The 2020 Premier Player of College Football Award may be for Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence’s work during the 2020 season, but the three-year legacy that the Knoxville, TN native built at Clemson is entirely worthy of recognition.
Lawrence was a player destined to be a college star – and the likely No. 1 pick in the NFL draft – from an early age. He was simply a monster at Cartersville High School in Cartersville, GA where he used his unnatural athleticism and physical gifts to dominate the high school football (and basketball) landscape in the state. Lawrence was named The Atlanta Journal-Constitution player of the year after a junior season where he passed for just over 3,900 yards and 51 touchdowns. The Purple Hurricanes won 41 straight games and a pair of state championships under Lawrence, a player who was a consensus 5-star recruit and who was widely regarded by experts as one of the greatest high school quarterback prospects in history.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Lawrence continued in college exactly where he left off as a high school player. He split time with Kelly Bryant for the first four games of his freshman season before being named starter by head coach Dabo Swinney in a decision that saw Bryant immediately transfer. Lawrence started the remainder of the season for the Tigers passing for 3,280 yards with 30 touchdowns to four interceptions as Clemson went undefeated and routed Alabama 44-16 in the National Championship game. He was the first true freshman to start at quarterback for a national champion in almost 35 years.
Heading into his sophomore season as the preseason ACC Player of the Year, Lawrence was a little more inconsistent than his usual standard over the first few games of the season. Great players, however, fight through those blips in form to show their class and Lawrence led the entire FBS in passer rating over the latter half of the season. Clemson went 14-1 on the year with Lawrence throwing 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He rushed for another nine scores and made it to a second straight CFP Championship Game against an inspired LSU squad that won 42-25.
To say that 2020 has been a different year would be underselling how crazy it has been. This is true both in life and in college football, with schools and conferences all struggling to make sense of how to schedule the season – and if there should be a season at all. With no preseason and with schedules quickly determined (in most cases) to be conference only, Lawrence was always going to put up lower numbers in 2020 just because of how the college football world turned.
Even with all that going on – and the pandemic taking Lawrence out of games for a stretch – he was still able to lead Clemson to the CFP Semifinals. Clemson ran into an Ohio State shaped buzz saw in that game, but Lawrence still finished the season with over 3,100 yards passing and 24 touchdowns to five interceptions.
His statement game was against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship game, the same Notre Dame team that beat Clemson without Lawrence earlier in the year. Lawrence took the game over, posting 412 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in a 34-10 rout.