There was no real mystery to who the Jacksonville Jaguars were selecting with the No. 1 overall pick: Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The pressure is on Lawrence to live up to his status as a “generational talent” and begin the process of turning the long-struggling franchise around.
By now, Jaguars fans are well aware of what Lawrence brings to the field, but let’s dig deeper into what to expect from the new franchise quarterback. We reached out to Ryan Kantor, a writer for both Shakin the Southland (SB Nation’s Clemson Tigers website) and TigerNet.com, another in-depth website focused on Clemson athletics.
Ryan talks about the new Jaguars fan base in South Carolina, details what Lawrence does (extremely well), what areas Lawrence can still improve in and more.
1. The pick of Trevor Lawrence at No. 1 overall was obviously no surprise. How do you think Clemson fans like his fit in Jacksonville, and have the Jaguars gained a bunch of new fans from the Clemson faithful?
Ryan K: After weeks of assuming he’d end up with the New York Jets, where even the great USC quarterback Sam Darnold failed, Clemson fans were happy to see Lawrence land in Jacksonville. Despite winning just one game last year, the Jags somehow feel more hopeful. It’s also much closer to Clemson and Lawrence’s hometown of Cartersville, Georgia.
In my experience, Clemson fans generally aren’t big NFL fans, but will tune in to support alumni. The Panthers are consistently mediocre and just reached for a Gamecock (Jaycee Horn) in the draft. The Falcons, have Grady Jarrett and AJ Terrell from Clemson, but look like a hopelessly dysfunctional franchise. Deshaun Watson and the Texans have issues on the field and even bigger issues off the field. Given all that, I think the Jaguars are the unofficial favorite NFL team of the Clemson fan base.
2. Trevor Lawrence is often evaluated as a “generational talent,” but no prospect is perfect. Is there anything at all Lawrence needs to improve upon as he enters the NFL?
Ryan K: As a sophomore, Lawrence often abandoned the middle of the field and became overly reliant on his elite boundary receivers (Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross) to win jump balls along the sidelines. I believe he improved a great deal last season when those weapons were gone and he made it work without them. Still, attacking the middle of the field in the intermediate passing game may be an “opportunity area” as he is already excellent attacking defenses with out routes and deep balls.
3. With that said, Lawrence does almost everything well. What are your favorite aspects of his overall game, and do you have any favorite plays or moments from Lawrence during his college career? Do you think he wins the 2021 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award?
Ryan K: His ability to throw on the run is incredible. People look at him and stereotype him as a Peyton Manning-type. While he grew up cheering for Peyton Manning as a Tennessee fan, he can do a lot more with his legs than the former Volunteer. My favorite Lawrence play from his time at Clemson was actually his longest run and the moment that totally changed the 2019 Fiesta Bowl:
I will always regret being in the concession line for this amazing throw on the run:
During the early part of his freshman year (2018), he was playing behind Kelly Bryant, who was more of a runner and dink-and-dunk passer. It was game two of the season (and his career) and they were playing Texas A&M in College Station, TX (possibly the toughest road environment in all of college football). He subbed into the game for a drive and threw this aggressive yet perfect pass on his very first pass attempt of the game. It was a sign of things to come:
This just barely scrapes the surface and doesn’t even get into his amazing National Championship performance against Alabama at the end of the 2018, but as you can tell, he left Clemson fans with some special memories.
As for Offensive Rookie of the Year, I think Justin Fields has a great opportunity to challenge Lawrence. I know college production isn’t necessarily the top thing NFL scouts look for in draft targets, but college fans have a hard time understanding how Fields was selected after Zach Wilson and Trey Lance. He seems to have found a good landing spot with the Chicago Bears and I have to admit, despite him being a Buckeye, he’s an easy guy to root for. He fought alongside Trevor Lawrence to save the college football season even though neither really had anything to gain, in terms of draft stock, by playing.
4. Do you think Lawrence being able to play with his college teammate in Jacksonville, Travis Etienne, will help him transition into the professional ranks?
Ryan K: Lawrence posted a video of him and his wife celebrating when the Jaguars selected Travis Etienne. His wife was getting teary-eyed. It was sweet. I don’t think it is a big factor in terms of comfort-level, but it certainly can’t hurt. Having an elite pass-catching running back probably doesn’t hurt either.
5. The Jacksonville Jaguars have long been a dormant franchise. Do you truly believe Lawrence has what it takes to turn around a miserable franchise and lead the team to future division titles, AFC championships and even Super Bowls? Why or why not?
Ryan K: I fully believe Lawrence is capable of leading a team to a Super Bowl in the modern QB-centric NFL, but this may be just as dependent on head coach Urban Meyer. I’m optimistic about how Meyer will do in the NFL, but it’s far from a given. I think the offensive style he used in college will work extremely well with Lawrence so there could be some synergy.
It has become extremely difficult to win a championship in college or professional football with a safe game-manager style quarterback. Trevor Lawrence isn’t reckless with the ball like Jameis Winston, but he is aggressive in challenging defenses vertically, and has the athleticism to add that extra wrinkle to the offense. His upside is seemingly unlimited.
6. Is there anything else we should know about Lawrence that hasn’t already been said?
Ryan K: Before the draft, Lawrence was criticized for not making his entire self-identity revolve around football, saying “It’s not like I need this for my life to be OK.” I can’t imagine that legitimately concerned many Jaguars fans, but if it did, let me tell you this. Everyone I’ve heard from whether it was former neighbors, teammates, coaches, etc. had nothing but good things to say about Trevor as a player and as a person.
My understanding is that he is a Christ-follower and finds his identity in that, and not football. That doesn’t mean he won’t give 110 percent for the Jaguars. In fact, he has said he wants to be the best ever, but his perspective on life means that everything doesn’t hang on what he does on the field. That takes a lot of pressure off of him. In big moments at Clemson, he generally performed well. In the rare instance he didn’t, he never seemed to dwell. The Jaguars have landed a very special player and could be in store for some memorable seasons in the years ahead. Clemson nation will be pulling for you!
A huge thank you to Ryan for taking the time to answer my questions and giving us a glimpse into what to expect from Lawrence. You can follow him on Twitter, and be sure to follow Shakin the Southland and TigerNet.com as well.
Prior to the draft, I answered some of Ryan’s questions about Lawrence’s fit with the Jaguars, among other things, over at TigetNet.com.