When he was a freshman, no one could stop Dexter Lawrence. The Clemson defensive tackle played a big role in the Tigers’ run to the national championship that year.
At 6-foot-5, 340 pounds, Lawrence became Clemson’s most hyped defensive tackle since William Perry’s freshman year in 1981, coincidently the only other year the Tigers won a national championship on the gridiron.
Like Perry, Lawrence’s athleticism and speed shined at the point of attack and his strength made double teaming him almost impossible. He finished his freshman season with 79 tackles, including 9.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks, while playing in all 15 games and starting 11.
Expectations were high for Lawrence in 2017, but a foot injury last spring nagged at him all season long.
“I was never one hundred percent, ever,” Lawrence told the media on Monday.
Though Lawrence was better than most that play his position in college football, he still did not have the same production as a sophomore as he did in his freshman season. Of course, his injured foot played a big role.
He missed two games in 2017, while playing 205 less snaps. The former Freshman All-American had just 39 tackles, three tackles behind the line of scrimmage and 2.5 of those were sacks.
Despite the decline in his numbers, Lawrence was still good enough to earn All-ACC First Team honors. However, he knows he can do more.
“That is kind of my goal right now is just to get all the way back,” he said.
Lawrence missed the Florida State and The Citadel games after injuring his foot more severely in the Tigers’ win over Georgia Tech. There was some thought out there that Tech intentionally went after Lawrence’s foot to get him out of the game.
The big defensive tackle said he was not sure if that was true or not or if any team was trying to take him out.
“I don’t know. I didn’t know their game plan,” he said. “I just kind of worried about myself and made sure I was in position to make the plays I needed to make. I can’t tell you what they were trying to do, honestly.”
Lawrence is sort of taking this spring off, sort of. In hopes of completing healing his foot, he is practicing in a green jersey which means he cannot participate in any competitive drills like scrimmages, good-on-good or Paw Drills. However, he can participate in all the individual drills.
“If I had to, I could (participate in competitive drills), but I’m just rehabbing and trying to be hundred percent, but I’m not limited too much,” he said.
The rising junior admits is has been tough not being able to hit people in practice, but he knows he can’t right now if he wants to reach his goal of being 100 percent healthy by the time fall camp starts in August.
“I love hitting people,” he said. “That is just how you have to go sometimes. You have to take care of your body sometimes. You only get one so you have to make the right decisions for yourself sometimes.”
In the meantime, Lawrence is just going to be another coach on the sideline for some of the young players like redshirt freshman Jordan Williams and true freshmen Darnell Jefferies and Josh Belk.
“I’m just hyping them up and coaching the young guys up,” he said. “I making sure they are getting every play and every mental rep. I’m letting them know how looking at what you are supposed to do it is better than just doing it. I’m just mentoring them pretty much.”