A little more than halfway through Trevor Lawrence’s Media Day session on Saturday, a reporter walked up and asked about one of the Clemson quarterback’s defining characteristics.
It was one of 11 questions Lawrence got about that signature long blond hair during his hour-long meeting with the media on Saturday and the second time during a short period that he’d been asked that particular question: What shampoo do you use?
Pantene. Also, he typically conditions his hair once every two days. But, the biggest key to growing “elite hair”?
“You’ve got to be persistent,” Lawrence said. “You’ve got to go through some awkward phases. A few years ago, I had to go through some of those. Obviously that’s the biggest thing.”
The hair is unique. So is Lawrence’s talent level.
Alabama coaches know that Clemson’s offense is much better than the Kelly Bryant-led Tigers offense they faced in the Sugar Bowl last season, especially in the passing game. And that’s largely because of the 6-6 freshman quarterback from Georgia who has been tabbed as “Sunshine” by some of his Tigers teammates because of that long blond hair.
As one Alabama staffer told AL.com, Lawrence has a big-time arm and can make every throw. However, they do question one thing in particular with him: How well he handles pressure.
So that will be one of the primary goals for the Crimson Tide on Monday, generating pressure on Lawrence and making him uncomfortable.
“They have a great pass-rush,” Tigers co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said. “They’re going to get guys back there. I think that’s one thing that Trevor has done an excellent job with. Fewest number of sacks this year (11). The offensive line has done a good job. Also, Trevor has a great feel of when it’s time to get out of the pocket. … I think when you’re playing a team like Alabama, quarterback’s legs are important.”
If Lawrence has time to throw, it could be problematic for Alabama, as it was for Notre Dame last week.
During Clemson’s 30-3 blowout of the Fighting Irish, Lawrence had possibly the best game of his young career. He was 27 of 39 for 327 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions.
For the year, Lawrence is completing 65.5 percent of his passes, has thrown 27 touchdowns, only has four interceptions and has the Tigers ranked third nationally in total offense.
“Being a freshman quarterback who is a talented guy, other teams try to change things up,” Scott said. “They do things that maybe they didn’t do in previous games, so he has to kind of adjust in game. I think he’s done a good job of kind of seeing that, just expecting that now. Going into games: What can they do? What do I need to look for? Becoming more and more comfortable. That’s the exciting thing for us is he’s still just a freshman. He’s going to continue to get better, which is exciting.”
Only three true freshman quarterbacks have ever beaten a Nick Saban-led team and none have done it since 2007.
It’s fair to say though that Alabama has never faced a true freshman quarterback as talented as Lawrence.
“His uniqueness from a mindset standpoint, his poise, his demeanor, his preparedness, it was amazing to me early,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s easy to see him go out there and throw the ball, and you’re not going to ever see anybody throw the ball that looks better throwing the ball. I mean, it’s a beautiful thing of art to watch this kid spin it. He’s 6-6. He’s got all these physical measurables and attributes. But it’s the stuff that’s harder to measure. That first spring, just meetings, how he transitioned, speed of the game, how he handled mistakes, how he handled the pressure from his teammates, how he handled competition … he’s unique.”
And he’ll probably put himself even more in position for a Pantene commercial lead role at some point down the road if he can find a way to beat Alabama on Monday.
Matt Zenitz is an Alabama and Auburn reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mzenitz.