CLEMSON — Jeff Scott saw glimpses of it, even back then. Trevor Lawrence was not yet Clemson's star quarterback; he was the big man on campus at Cartersville High School (Georgia), and he was not shy on the field.
"He wasn't just a quiet guy back there throwing the ball around," said Scott, the Tigers' offensive co-coordinator.
So Scott was hardly surprised when Lawrence raised his voice during Saturday's 24-10 victory over Texas A&M. It was late in the second quarter and Clemson held just a 10-point lead on the Aggies. Lawrence's pass to running back Travis Etienne was off the mark, but that was hardly the story of the play. Texas A&M defensive tackle Justin Madubuike hit Lawrence from behind after he threw the ball, sending the Tigers' golden-haired sophomore hard to the ground.
A flag was thrown — roughing the passer. Lawrence popped back up and got in Madubuike's face, hollering, storming off only when an official pushed him back. Lawrence turned to the crowd and waved his arms in the air, calling for more noise.
"It was a little spark," Lawrence said.
Soon Lawrence was in the end zone, having bulldozed through the Aggies' line for a 1-yard score, but not before finding Tee Higgins for a 29-yard completion the first play after the penalty. The sequence illustrated how effective Lawrence can be when feeding off emotion.
Sometimes, though, that mindset yields contact. About midway through the second quarter, on second and 10, Lawrence rolled to his left in search of a first down. He found it, but not before colliding with an Aggies defender, falling to the ground.
"He's one of those guys who doesn't like to slide," Scott said. "We've got to coach that up a bit more.
"The difficult thing is the way they changed the rule, that when you start the process of sliding, that's where the ball is down, where it used to be (counted) once you actually hit down, so you'd get a yard or two."
For all the praise Clemson's Trevor Lawrence earned from Dabo Swinney and his teammates for the touchdown-saving tackle he made against Georgia Tech, some fans on social media expressed concern for his decision.
Scott said quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter will continue drilling Lawrence on sliding, though the Tigers don't want Lawrence to tamp down the aggression. They expressed admiration last week when Lawrence chased down and tackled a Georgia Tech player on an interception return. Successful football players don't play the game scared, after all. They get in opponents' faces and fight back.
Lawrence had a good game Saturday. He went 24 for 35 for 268 yards and one touchdown against one interception. But it wouldn't hurt if Clemson's starting quarterback worked on his slide, Scott said.
"Sometimes," Scott said. "we're trying to protect him maybe more than he's trying to protect himself."
On his touchdown run, Lawrence sneaked through a hole on the left side and pushed forward, not stopping when a pair of Aggies defenders tried to wrestle him down. He hung on to the ball tight and didn't let go. The defenders let up. Lawrence emerged standing.