It seems all Clemson fans want to talk about these days is 2018 quarterback commitment Trevor Lawrence. The signal-caller from Cartersville, Georgia, is the No. 1 player in the country in his class and has impressed with his size, athleticism and his incredible right arm.
The long-haired Lawrence is set to enroll at Clemson in January 2018, and many believe he will immediately compete for the starting quarterback job as a true freshman against upperclassmen Kelly Bryant, Zerrick Cooper and Hunter Johnson. Many believe his ability to lead the Tigers will determine if Clemson can continue to play at a championship level.
But he will not be the most important Tiger named Lawrence throughout the next couple of seasons.
The most important Lawrence will be a guy named Dexter. You might know him as "Big Dex."
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Clemson does not win a national championship in 2016 if Lawrence, the rookie from Wake Forest, N.C., doesn’t become the dominant force that he was in his first year on campus. He was one of the highest rated recruits in Clemson history and was listed as the No. 2 overall player in the class of 2016, just one spot behind his fellow Lawrence in the class of 2018.
In his first game as a Tiger, he recorded 10 tackles, a sack and a pass breakup at Auburn. Lawrence would go on to set the Clemson freshman record with seven sacks, shattering the mark held by Clemson legends Chester McGlockton (1989) and Michael Dean Perry (1984). Even more impressive, Lawrence broke the record as a true freshman; McGlockton and Perry both set the record as redshirt freshmen.
Dexter Lawrence also proved himself in the biggest of circumstances. Big Dex became known as “Big-Game Dex.” He posted a sack and five tackles at Florida State, two sacks in the ACC Championship game vs. Virginia Tech, and four tackles and two pressures in the national championship win over Alabama.
However, there’s no time to rest for Lawrence, a Freshman All-American and the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. The only way Clemson achieves its goals over the next two seasons is if Lawrence achieves his as well. No pressure, kid.
Lawrence will have help this season, as he will be joined by fellow All-American Christian Wilkins and Fiesta Bowl Defensive MVP Clelin Ferrell on the defensive line. However, Clemson did lose All-American defensive tackle Carlos Watkins to the NFL; he was a veteran who led the Tigers in sacks and tackles for loss last season.
Lawrence’s ability to take that next step from impressive freshman to elite sophomore will be crucial in replacing Watkins’ production.
The good news is Lawrence will wear a Clemson uniform for at least two more seasons because he is not eligible for the NFL draft until 2019. Wilkins, Ferrell and Bryant could all be gone to the next level after 2017, so Lawrence will be left to carry the brunt of the load as a junior in the 2018 season.
And he's capable.