Most could’ve taken off early for the NFL, but Clemson’s defensive line is all back full. Look out, college football. This might be the best college defensive front ever.
Daily Cavalcade of Whimsy
Sorry if this take sucks, it’s not my fault …
It’s taking me a while to figure out why there’s any need to play the 2018 ACC season.
Forgetting for a moment that these guys are crazy by risking guaranteed generational wealth to play more college football …
With the early entry period to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft gone, the big stories are all the quarterback prospects, and a few superstar defensive linemen who decided to stick around.
For those of us who love college football and want to see something truly special, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2018 Clemson Tiger defensive line.
However, if this is really going to happen, there has to be a better nickname for this group. The Power Rangers? What, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Tigers were already taken?
If everyone stays healthy, this might just turn out to be among the greatest front fours of all-time. If that sound like hyperbole, consider this – all four Clemson starters are almost-certain first round NFL draft picks, and it’s not insane to think that at least three of them will be good enough to go in the top ten overall, if not top five.
All the Tigers did last season was finished the season tied with USC for the most sacks, allow 115 rushing yards per game, give up a nation-low five touchdown runs, come up with 109 tackles for loss, and end up with the fourth-best overall D.
And now, eight starters return including leading tackler Kendall Joseph to the linebacking corps, leading pickoff man Trayvon Mullen, and again, all four starters up front.
6-5, 260-pound Clelin Ferrell led the team with 9.5 sacks with 18 tackles for loss and 66 total stops at one end. He would’ve been a sure-thing top ten pick had he come out this year.
6-4, 300-pound Christian Wilkins is back for his senior year, even though he already graduated – don’t get me started on that; that’s for another day. All he did was come up with 60 tackles with 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. He would’ve been a sure-thing top 15 pick had he come out this year.
Austin Bryant is a 6-5, 265-pound tweener of an end who came up with 8.5 sacks with 15.5 tackles for loss and 50 tackles. He would’ve been a sure-thing first round pick had he come out this year.
And then there’s Dexter Lawrence. The 6-4, 340-pound true sophomore wasn’t able to turn pro this season, but even though the stats might not be as amazing as his linemates – 34 tackles, 2.5 sacks – he’s a top three pick next season, if not No. 1 overall.
What’s Dabo Swinney going to do? He’s been so used to having to rebuild his defensive front, now he’ll have to stockpile more future NFL defensive linemen for 2019.
By the way, in the early signing period, Swinney signed on defensive ends Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry – two of the top pass rushing prospects to come out. That’s on top of all the talent he amassed over the last few seasons.
Remember, Clemson went to the national championship in the 2015 season after having to replace Vic Beasley and a ton of talent up front. Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd turned out to be pretty good.
The Tigers had to rebuild again going into 2016, but Carlos Watkins took on an even bigger role, and the emergence of Lawrence and Ferrell made everything easier.
And now. there’s no rebuilding to do.
Yeah, it’s going to be a rich-get-richer season. Alabama is probably the No. 1 team coming into the year. Georgia is going to be fantastic, and even Wisconsin is loaded for bear with just about the entire offense back. But this Clemson font four is going to be the storyline.
This is going to be a special defense that should be special at an all-timer of a level. No, it’s not too early to get the hype going, because in a few short months, you’re about to be seeing a whole lot of this …