Clemson football: Trevor Lawrence faces legacy questions

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Trevor Lawrence is one of the most talented college quarterbacks from the past decade, and he’s guided the Clemson football to consecutive national championship appearances. However, the unspoken promise of delivering a second title to Death Valley weighs heavily on the junior as he prepares for possibly the final few games of his collegiate career.

If Clemson fails to win its fourth championship this year and Lawrence leaves for the NFL, what will his lasting legacy be for the Tigers? Before answering that question, I should clarify that Lawrence has already accomplished more than most quarterbacks do at any level. However, the expectations for someone as talented as Lawrence sometimes reach incredible proportions. The shadow of Deshaun Watson also looms large over Death Valley, contributing to Lawrence’s uphill battle.

A few games into the 2018 season, Lawrence replaced Kelly Bryant as Clemson’s starter. At the time, He was only a true freshman. The No. 1 overall recruit from the 2018 class, according to 247sports, Lawrence became an immediate game changer. He threw for 30 touchdowns and only four interceptions as Clemson’s defense piloted the team to a stunning 44-16 national championship victory over Alabama.

After most of Clemson’s best defensive players entered the NFL Draft, Lawrence played a larger role in his sophomore season. He threw for more yards and touchdowns as the Tigers battled back to the title game and looked to extend their undefeated streak to two straight seasons. Unfortunately, Joe Burrow heavily outperformed Lawrence, and LSU captured the college football crown.

With his 1-1 record in national championships, Lawrence is tied with Watson for the most title appearances and wins in school history. Once Lawrence joins Watson in the NFL, Clemson fans will inevitably begin examining the two and considering which left a greater legacy at the collegiate level. Regardless of whether it’s fair, Lawrence’s legacy will always sit side-by-side with Watson’s.

Lawrence is currently fourth all-time for passing yards at Clemson and third in passing touchdowns. The junior should pass Watson in touchdowns before the end of the regular season, and he has a shot at passing him in yards if the Tigers make it back to the national championship game again. Tajh Boyd’s career records appear safe for now.

While personal statistics are impressive, a quarterback’s legacy ultimately rests on how much he wins. Lawrence leads Watson in that category, having played in 35 wins for the Tigers before contracting COVID-19 a few weeks ago. Watson appeared in 34 wins during his 38-game career with the Tigers. However, his final collegiate game was a mesmerizing win against Alabama, and his last pass gave the Tigers a 35-31 lead with one second left in regulation.

Lawrence made a more immediate impact than Watson did, and he might even possess more potential than the two-time Heisman Trophy finalist. Without finishing his career with a national championship, Lawrence could always find himself chasing the image of Watson connecting with Hunter Renfrow for a two-yard touchdown.

Without another title, Lawrence will go down as a national champion who never quite reached the level of dominance expected of him after a legendary rookie season. Perhaps we expected too much, but that’s how legacies work sometimes.

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