JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Trevor Lawrence can scoot.
He knew that, and so did his teammates, but everyone else realized it when he ran for a 67-yard touchdown -- juking safety Josh Proctor and outrunning linebacker Baron Browning, among others, down the sideline -- in Clemson’s 29-23 victory over Ohio State in a College Football Playoff semifinal in 2019.
It really shouldn’t have been surprising -- Lawrence was pretty effective as a runner at Clemson. And though Lawrence gained a lot of yards scrambling, designed QB runs also were definitely part of Clemson’s playbook.
Will that be the case with the Jacksonville Jaguars?
Jaguars coach Urban Meyer said he’d like to run Lawrence -- probably more than anyone else on staff would like.
Lawrence admitted designed runs are in the playbook and they’ve run them in practice.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said he would be, uh, prudent about having Lawrence carrying the ball.
So, yeah. Maybe.
“There’s guys like [Ravens QB] Lamar Jackson that can go out there and run the zone read 10 or 12 times a game and be successful, but I mean I’m not really that type of guy,” Lawrence said. “I’m not lobbying to try to get more of that, but also, that is something that I’ve had some success with that we have practiced.
“Definitely that’s something that we have the ability to do, but no, I’m not really lobbying for that.”
Meyer had success using dual-threat quarterbacks at Bowling Green (Josh Harris), Utah (Alex Smith), Florida (Tim Tebow) and Ohio State (Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett) as one of the pioneers of the modern spread option offense in college football. But he also won with pocket passers such as Chris Leak at UF and Dwayne Haskins at Ohio State.
Considering Lawrence ran for 943 yards and 18 touchdowns in three seasons at Clemson, he fits into the former group. But Meyer knows Lawrence’s rocket right arm, pocket presence, release, confidence, aggressiveness with throws and ability to throw receivers open are what will make him a success in the NFL. He can’t justify Lawrence taking a beating running the ball too much.
“We are being very cautious about that for a lot of reasons,” Meyer said. “You know there is a tendency that I would like to do some stuff with him, but I just zip it usually. I can’t see a direct run called -- you know, not many people really do that in the NFL, especially with the No. 1 pick overall, but his legs are going to be part of the game, and that is naturally on scrambles and read plays.”
Lawrence has already shown how effective he can be there. He scrambled for 9 yards on a third-and-7 against New Orleans in the preseason -- but he also lowered his shoulder to take on tacklers at the first-down marker. He said he probably wouldn’t have done that had it not been third down, but Bevell certainly didn’t like it.
“Your starting quarterback, really how that guy goes is how your team’s going to go,” Bevell said. “We’re really excited about where Trevor’s at. We know the abilities that he has, but we’re really not trying to make him a runner. I think back to my time with [Seattle Seahawks quarterback] Russell [Wilson]. He has that ability. The one thing about Russell is he’s a really smart, cerebral player; knew where free hitters were coming from, he knew when to get down, knew when to give himself up. We’re still working through all that with Trevor.
“This is not Clemson where we are pulling the ball and running downhill inside and letting linebackers and safeties hit him, so we have to be much more judicious about that in the NFL and try to take the hits off of him as much as we can.”
Bevell was Seattle’s offensive coordinator when Wilson was a rookie in 2012. Marshawn Lynch ran for 1,590 yards that season, but Wilson -- who ran for 1,421 yards and 23 touchdowns in four seasons at NC State and Wisconsin -- was second on the team with 94 carries and 489 yards rushing. Very little of that came on designed runs.
Running back James Robinson ran for 1,070 yards as a rookie last season, and the Jaguars signed former 1,000-yard rusher Carlos Hyde in free agency, so the Jaguars should be able to run the ball effectively without having Lawrence getting four or five carries a game.
But here’s the thing: Meyer knows designed QB runs can be effective and Lawrence is a pretty good runner. And having the quarterback carry the ball a lot can work in the NFL. Jackson has run for 2,906 yards -- including more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons -- in his three-year career. He has missed two games, and neither was because of injury -- he sat out one while on the reserve/COVID-19 list last season, and Baltimore coach John Harbaugh held him out of the 2019 regular-season finale after the Ravens had clinched home-field advantage in the playoffs.
No way does anyone in the Jaguars organization want Lawrence carrying the ball 482 times in his first three seasons. But an occasional naked bootleg, read option or QB draw can be effective and catch the defense off guard.
"I’m faster than I look, for sure," Lawrence said, "but I’m not going to blow anyone’s socks off with my speed. I can definitely move when I need to.
“It’s something the more you can have in your bag [the better]. Especially in this league, [you] have a lot of guys that can run on the D-line, pass rush is really good. You have to be able to use your legs.”