Dabo Swinney says Jags are a ‘great’ fit for Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney may have a new favorite NFL team. After all, Jacksonville used both its first-round picks in 2021 to select his former players in Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne. Swinney, who knows the north Florida area well from his time tasked with recruiting the region as an assistant coach, said he thinks the pair will prosper in Jacksonville.

“First of all, I’m a big fan of Duval County. That was my recruiting area for a long time. … recruited a bunch of kids out of that area, all up, down I-10 and over to 95 and down in Orlando. So very familiar,” Swinney said. “I just think it’s awesome. I just think it’s a great situation for both of them.”

Both players will have a lot of expectations to live up to as first-round picks, but Lawrence, the first-overall pick in the draft, has a lot to prove, especially. Some may expect that it would take him a bit of time to adjust to the speed and stylistic differences of the professional game, but Swinney is convinced he will be able to pick up many of those concepts quickly.

“I remember the very first spring practice,” Swinney said. “I was so excited, and I’d seen him in camp before. I mean, to watch him throw the ball is just like, ‘wow.’ And that’s all great, but is he going to be able to handle the amount of installation that we’re going to, the pace we’re going to put things in? Can he make the adjustment, terminology wise? [Defensive coordinator] Brent Venables is not a guy that lines up in 4-3, Cover 2. Like Day 1, you’re getting like 10 blitzes thrown at you, that’s just how we do things.

“… And I mean, it was from Day 1, you just knew he was special mentally. His head may have been swimming, but you couldn’t tell it. I mean, he looked like he had been here for a couple of years his first practice.”

Lawrence will likely start Week 1 for Jacksonville, and he’ll have a lot of responsibility when that time comes. But this is something he’s been expecting for a long time, and Jags fans have known Lawrence would be the new franchise quarterback since the team secured the first-overall pick last December.

The Etienne selection, however, was a little more surprising. Meyer and his staff have described Etienne as a “slash” player, meaning he can line up both in the backfield as a running back and out wide as a receiver. Etienne made a lot of catches out of the backfield at Clemson, but he was still primarily a tailback. Transitioning to a more Percy Harvin-like role will certainly present its challenges, but Swinney thinks he’s prepared to handle them.

“He came a long way. He had never really caught the ball when we got him as a freshman and really didn’t have a lot of confidence. And this past year, he really went to another level,” Swinney said.

In spite of a 1-15 finish in 2020, Jacksonville’s offense wasn’t bad. In fact, there was a lot to be optimistic about. Now, with additions like Lawrence and Etienne, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to imagine that this could be an above-average unit in the league next season.