One week before kickoff, the College Football Playoff national championship build-up began Monday with a media teleconference.
First up was Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and quarterback Trevor Lawrence. Of course, the Tigers get Alabama for a fourth straight playoff on Jan. 7 in Santa Clara. A taste of what Swinney and his freshman quarterback had to say:
— Swinney said they don’t have to do as much work getting the team mentally ready for Alabama after playing them the last three years. Everyone knows the deal now.
— Nothing new on the suspension of star defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence. There are internal meetings set up to discuss the next move but time is short.
— Freshman QB Trever Lawrence is somewhat similar to Deshaun Watson in his personality and approach to the game, Swinney said. His focus is laser sharp. “He never asked me about another quarterback, ever, not one time,” Swinney said. “Never asked me one question about anybody that we were recruiting, anybody on our roster, and I just think that to me, that was one of the things that I knew early on, like this guy here is — he’s kind of got a — he’s got a rare confidence and focus. Just has always been really locked in on himself and who he is and not worried about things he doesn’t control.”
— Does Swinney measure success on the Alabama standard? “We pay attention to everyone out there, not just Alabama, but everybody, whether it be schematics or anything that’s new or cutting edge, whatever,” Swinney said. “We’re always trying to get better. But at the end of the day, we just try to be the best version of us, and we’re not trying to live up to anybody else’s standard. We’ve got our own standard here.”
— Lawrence said he picked Clemson because of the culture saying the Tigers had “the type of people I wanted to surround myself with.”
— Watson “laid the path” for Lawrence to come to Clemson from the state of Georgia. “Why can’t I do something like that?” he thought.
— Lawrence said he and former high school teammate Miller Forristall had joked a few times about meeting on such a grand stage. Now it’s coming true.
— Forristall, then a junior, was actually the QB before Lawrence arrived as a freshman. “We were competing and working, and then I ended up starting a little bit into that season,” Lawrence said. “It was tough on him, obviously, but then he ended up moving to tight end and was a really good player at tight end, so he got a bunch of offers and went to Alabama. I think since then, since he kind of accepted that role as tight end, our friendship grew, and he still to this day is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever played with, and he’s a good guy.”
— Lawrence said he briefly met Tua Tagovailoa once at a quarterback camp but didn’t have a long conversation.
— Lawrence on Alabama’s defense: “They have length in the secondary and speed, obviously,” he said. “But every position they’ve got good players, so we’ll get that broken down, and the coaches have already been working on that, I’m sure, so we’ll get in there probably today and I’ll get a look at that.”