Swinney on making phenomenal freshmen super sophomores

Jeremy Styron

CLEMSON—It’s almost hard to overstate the kind of explosive 2018 season true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence and wide receiver Justyn Ross had as integral parts of the Clemson Tigers’ high-powered offense.

Lawrence lifted the Tigers to the first 15-0 championship season since 1897 and was the first true freshman quarterback to win a title since 1985. He threw for 30 touchdowns, amassed 3,280 yards in the air and completed 65.7 percent of his passes last season.

For his part, Ross grabbed 46 completions for 1,000 yards in 2018 and caught 12 passes for more than 300 yards during the College Football Playoff.

Swinney said Lawrence’s endurance “hit a little wall” at times last year and was one area in which the freshman needed to improve heading into 2019.

“I think his endurance, his mindset and understanding of the whole year — I think that's the biggest thing we have,” Swinney said. “I mean, he's worked really hard. He was technically in a really good spot when he got here, but just applying the knowledge that he got from last year and, and really, you know, he made some great plays, but it's the things that you didn't see, you know, where as a coach and like, OK, he's a freshman. We've got to be beyond that.”

He said, much like Lawrence, Ross is now in a “much different spot” from a physical standpoint.

“From Trevor's standpoint, I think the number one thing was just physically taking another step,” Swinney said. “And he's done that, and I don't know if you guys have seen him, but he looks great man. He's really done a nice job with his body, and the same thing as Justyn.”

One additional thing Lawrence could work on as the new season approaches was his footwork in the pocket, Swinney said.

“I want to see him make more plays with his legs, and I don't mean breaking long runs,” the coach said. “I just mean extending some plays. And you saw a little bit of that in the spring, extending some plays because he's dangerous when he can buy some time, and you almost get some scramble situations.

“He's dangerous, and we've got guys that you just can't cover forever. He can throw the ball left, right. You know, and so there's some explosives there that I think we could take where I think last year there was a few times where I thought he'd just kind of hung in the pocket too long.”

Swinney said that in some situations last year, Lawrence could have used his legs to extend plays, create passing lanes or pick up extra yards on the ground himself.

“He’s so confident in his ability to make whatever throw, and he's confident in his guys,” Swinney said. “But sometimes, let's make it third-and-5 instead of third-and-10. Just that little better decision on second down and take that 5 yards. So, I think that's just part of the process. But he's in a pretty good place. He had a heck of a freshman year.”