QB review: Lawrence Led the Way For a Big Season

Brad Senkiw

Editor’s note: @ClemsonSI is running a series of 10 positional breakdowns each day reviewing the 2019 season.

Clemson continued to be one of the nation’s top programs at the quarterback position. 

Sophomore Trevor Lawrence started every game and remained healthy all season. That helped Clemson shine at the position nationally and run up a 29-game win streak before falling to LSU in the national championship game. Behind Lawrence, the Tigers went 14-1 and won the ACC championship for the fifth consecutive year. 

Because of several blowouts, Lawrence didn’t have some of the numbers of the other top QBs in the country, but that allowed Chase Brice and Taisun Phommachanh to play more than most reserves on elite teams. Against Charlotte on Sept. 21, all five rostered QBs, including a pair of walk-ons, saw action.

Here’s a look at what all they accomplished in 2019:

Position breakdown: Lawrence threw for 3,665 yards and tossed 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Lawrence led the ACC in yards per attempt (9.0), completion percentage (65.8) and QB rating (167.75). He also finished third on the team with 563 rushing yards and second with nine rushing touchdowns.

Brice, who transferred out of the program this week, saw snaps under center in 13 games, throwing for 581 yards on 50-of-85 passing. He threw four touchdowns and one interception as the primary backup.

Phommachanh played in three games during his redshirt season. The Connecticut native had 52 yards on 5-of-9 passing and one interception against Charlotte. He had one completion on three attempts against Florida State.

Ben Batson completed his only pass of the season against Charlotte.

Strengths: Few teams in college football can boast about a quarterback position with this much talent and experience. Lawrence, who won his first 25 college starts, was one of the best in the game, even though he wasn’t a Heisman Trophy finalist. This was the year Lawrence really flashed his game-changing running ability; he had a 67-yard highlight touchdown run against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, where he also showed off his toughness in a big game.

Brice was more than an adequate backup; he proved he could win a game in 2018 against Syracuse, but he wasn’t needed to come off the bench for that kind of spark in 2019. Still, he’ll be a hot commodity in the transfer portal. Phommachahn wasn’t needed but he came to Clemson as a four-star prospect.

Weaknesses: One of the most scrutinized players in the game, Lawrence didn’t protect the ball well in the first half of the season and tried to do too much at times. He threw five interceptions in his first three games. He later threw one against FSU and two against Louisville the next week before not turning the ball over again until the national championship game against LSU. 

Lawrence fumbled on a run and had the worst game of his young career. He had his lowest completion percentage, yards per pass attempt and QB rating of the season. He was on most of the season, but when he wasn’t his throws were usually high and he saw looks a sophomore he didn’t see as a freshman. Lawrence relied too much on his receivers in some games as well.

Brice’s numbers were better in 2018, but he wasn’t in high-leverage situations that forced him to be sharp.

Overall grade: A