CLEMSON — Neither the second-ranked Clemson Tigers nor the third-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish have yet to dive full-bore into their game-planning for their semifinal game in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl (Dec. 29, 4 p.m., ESPN).
But, the Fighting Irish have heard enough to know of one player from the Tigers — quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
“We all know about Trevor Lawrence and what he can do at the quarterback position,” head coach Brian Kelly said.
It is not only Kelly who has taken notice of the upstart true freshman — who broke Kyle Parker’s record for passing yards by a freshman (2,526 in 2009) and pushed his season passing yardage total to 2,606, moving past Cullen Harper (2,601 in 2008) for ninth on the school’s leaderboard for passing yards in a single season in school history with his play in the Tigers 42-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers last Saturday.
Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love has also noticed Lawrence in some of the games he has watched.
“Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of their games this year. Sometimes they might play before us, a couple of hours before us,” Love said. “I think Trevor Lawrence, he’s done a great job for them this whole year, and he has things that he does well, maybe some things that he doesn’t do well, but I like to look at offenses as a whole rather than aiming at the quarterback.
“He is young, but he’s shown this year that he is very talented.”
For Tigers’ head coach Dabo Swinney, the talent that Lawrence has displayed through the 2018 season is not only a reflection on the Tigers’ ability to recruit top-level talent to their program, but a reflection of Lawrence and his willingness to work.
“That’s why we recruited him. We knew he was a great talent coming in, but you never know until you start coaching a guy how they’re going to process things, how’s their transition’s going to be,” Swinney said. “And it was pretty clear in the spring that this guy is going to be special. But, again, you got to see it on game day. And I’m really proud of him. He’s an amazing talent.
“He’s a very humble young man. He’s an excellent leader. He really prepares like a veteran. And I think that’s given him the opportunity to be successful. He’s not just talented physically; he’s mentally talented. So I’m really proud of him.”
If the Fighting Irish are going to advance from the semifinals game with a chance at their first national title since 1988, they understand that they will have to play their best game of the season.
“Dabo has done an incredible job with consistency, I think four consecutive ACC Championships,” Kelly said. “So a winning football program, great culture, great players. You have to go take it from them. They are not going to give it to you.
“We’ll have a great challenge, but one that we’re excited about. We’ve been on a journey here the last couple years to put our football team back in this position. So we’re certainly excited for the challenge that’s in front of us.”
Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia.