By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
Dabo Swinney said before the Orange Bowl last month that getting defensive end Vic Beasley back would be the equivalent to signing a five-star recruit in February.
Well, as we all know, Swinney did not have to wait until February to sign a five-star prospect. Clemson’s starting defensive end surprised just about everyone when he announced on Jan. 15 that he would return to school for his senior season.
Instantly, the Tigers defensive line went from one of the best in the country, to one of the top three. Beasley gives Clemson an experienced pass rusher who has recorded 21 sacks in the last two seasons, including 13 this past year.
The 6-foot-2, 235-pound defensive end also added 23 tackles for loss and was named a first-team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation, USA Today, Sporting News and Sports Illustrated among others. He was a second-team selection by the Associated Press and the Football Writers Association. He was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, which is given to the top defensive end in college football, and was a semifinalist for the Bednarik and the Lombardi Awards.
He was also named to the All-ACC First Team defense.
Though Beasley is the leader and surely gives the Tigers the pass rushing specialist that can make any front four dominant, the Tigers are truly stocked at the defensive end position heading into spring drills.
Here is a list of the candidates for the defensive end position this spring:
- Vic Beasley, 6-2, 235, Sr. – Beasley had the best individual stat ranking of any player on the team in 2013. He was second in the country in tackles for loss, third in total sacks. He also caused 10 fumbles and four times this year he stripped the opposing quarterback on a sack. Beasley’s 13 sacks ranked third all-time for a single-season at Clemson.
- Corey Crawford, 6-5, 270, Sr. – Crawford was an All-ACC honorable mention by the coaches after recording 52 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and three sacks. He also broke up four passes, had one interception, caused two fumbles and had 16 quarterback pressures.
- Shaq Lawson, 6-3, 270, So. – The freshman from nearby Daniel High School was one of the more pleasant surprises in 2013. Lawson totaled 35 tackles, 10 of which went for a loss, four sacks, nine quarterback pressures and one pass broken up. At the end of the year, he was named a Freshman All-American by College Football News.
- Tavaris Barnes, 6-4, 275, Sr. – Barnes is a talented defensive end that spent last season as a reserve player. He has played in 34 games in his Clemson career and has recorded 45 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He also has nine quarterback pressures. Remember, Barnes spent the first three years of his career bouncing back and forth between defensive tackle and defensive end, before finally landing a home in 2013 at defensive end.
- Martin Aiken, 6-2, 230, So. – Aiken served as a reserve defensive end and as a valuable player for the Tigers on special teams. The redshirt freshman played in 12 of the 13 games. He totaled eight tackles in 60 snaps, including one for a loss. He also had three tackles on special teams. Like Beasley, Aiken has the speed to be a fine pass rusher, but the coaches would like for him to continue to get bigger and stronger so he can become more of an every down kind of player instead just in obvious passing situations.
- Kevin Dodd, 6-5, 280, Jr. – Dodd played in the first four games of 2013 before an injury in the Wake Forest game ended his season prematurely. In 40 snaps he recorded seven tackles, including one tackle for loss and had one quarterback pressure. He played in eight games as a true freshman in 2012 and recorded six tackles in 87 snaps. He had a great camp in 2013 and is expected to compete for playing time again in 2014.
- Ebenezer Ogundeko, 6-3, 255, Fr. – Ogundeko put on 25 pounds his redshirt season and is expected to contend for serious playing time in 2014. The defensive coaches think Ogundeko has the potential to be a very good pass rusher and defensive end. A late bloomer in high school, he came on the scene nationally as a senior when he recorded 79 tackles and had 16 sacks. He was ranked as the No. 1 defensive end in the state of New York coming out of high school and played in the Under Armour All-American game.
- Dane Rogers, 6-3, 270, Fr. – Like Ogundeko, Rogers put on 25 pounds during his redshirt season and is expected to contend for playing time. He had a tremendous fall camp and the coaches thought long and hard about playing him in 2013 before finally deciding they had enough depth at the defensive end position that they did not need to burn his redshirt. The Clemson coaches considered him a diamond in the rough when they discovered him in high school. Rogers had 282 career tackles at Crest High School in Shelby, N.C., including 21 sacks. He helped his team win consecutive Class AAA State Championships and played in the Shrine Bowl.