After the conclusion of the 2017 college football season, a trio of Clemson defensive linemen will have to make decisions on their NFL futures.
Junior tackle Christian Wilkins, junior end Austin Bryant and redshirt sophomore end Clelin Ferrell will all be eligible to declare early for the 2018 NFL draft, and all three have been projected as first-round picks in various mock drafts.
This time of year, it can be easy for top NFL prospects to get distracted by such decisions, lose focus on finishing out their college careers and become too concerned with their draft stock.
However, Ferrell says that isn’t the case for him, Wilkins or Bryant. When asked if they have discussed the draft at all and whether they will move on to the NFL or return to Clemson next season, Ferrell said that isn’t something they are concerned about at this time.
“We don’t think about that,” Ferrell said on Tuesday. “It’s not something that we’re really focused on. It’s not fair to ourselves, our team or anybody to think about that right now.”
There is of course a real possibility that Ferrell, Wilkins and Bryant will only suit up together for the Tigers in two or three more games. But instead of looking at it that way, Ferrell said the Tigers are simply focused on the task at hand with so much still left on the table this season.
Clemson has accomplished three of its five team goals for the season thus far after winning the opener, winning the division and winning the state championship. The Tigers can cross off the fourth goal — win the ACC — in this Saturday’s ACC Championship Game against Miami.
Ferrell said accomplishing the next goal is all that is on their mind right now.
“It’s really just focused on playing the next game for Clemson because we’re all in,” he said. “We’re so dialed in on this team and this process of accomplishing our goals, we don’t really have time to think about that (NFL) stuff.”
Ferrell, Wilkins and Bryant obviously aren’t oblivious to the NFL chatter from experts and pundits, and Ferrell admitted he feels it is an honor to be in that conversation.
But Ferrell said he isn’t ready to start that conversation himself right now.
“Obviously you hear the talk, and it’s good that you have that talk because you know that you have guys who are good guys and can potentially be really, really good players,” Ferrell said. “That’s what you want at a program, but it’s not something that you should really focus on because it’s not what’s going to make you happy at the end of the day.”
Ferrell, Wilkins and Bryant have combined for 151 tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, 20 sacks and 30 quarterback hurries in 12 games this season.
Ferrell and Wilkins were among the six Clemson players named first-team All-ACC on Monday, while Bryant was named second-team all-conference.