WCARTERSVILLE, Ga. — The race for 5-star quarterback Trevor Lawrence will be an arm race. No doubt about it.
The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in the Class of 2018 should decide Clemson or Georgia by August 1, give or take a day.
“The biggest factor is where I feel the most comfortable at,” Lawrence said. “I feel comfortable at both. They are both great so I’m trying to find out which school feels the most comfortable to me.”
Can Georgia add Lawrence to a quarterback room that will include freshman Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm, a 4-star commitment in the Class of 2017? Or will he compete with Hunter Johnson, the No. 1 quarterback in 2017, and 4-star prospect Chase Brice, who are both committed to Clemson? The Tigers also signed the nation’s No. 7 dual-threat quarterback, Zerrick Cooper, in 2016.
“If I do what I should, I can compete with anybody in the country to play quarterback,” Lawrence said. “I try not to worry about it but it does concern me sometimes. Both places have great quarterbacks ahead of me. Clemson has two in the same grade and Georgia has Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm. They are all good players. It will be hard wherever I go. It will be a struggle to compete, but I think I’ll be ready for it.”
He never wanted to be handed a starting job.
“You get better by competing with and facing the best players,” Lawrence said. “I want to go somewhere that will help me raise my game to another level. Competing with those older guys will help me do that.”
Lawrence sported a gash above his nose Tuesday that required two stitches. It was a blind-side blitz from a swimming pool ladder. He came up from below and nicked it. What happened to your nose? That was the popular topic Tuesday. Not his pending college commitment.
The junior can’t tell which staff has been recruiting him harder. He’s only made one “B” in high school (Honors Biology) and a forensics major is a possibility. He’s not sure which school seems like the better academic fit right now.
He plans one more visit to each campus. He isn’t sure which school will get that last visit yet. Lawrence said he’s seen enough to make his decision but hopes for one more visit each to see if he gets a “feeling” or “something to stick out.”
This feels like a neck-and-neck 40-yard match race with both schools at the 38. There’s no stated leader. It forces people to use their own forensics regarding that topic.
“Both schools have things I like,” Lawrence said. “It is a give and take. I just want to find the right decision where I can find peace with it and be happy and live with it. I guess I hear more from the Georgia commitments right now. Georgia is picking up a lot of guys.”
Four-star offensive lineman Max Wray is the only Georgia commitment in his signing class. He’s made sure to text Lawrence and told the 5-star passer he wouldn’t get touched if he chose the Bulldogs.
“He wants to go visit a lot,” Lawrence said. “I have been on a visit or two with him. I really like him. He’s obviously trying hard to get me to go there.”
There are further clues to sift through, but these could only show which school has worked harder for Lawrence.
Remember when Kirby Smart was hired in that whirlwind week? He flew to Washington to fortify Eason’s commitment. Well, he also traveled that week (about two days later) to Cartersville. He met with coach Joey King in the front office. He couldn’t talk to Lawrence, but just wanted him to know he cared enough to stop by.
Georgia also had Jim Chaney up there on the first day he could during the spring evaluation period.
“Coach Chaney just loves him and he says he just has to coach him,” King said.
A Cartersville tight end, Miller Forristall, signed with Alabama this January. King went to see him quickly and Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin spotted the coach. Kiffin asked about his 5-star passer, but Lawrence didn’t make the trip. But King said Chaney told him to tell Kiffin he said hello.
Kiffin was flummoxed that Chaney had already made the trip to Cartersville to check out Lawrence. That illustrates the priority the UGA staff has placed on Lawrence.
“It seems like Clemson is adding all the top receivers and Georgia is filling up right now with a lot of big-time linemen,” Lawrence said.
The nearly 6-foot-6, 198-pound prospect has put on about 10 pounds since leading the Hurricanes to a state title last fall. The Maxpreps.com 2014 National Freshman of the Year has completed 62 percent of his 674 pass attempts in high school for 6,697 yards, 69 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions.
He’s quite the athlete despite how tall he stands in the pocket. Lawrence was laser timed at 4.8 seconds in the 40 and he can already power clean 270 pounds. That’s pretty impressive in the quarterback realm for a guy who fits into a size-14 cleat.
LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron told King that Lawrence reminded him of a young Peyton Manning the way the throws the ball with accuracy.
“His accuracy is his greatest strength,” King said. “Where he puts the ball and how he gets it there have always been his biggest strengths.”
He will enroll early. Eason has been an unofficial host on his recent visits to Athens.
“The players at Georgia told me what it is like to be a player there and I really appreciate that,” Lawrence said. “It is really hard up there and they tell me to come compete for a spot. If you make second-string as a quarterback then you probably don’t redshirt. If you are third-string, then you probably redshirt. I want to go in and compete and win my spot.”
His primary recruiters at Georgia are Chaney and Smart, compared to co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and quarterback coach Brandon Streeter for the Tigers. Lawrence spent 90 minutes in Dabo Swinney’s office on his last visit to Clemson. The conversation centered on life and helping to make Lawrence a better person. Not football.
Why would he choose Clemson? The main reason if he went in that direction would be just a feeling he gets around that staff.
“That would end up being where I would feel more comfortable at,” he said. “That’s all the coaches there and the whole staff and not just the head coach and the offensive coordinator that is recruiting me. It would be everybody on that staff wanting to make me a better person and not just a better football player. Clemson is a great academic school just like Georgia so I wouldn’t have to worry about that there.”
But the 16-year-old has been impressed by Georgia’s new offensive coordinator. He has described Chaney as a genius in the past.
“He’s just so very smart and his offense would challenge and make me a better player,” Lawrence said. “Georgia thinks I’m a really good player and want me to have that confidence in me that can I go in and play even with those two really good players already there. That means a lot. They think I can play there. That’s one good thing for me they think that. They are not going to recruit somebody they don’t think can come in and play.”
He said the decision is not a matter of offenses. This is not Georgia’s pro-style versus Clemson’s spread.
“It is just Georgia versus Clemson,” Lawrence said. “Clemson will use me on the move and use my athletic ability to move me around. The coaches have shown me what they do. They do a lot of good stuff. I can play in either offense so it will just be a matter of where I want to go.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.