College Football Championship 2019: Players to Watch for Alabama vs. Clemson

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2019

Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams sets up to block against Arkansas in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
Michael Woods/Associated Press

Every player who takes the field during Monday's CFP National Championship is worth watching.

The Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers built up stables of 5-star recruiting talent, and because of that, anyone is capable of stepping up and making a game-changing play at Levi's Stadium.

Even among the collection of must-see talent, a few student athletes have stood out above the rest to get their respective teams into the title game.

The list of otherworldly talent begins with the quarterbacks and extends into other parts of the two rosters, where a ton of NFL prospects reside.


Players to Watch in National Championship

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

If Trevor Lawrence produces a similar performance to the one he delivered in the Cotton Bowl, Clemson has a strong chance of knocking off Alabama.

Lawrence, who beat out the experienced Kelly Bryant for the starting job early in the season, dazzled in the pocket, throwing for 327 yards and three touchdowns against Notre Dame.

The freshman's performance against Notre Dame showed exactly what he is capable of doing in pressure-packed situations.

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

While he won't be eligible to enter the NFL draft for two more years, Lawrence is already receiving attention from NFL scouts, and one scout went as far to say the quarterback has no flaws, per Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer.

"He's so far and away ahead of every other college quarterback right now," the scout said. "He has elite accuracy and arm strength, he's poised, he manages the game and he wins. ... Maybe the best thing I can say is that I can't find a negative. That and he hasn't really had an elite defense press him. He will [in the championship game]."

The hype around Lawrence will only grow after Monday night, as he is expected to duel with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in what could be a high-scoring affair.

If he goes back-and-forth with Tagovailoa, Lawrence will provide a new element to the Clemson offense, which struggled against the Crimson Tide in the 2018 Sugar Bowl with Bryant at the helm.


Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Before the 2018 National Championship, only a few people were aware of Tagovailoa, but he made his presence known by leading the Crimson Tide to an overtime win over Georgia.

The Heisman Trophy runner-up has a full four quarters in which to shine this year, and it's expected that he will continue his marvelous sophomore year against the Tigers.

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 29:  Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks to pass against the Oklahoma Sooners during the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Miami, Florida.
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The left-handed Hawaiian is coming off a four-touchdown performance against Oklahoma in which he went 24-for-27 in the pocket.

Just like his counterpart from Clemson, Tagovailoa is rarely affected by anything going on around him, and he's one of the most efficient signal-callers in the FBS.

In addition to throwing for 3,671 yards, Tagovailoa was only intercepted on four occasions, with two of them coming in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia.

If he turns in another outstanding game through the air against Clemson, Tagovailoa could end up in one of the most memorable quarterback duels in college football history.


Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

In order for Tagovailoa to achieve success in the pocket, the Alabama offensive line has to continue to keep defenders away from him

Offensive tackle Jonah Williams leads the Crimson Tide's interior unit, and with an impressive outing against Clemson's tenacious defensive line, he could further boost his draft stock.

In Alabama's 14 games, its offensive line conceded 13 sacks, which is a remarkable stat—even for one of the elite teams in the nation.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

If Williams is able to contain the pass rush from Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant, who have 16.5 sacks between them, Tagovailoa will have plenty of time to pick out targets through the air or escape the pocket and run for first downs.

On a personal level, the National Championship is huge for Williams, as he tries to move up an NFL draft board littered with defensive prospects.

According to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, Williams is a top-10 pick who could move inside on the offensive line depending on what teams think of his size.


Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson

In order for Clemson to keep the momentum in its favor once Lawrence and the offense march down the field for a score, it needs to put pressure on Tagovailoa.

Any one of the talented defensive linemen on the Tigers roster could be named here, but the spotlight is on Christian Wilkins, who should be a menace on the interior.

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

In addition to getting to Tagovailoa, Wilkins will be tasked with disrupting the advances of Alabama's running game.

Since the Crimson Tide have a trio of running backs capable of breaking through the first line of defense, Wilkins needs to make his presence felt immediately.

He doesn't have to show up in the stat sheet, but he needs to get enough pressure on the Alabama offensive line so that his teammates are able to halt the Alabama rushing attack.

If the Tigers are able to hold the Crimson Tide to a three-and-out or two, they will be able to take control of the contest.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.


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