By Will Vandervort.
Following a dominant performance in Clemson’s Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State, Vic Beasley decided there was still some unfinished business to attend to at Clemson so instead of going professional with an opportunity to make some money in the NFL he instead decided to return to school and finish what he started.
He has proven it was a wise decision.
The defensive end has followed last year’s All-American season with another stellar one this year as he recorded 32 tackles, 11 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. His sacks and tackles for loss led the ACC in both categories and rank 10th nationally.
On Wednesday, he earned his first of many honors to come this postseason as the ACC media voted him as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“I will say it was a good year,” Beasley said following last week’s win over South Carolina. “We were able to accomplish a lot of things on defense as a team and I think I got better.”
One of Beasley’s reasons for coming back was to help the Tigers’ end their five-game losing streak to the Gamecocks. He did his part by recording five tackles, three of which were tackles for loss, including two sacks in Clemson’s 35-17 victory.
His second-quarter sack of South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson forced a fumble, which linebacker Ben Boulware recovered at the USC 36. It was the play that changed the game as the Tigers scored three plays later on a Wayne Gallman five-yard touchdown run to take a 14-7 lead and never looked back.
“I just used my speed and my gift to get to the quarterback and it gave us a lot of momentum and we were able to finish strong,” Beasley said. “I knew I needed to make a play to give us a boost. We have all the talent in the world and we just put it all together today.”
Beasley’s performance helped Clemson hold the Gamecocks to a season-low in points and rushing yards (63), while also holding them to 122 yards below their season average. It was another dominating game for a defense that leads the nation in yards allowed and ranks in the top 10 in several more.
“We have all the talent and to be able to do it against an offense like South Carolina was pretty special and I’m sure it caught a lot of eyes,” Beasley said.
But beating USC and winning ACC Player of the Year honors weren’t the only goals Beasley wanted to accomplish. In the process of having another All-American season, he became the Tigers all-time sack leader, which now stands at 32 career sacks – the most among all active defense players in the country. His 49.5 career tackles for loss have accounted for 292 negative yards, 62 more yards than any other active FBS player.
“Vic came back for his senior year to graduate, and to have a great season and improve as an all-around player,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “He has done that – he is a complete player. He is a big reason we currently rank number-one in the nation in total defense and many other areas.”
Beasley, who is a finalist for the Lombardi and the Bednarik Awards, received more points for the All-ACC defensive team than any other player with 159 and finished third in the overall ACC Player of the Year voting behind Pittsburgh running back James Connor and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
Beasley received 24 votes for ACC Defensive Player of the Year, four ahead of Louisville ’s Gerod Holliman who has an NCAA record tying 14 interceptions this year. Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman received seven votes, while Duke linebacker David Helton and Georgia Tech’s Shawn Nealy each received two.
“He is the best defensive player in the ACC, and I really feel he is the best defensive player in the nation,” Swinney said.
In other words, mission accomplished.