QB Spring Preview: Clemson's Talented Room Has Room To Grow
Editor’s note: @ClemsonSI is running a series of 10 positional breakdowns each day previewing spring football.
Quarterback will continue to be a position of strength for Clemson football in 2020.
And while there won’t be any questions about who the starter will be when the Tigers open the season at Georgia Tech on Sept. 3, the upcoming spring practices will produce a key position battle and offer a glimpse into the future.
Here’s a spring preview of Clemson’s quarterbacks:
Returning players: Trevor Lawrence (rising Jr.), Taisun Phommachahn (So.), Ben Batson (R-So.), Patrick McClure (R-Jr.)
Newcomer: D.J. Uiagalelei (Fr.)
Departures: Chase Brice (transfer)
Expectations: With two five-stars and a four-star prospect, there might not be a quarterback room as talented as Clemson’s anywhere in college football, and that's even with 2019 backup Chase Brice transferring out of the program.
Lawrence is currently tied with Ohio State QB Justin Fields as the odds-on-favorites to win the 2020 Heisman Trophy, so the 6-foot-6, 220-pounder is the clear-cut starter heading into the spring. The job for QB/passing-game coordinator Brandon Streeter is to develop the rest of Clemson's talent.
Key position battle: Phommachahn and Uiagalelei don’t have to necessarily settle the competition for backup by the April 4 spring game, but it will set up what will be an important summer heading into fall camp in August.
Areas to improve: As good as Lawrence is, and he’s expected to be the top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, there are still ways for him to get better.
Pocket presence and handling the pass rush was something he didn’t do well against LSU in the national championship game. It was the worst performance of his starting career, and that was one of the main reasons.
Was it one bad game or something that needs improvement? The answer is a little of both.
Lawrence also improved his impact in the running game, but the expectation is that defenses will adjust to that, so he’ll look to add more wrinkles to his repertoire.
As for the others, Phommachahn will look to show coaches he took his redshirt season seriously and improved despite not getting starter/backup reps in the fall.
Uiagalelei is just beginning his career, but seeing how much he improves from the first spring practice until the last one will be something to monitor.
Impact player: Uiagalelei, an early enrollee, is one of the top players in the entire 2020 recruiting class. His signing last month ensures that the Tigers are set up at the key position for many seasons. The California kid doesn’t have the pressure of being “the guy” right away, but he’ll be the most-watched player April 5. Listen carefully to what the coaches say about him throughout spring; it should provide some insight into his possible use in 2020.
Player to step up: Phommachahn, who is a good runner with solid arm strength, is in a tough spot. He won’t overtake Lawrence and he could very well lose the 2021 starting job to Uiagalelei. But with Brice gone, it will be important that he practices and prepares like a starter, something that Brice took seriously. You never know what could happen during the season, i.e., Brice against Syracuse in 2018, so Phommachahn is a spot to reinsure the offensive coaches with a solid spring.