Clemson superstar quarterback Trevor Lawrence has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss Saturday’s game against Boston College. His status for the following week’s showdown at Notre Dame remains in question. Here’s what we know so far about Lawrence’s condition; his backup, D.J. Uiagalelei; and what this could mean for Clemson’s College Football Playoff chances.
What are the next steps for Lawrence?
Lawrence tested Wednesday and received a positive result Thursday. He went into isolation Thursday upon receiving the positive test result, as mandated by the ACC’s medical advisory group. He’ll be required to isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms, which Lawrence has described as mild. That’s the tricky part. We don’t know exactly when his 10-day clock starts, if his symptoms began prior to Thursday.
What does this mean for Clemson’s game against Notre Dame on Nov. 7?
The short answer is: We don’t know. The best-case scenario for Lawrence’s return is if he began experiencing symptoms on Tuesday and that began his 10-day isolation clock, which would potentially allow him to play on Nov. 7. However, this also requires the player to show no symptoms, defined as no respiratory issues or fever, without the aid of fever-reducing medication. Lawrence will also have to pass a battery of cardiac tests to ensure he isn’t showing symptoms of myocarditis. If he clears all those hurdles, it’s possible he could play against the Irish — albeit with no practice under his belt beforehand.
Who is Clemson backup QB D.J. Uiagalelei, and what should fans expect from him?
Uiagalelei is top-ranked Clemson’s presumed starter for Saturday’s game against Boston College, and the Tigers are in good hands. Uiagalelei was the No. 43 recruit in ESPN’s 2020 rankings, and the No. 1 pocket passer in the country. He enrolled at Clemson in January and earned the No. 2 spot on the depth chart in fall camp. So far this season, he has completed 12 of 19 passes for 102 yards and scored twice on the ground, largely in mop-up duty during blowout victories. He missed Clemson’s 73-7 win over Georgia Tech two weeks ago with shoulder soreness, however, but returned to action last week against Syracuse. As a junior at St. John Bosco High in Bellflower, California, Uiagalelei was named the USA Today National Player of the Year, and he threw for more than 10,000 yards in his high school career.
Have any of Lawrence’s teammates been affected?
This appears to be the good news for Clemson — at least so far. Coach Dabo Swinney said no players are in quarantine based on contact-tracing protocols due to Lawrence’s infection, which, right now, would include any teammates who came into contact with him during Clemson’s most recent game (against Syracuse this past Saturday).
Clemson tests players on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Lawrence tested negative on Sunday. Based on ACC guidelines, that essentially concludes a need to contact-trace the game. (Clemson follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for contact tracing, which mandates a quarantine period of 14 days for any player who was within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes without a mask.)
While Lawrence did practice with the team this week before testing positive and could have potentially exposed other players, Clemson’s practice regimen limits direct contact, particularly at the quarterback position, so Lawrence did not exceed those limits and it’s highly unlikely anyone would have spent more than 15 combined maskless minutes within 6 feet of him. Lawrence, who routinely wears a mask off the field, does not live with any teammates, so no players were flagged for contact away from practice, either.
Clemson will have another round of testing Friday, so it’s certainly possible more players could test positive, as it is unknown exactly how Lawrence contracted the virus. Regardless, several key players are expected to miss Saturday’s game due to injuries, including defensive tackle Tyler Davis and linebacker James Skalski.
How would the College Football Playoff committee view a Clemson loss without Lawrence?
First, the Tigers (6-0, 5-0 ACC) have to beat Boston College on Saturday without their starting quarterback. If they can do that and remain undefeated heading into their Nov. 7 trip to Notre Dame — Clemson’s most difficult game of the regular season — they can keep their playoff hopes alive with or without Lawrence.
If Lawrence isn’t cleared to return by then, the 13-member selection committee would consider how his absence affected the game. The committee would also consider if he returned and didn’t play well, possibly because of so much time off in isolation.
According to CFP protocols, which haven’t changed since the playoff began, the committee considers “key injuries that may have affected a team’s performance during the season” to help distinguish between “otherwise comparable teams.” While the wording specifically relates to injuries, CFP executive director Bill Hancock said it’s more accurate to say player “availability” because committee members are also aware of suspensions or disqualifications.
“The selection committee will continue to consider players’ availability in its deliberations as it always has,” Hancock told ESPN on Thursday night. “There’s still a lot of football to be played this season, and it’s not ever appropriate for me to discuss hypothetical situations. We wish Trevor Lawrence all the best, as we do anyone who is dealing with a health situation.”
While a Nov. 7 Clemson loss might not necessarily be “forgiven,” depending on how the game plays out, Clemson could potentially get a second chance to redeem itself against Notre Dame in the ACC championship game. That could present a scenario in which both teams finish in the top four — depending on how the other Power 5 conferences fare.