CLEMSON — The Clemson Tigers may have to wait until next year to have a chance at taking home the school’s first Heisman Trophy, but they cleaned up in the annual “Herbie Awards.”
The Herbie Awards are given out annually by ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who each season hands out awards for superstars of the game, best coaches in the game, most exciting moments and even top hotels and restaurants around the college football landscape.
Herbstreit, a former Ohio State quarterback, has twin sons (Jake and Tye) who play football for Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville and are committed to be preferred walk-on football players at Clemson in the spring of 2019. The elder Herbstreit has been vocal about this admiration of Dabo Swinney building up the Clemson program the past decade.
This season saw Tiger true freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence take home the Herbie for Newcomer of the year.
Lawrence completed 65 percent of his passes and threw for 2,606 yards — including 24 touchdowns against only four interceptions — while leading the Tigers to a 13-0 regular season that included a fifth straight win over the South Carolina Gamecocks and a fourth straight ACC Championship.
“(The coaching staff) put a lot on him this year, and he stepped up,” Herbstreit said of Lawrence. “I called a number of their games and I continued to kind of tap (broadcast partner) Chris Fowler, and was like ‘This kid’s a freshman.’ He’s out there acting as if he’s a junior or senior because of the way he responded.
“The thing that I think people forget – he’s 6-foot-6. When people want to compare him to what a young Deshaun Watson was able to do — Deshaun Watson was in that 6-2, 6-3 range. Trevor Lawrence is 6-foot-6, 215 pounds. And as good as he’s been, wait till you see him in two years when he’s a third-year junior with the ability to make plays throwing and running.”
More impressive than his stature or natural ability for Herbstreit is the manner in which Lawrence has carried himself.
“He’s a quiet guy, and he should be as a freshman, especially with a bunch of veterans on that team,” Herbstreit says. “But I’ve been very impressed with just how he’s carried himself and (I) can’t wait to watch him in the postseason.”
But Lawrence was not the only Clemson quarterback to be recognized for his play this season, as backup Chase Brice was recognized with the Play of the Year award for his fourth down completion against the Syracuse Orange in week 5 of the season.
Facing fourth-and-six with 2:38 to go in the game, Brice hit Tee Higgins for a 20-yard pass and a first down that was finished off five plays later by Travis Etienne, capping off a 94-yard game-winning touchdown drive that saved the Tigers’ season.
Herbstreit pointed out the similarities in the Tigers’ loss at Syracuse in 2017 and stated that that game may have been the turning point for the Tigers season.
“Remember the year before, they went to the Carrier Dome and lost to Syracuse, and they had quarterback issues that night,” Herbstreit said. “So, Chase Brice – not a lot of people outside of Clemson fans knew a whole about Chase Brice – but I think that team came together when he made that play.”
While the two Tiger signal-callers were the only players to take home awards, there was one player that was singled out by Herbstreit — defensive end Clelin Ferrell, who he said could pose big problems for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Dec. 29 (4 p.m., ESPN).
“We always talk about that Clemson D-line, and they’re all great,” Herbstreit said. “But Ferrell because of the pass-rush ability, consistently getting to the quarterback on third down, he will be a big factor I think in his bowl game against Notre Dame, being able to get after (Irish quarterback) Ian Book.”
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.