Trevor Lawrence out there, he could have had all kind of stats and could have been written up for the Heisman this week, but we (aren’t) interested in that,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “We are just interested in winning the game, winning with class and not getting anybody hurt. Those type of things and grow our team.”
The majority of the team’s starters, including reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year in tailback Travis Etienne were out by halftime.
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables let some of his starters get a few second half snaps before heading to the sidelines.
Tigers co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said pulling starters when possible has helped the Tigers the past three seasons, two of them ending in national champions in 2016 and last season.
“As we get to the end season because we’ve played a lot of guys, we’ve stayed fresh and we’ve gotten that competitive depth,” he said.
That was certainly critical a year ago when junior All-American defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence was suspended for the College Football Playoffs after he and two teammates tested positive for the banned substance ostarine. Backups Albert Huggins, Nyles Pinckney and Jordan Williams rotated through Lawrence’s spot and the defensive front barely missed a beat in topping Notre Dame in the semifinals and Alabama for the championship.
North Carolina coach Mack Brown said when was at Texas and his national championship program was in contention each year, he got many players into games that were well in hand.
“We had all of our starters out usually after the first series of the third quarter in most of our games at Texas when we were really good,” Brown said. “And I mean, everybody’s happy. And everybody’s fresh, because they don’t play that much.”
Clemson’s Venables acknowledges the fine line between keeping players sharp and keeping them fresh. “But it’s a long season and you’re going to have some injuries and you’ve got to develop your team,” he said. “So they need to play meaningful preparations, too.”
Elliott, who saw nine of his running backs get a carry, said the crispness comes from practicing hard and precise before bringing it into games. The lessons learned during the week, he said, are the ones that stick throughout the season.
Trevor Lawrence believes he’ll have his chance to shine as long as the Tigers continue playing well and adding to their 19-game win streak. And if someone gets hurt, Lawrence knows Clemson will have prepared for the moment where it mattered most — on the field.
“I look at it that way,” he said. “I’m just happy those guys get a chance.”