It’s crazy to imagine just how good Clemson’s defense would have been last year had Dexter Lawrence been healthy.
The 6-foot-5, 340-pound defensive tackle was banged up pretty much all season. He started the year with a bad toe, which he injured the previous spring and when it finally got better, he was injured again against Georgia Tech and missed two games because of it.
Even with the big guy hurt, Clemson’s defense ranked second nationally in scoring defense and fourth overall. The Tigers led the ACC in scoring, total, passing and rushing defense … the first time a Clemson defense led the conference in all four major categories.
“I was never one hundred percent, ever,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence finished his freshman season at Clemson 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 he never reached that level of success. Though he 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.
The rising junior 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 that Georgia 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 sort of took the spring off. In hopes of completely healing his foot, he practiced in a green jersey, meaning he did participate in any competitive drills like scrimmages, good-on-good or Paw Drills. However, he did participate in all the individual drills.
“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.”