Best players in Clemson history: Defensive tackle

Best players in Clemson history: Defensive tackle


Best players in Clemson history: Defensive tackle

Michael Dean Perry will never forget the first play of his college career. It was in the season opener against Appalachian State in 1984.

He lined up alongside his older brother, William, who was already a two-time All-American at middle guard for the Tigers and was a part of Clemson’s National Championship team in 1981.

“Playing next to William was exciting in and of itself,” Michael Dean said. “We grew up playing alongside each other in middle school, junior high and high school, and now I get the opportunity to play with him at the next level in a big-time college environment.

“It was a great feeling and I enjoyed every minute of it.”

Especially the first play of the game, when William broke through the line, sacked the quarterback, stripped the football and Michael Dean recovered it for a touchdown.

“It was so exciting. It was without a doubt the most memorable play of my career,” the younger Perry said.

Though he is the little brother to William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Michael Dean was never one to live in the shadows of his brother. He made a name for himself and broke all of his brother’s records at Clemson.

“We don’t really talk about the records when we get together,” said Michael Dean, who played at Clemson from 1984-’87. “We actually just sit around and catch up on what has been happening in our lives. Believe it or not, we rarely even talk about football.”

During his time at Clemson, he was part of a defense that ranked among the best in the nation in 1986 and in 1987, plus he helped guide the Tigers to two ACC Championships, while earning All-ACC and All-American honors both times.

Before C.J. Spiller took home the ACC’s top honor in 2009 as the conference Player of the Year, Michael Dean, who had 28 sacks and 61 tackles for loss in his career, was the last Clemson player to earn such an honor – an even more special feat considering he was a defensive tackle.

William Perry was the first of his kind at his position. He finished his Clemson career with 27 sacks and 60 tackles for loss, and as a First-Team All-American. (File photos)

As for William, he finished his career with 60 tackles for loss and 27 sacks, while earning All-American status in 1982, 1983 and 1984. He was a consensus First-Team All-American in 1983 and a first-team selection in 1984. He was the first Clemson player to be named All-American three times in his career.

William (1981-’84) was a member of two ACC Championship teams (1981 and 1982) as well as the 1981 National Championship team. His Clemson teams posted a 37-6-2 record in his four years in Tigertown.

The Perry Brothers only played together one season, but they both changed their respective positions that it’s hard to say one is better than the other. William Perry, who weighed more than 300 pounds when he came to Clemson, amazed everyone with his speed and athletic ability. He was the first of his kind at middle guard as he proved that a big man can be just as agile and just as quick as a linebacker. Michael Dean played tackle along the Clemson defensive line and like his brother he reinvented the position. He was so quick off the snap, centers never had a chance. He combined to have 19 sacks in his junior and senior seasons.

Honorable mentions:

Rob Bodine (1989-’91): Though he was undersize for his possession at middle guard (6-0, 240) Bodine was one of the best defensive linemen Clemson has ever seen. In 1991, he earned First-Team All-American honors after he recorded 108 tackles and had 27 tackles for a loss. His 27 tackles for loss tied a Clemson record at the time and led the nation. He also had 7.5 sacks. His play was a big reason why Clemson led the nation in run defense at 53.4 yards per game. Bodine finished his career with 246 tackles, 15 sacks and 48 tackles for loss.

Jim Stuckey (1976-’79): Stuckey was the first Clemson defensive tackle to earn All-American honors. He accomplished that in 1979 when he had 106 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. That earned him first team honors on the All-American squad. Stuckey finished his career with 314 tackles in 46 games, including 40 starts. He had 36 tackles for loss and 18 sacks, while forcing three fumbles.

Brentson Buckner (1990-’93): Like the Perry brothers, Buckner could not be blocked. He finished his career with 22 sacks and 46 tackles for loss. His best season came in 1992 when he led the Tigers with 18 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He followed that up with 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 1993.

Carlos Watkins (2012-’16): Watkins overcame a horrific car accident during his sophomore year in 2013 to become one of the best defensive tackles Clemson has ever had. Though he was just a two-year starter he had 191 tackles, 26 tackles for loss and 14 sacks in his 53-game career. He has 24 career games with at least one tackle for loss. Clemson was 22-2 in those games. In 2016, Watkins was a First-team All-American by CBS Sports and was a Second-Team All-American by the Associated Press. He was also a First-Team All-ACC selection. Watkins was named to ESPN’s All-Bowl Team and shared Tiger Pride Defensive Team MVP honors with Ben Boulware and Jadar Johnson. He was one of six permanent team captains. While leading Clemson to the national championship he had 82 tackles, 13.5 for loss and 10.5 sacks in 15 games. He also added 13 quarterback pressures and four pass breakups as well. His sack total was the highest by a Clemson defensive tackle in history, breaking the mark of 10 held by Jim Stuckey, William Perry and Michael Dean Perry. In 2015, he recorded 69 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks while earning First-Team All-ACC honors.


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