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Why Clemson will start freshman QB Trevor Lawrence over Kelly Bryant on Saturday

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CLEMSON — The coaches arrived at Clemson's indoor football facility Sunday and nestled in for their weekly film session, where they reviewed the Tigers' rout of Georgia Tech the day prior.

They watched the way freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence commanded Clemson's offense in a 49-21 win. They watched the way the ball zipped out of his hand as  he led the Tigers to five touchdowns in six drives. Then, they headed to their scheduled staff meeting led by head coach Dabo Swinney and made a decision.

The announcement was made Monday.

Lawrence will be Clemson's starting quarterback Saturday against Syracuse at Death Valley. It will be his first collegiate start and it comes on the heels of his performance at Georgia Tech — four touchdown passes, 176 yards on 13 of 18 passing.

Kelly Bryant, the senior incumbent who started Clemson's  first four games, was 6 of 10 passing for 56 yards.

The coaches couldn't ignore the numbers.

"When you look at it, both (quarterbacks) have played well, done a lot for for us. But it just came down to you've got to reward productivity," said Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott. "If you look at (Lawrence's) opportunities, he has taken advantage of them.

"Kelly didn't do anything wrong. It's just a situation where (Lawrence) has been in the game, he has been productive and to be fair to competition — just like we do at every position — coach (Swinney) decided to name him the starter for this game."

Lawrence, who came to Clemson by way of Cartersville, Ga., was the best high school quarterback in the nation and arrived at Death Valley with great fanfare and huge expectations. The biggest question was whether he could channel his superhuman-like talents from the high school football field onto the college gridiron playing for a College Football Playoff team in a Power 5 conference.

The teenager has been sensational both in his play and in managing his mentality — not letting anything get him too high or too low.

Lawrence, who was not made available to reporters on Monday, has been diplomatic and humble when talking about the quarterback competition. He has said on multiple occasions that he looks up to Bryant and that he is happy to fill any role necessary to help Clemson win.

"I just had a feeling before the (Georgia Tech) game that this was going to be one of my better games, so it was good," Lawrence said Saturday. "I’m comfortable doing whatever the coaches want to do. If they want to split reps still, I’m going to do that and do the best I can with that. If they want to give me more reps, like whatever, I’m just going to go out there and play."

In particular, coaches like the way Lawrence performs with defensive pressure coming at him and they like his patience in the pocket. He has a knack for extending plays and an ability to squeeze laser balls into incredibly tight windows in heavy traffic.

As for how Clemson plans to utilize Bryant, Swinny will likely talk about that on Tuesday. But expect Bryant to still be involved.

"Regardless of what happens, Kelly’s going to have an opportunity to play. How are you not going to play Kelly Bryant?" Swinney said in July. "Please ..."

Added Elliott on Monday: "(Lawrence) has been unbelievable, Kelly has been unbelievable in handling the situation. I think both of those guys are pulling for each other at the same time while they’re competing."

The third-ranked Tigers (4-0) play Syracuse (4-0) at noon on Saturday.

Trevor Lawrence's stats

 DateOpponent Completions Attempts Yards Touchdowns Interceptions 
 9/1 Furman  914 137  3 0
 9/8 Texas A&M  5 9 93 1 0
 9/15 Ga.Southern  12 19  194 1 1
 9/22 Georgia Tech  13 18 176  4 1
 Total  4 games  39 60  600  9 2

Follow Grace Raynor on Twitter @gmraynor

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