Most college football programs are excited to have a player in contention for the Heisman from time to time. Other programs expect a yearly candidate. It is rare for a program to boast two Heisman candidates in the same year. Reminiscent of the 2005 USC Trojans, this year’s Clemson Tigers feature two favorites in Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence. The undeniable leader, Trevor Lawrence, could cap off his college career with another national championship, number one draft pick, and possibly a Heisman Trophy.
How He Wins
Trevor Lawrence has been one of the most productive players in college football for the past two years. With a national championship and a 25-1 record as a starter, he is a current front runner for the trophy at 4-1 odds, according to Las Vegas’ William Hill Sportsbook. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields is also right there at 7-2. Lawrence’s sophomore campaign saw improvements in important categories such as completion percentage (+0.8%), yards per attempt (+.7 yards), and passing efficiency (+9.1). His yards per attempt and passing efficiency landed him in the top 10 nationally in those categories. Lawrence, keeping on the upward trajectory, could produce the numbers to make a strong Heisman case. Stats only go so far, and that is where other qualities come into play.
The Heisman trophy was created to be given to the best player in all of college football for that year. It is exemplified as Heisman winners throughout the years have been winners and leaders but most importantly, great players on the field. Lawrence is a prime example of all those qualities. Lawrence has proven his prowess on the field with his numbers, wins, and throwing ability. What will give Lawrence the most Heisman buzz is his ability to lead the offense back to the national championship while improving those numbers.
How He Doesn’t
Individual efforts are the foundation of the Heisman trophy. But just like former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, Lawrence shares the spotlight with NFL-ready receivers and running backs. Last year, Lawrence finished seventh in Heisman voting with a teammate, Etienne, not far behind in ninth. Many Heisman candidates are the singular focus of their entire team, a la Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin. Taylor was the third-highest rusher in college football (2003 yards) and was the second-highest in terms of rushing attempts (320 attempts). He also finished 5th in Heisman voting.
Lawrence and Clemson also have their focus on something other than the Heisman, another national championship. Head coach Dabo Swinney and Lawrence both focus on the goal of the team and put that in front of any efforts to secure the school’s first Heisman. Both have been vocal in defending their efforts in winning rather than writing a Heisman resume. Also in a historical context, Heisman trophies and national championships do not typically mix.
The Final Verdict
Lawrence will be in the Heisman conversation all season long. Clemson is looking to continue its dominance over the ACC with national championship level production. The odds are stacked against him with a teammate also in finalist consideration. If Lawrence continues to improve then he will be a front runner, but no guarantee that he wins it. Surrounded by NFL-ready weapons at wide receiver and running back, Lawrence will have to generate real media attention and be extravagant to make a push for the Heisman.