Now that everyone has had a chance to sit back and take in the fact that a season that almost did not happen is over, it’s time to look at position grades from this year’s team. This series will take a look at each position one by one and how they performed on the season.
Everyone expected this to be QB Trevor Lawrence’s final season at Clemson and there was hope that he could become the Tigers first Heisman winner while leading Clemson to their fourth national title. Lawrence and the Tigers got off to a 6-0 start with wins over Wake Forest, Virginia, and then No. 7 Miami. This was before he missed three games due to testing positive and a cancelation and before that he was well on his way to winning that Heisman. He would end up finishing second in the voting behind Alabama WR Davonta Smith.
Lawrence went 231 of 334 for 3,153 yards, 24 touchdowns, and five interceptions on the year while helping to lead Clemson to a sixth straight ACC championship and a sixth straight trip to the playoff where he went 33 of 48 for 400 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in the Tigers 49-28 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also put the ball on the ground three times in that game.
Many Clemson fans were curious when the 2020 season started. Curious about who would step in if something happened to Lawrence. That question was accompanied by others. Like how would freshman D.J. Uiagalelei would adjust from high school to college after not having the normal schedule of practice due to the pandemic. Could Uiagalelei live up to the hype that had surrounded him since well before he signed his letter of intent with the Tigers, and would he be able to beat out fellow QB Taisun Phommachanh on the roster for the second string spot.
Those questions were answered during the regular season and in a big way. Uiagalelei and Phommachanh would both get playing time early in the season but Uiagalelei got the nod going up against Boston College and Notre Dame games after Lawrence was ruled out.
Uiagalelei took advantage of the opportunities. He went 30 of 41 for 342 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-28 win over Boston College and then went 29 of 44 for 439 yards and two touchdowns in a 47-40 double overtime loss to Notre Dame at South Bend. This was, by far, his first prime time game and if it was any indication then then the Tiger offense will be in good hands. On the season, Uiagalelei went 78 of 117 for 914 yards and five touchdowns.
Then you have Taisun Phommachanh, who has dealt not only with competition in the QB room at Clemson, but also had to deal with the death of his Grandmother and his family losing their home to a fire, all while the season was going on. He had five completions on 17 attempts this season with one interception, but that was pretty much all in mop-up duty.
Make no mistake, they weren’t perfect, but they were pretty as good as you could expect. There were a few times this season when Lawrence looked as though he was trying to be perfect and do more than he needed to, but overall his play was worthy of winning a Heisman, and again he likely would have had he not missed so much time. Then the way Uiagalelei stepped up and played so well in his absence. And they did it with very little run game and one of the softest offensive lines the Tigers have had in many years.