All everyone talks about, and deservedly so, is how great Clemson’s defensive line will be in 2018.
As everyone knows, the Tigers return three All-Americans in defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and defensive ends Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell. The fourth guy, defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, could arguably be the first player taken in next year’s NFL Draft.
Clemson will be good up front this year, there is no doubt. But how good will it be after those four journey into the NFL next spring?
Wilkins says there is no need to worry. They will be just fine.
Clemson’s senior leader says he has been impressed with what he has seen so far from guys like Xavier Thomas, K.J. Henry, Josh Belk and Darnell Jefferies. All four freshmen enrolled in school early so they could participate in spring drills.
“I’m very happy with the way these young guys have come in and performed,” Wilkins said. “It is such a tough thing as a young freshman and you hear you are all this and all that. You were all-World, 5-star coming out of high school. You were told you were all-World and coming in you have so many veterans in front of you and guys in front of you that you have to learn from.”
Wilkins said he has been impressed with their approach to practice and how hard they work every day.
“They really want to learn from us,” he said. “They have a great mindset. They really want to work every day.”
By enrolling early in school, all four freshmen were able to get some experience this spring that will set them up for success this coming season and later in their careers.
“All of those guys got some great experience,” Wilkins said. “I know it is fun to see guys like K.J. get a sack. He has a lot of personality and he fits right in with us on the defensive line. It is just fun to see him have some fun with us out there.
“Xavier Thomas … Those guys are impressive. They are good. They’re fun guys and they are active.”
Wilkins says he is encouraged by the play of Belk and Jefferies on the inside of the defensive line.
“The two guys inside, I got the opportunity to play with Darnell a little bit. He is going to come along and he is going to be good for years to come,” he said. “The same thing for Josh, he is just a man-child. It is just encouraging to see what he can do and what all of those guys can do. It is just impressive.”