There are many reasons why Clemson is so good on its defensive line. The number one reason is the talent.
For the first time in the history of college football, a team returns three First-Team All-Americans—Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant—across the front line. The fourth guy, nose tackle Dexter Lawrence, is an All-American candidate and possible top 10 pick in next year’s NFL Draft. If fact, there is a chance all four could be picked in the first round of the draft next April.
But talent is not the only reason why the Tigers are so good up front. The other is how unselfish they are. They play for each other. They play for their teammates. They play for Clemson.
“It is not just about individuality,” Ferrell said. “It’s not Dexter, Clelin, Christian and Austin out there. It’s the Power Rangers. It’s a group effort.
“The reason we have the success that we have is because we play together. It’s a group effort. We aren’t trying to make plays for ourselves, but rather see each other have success.”
Playing for each other has allowed Clemson to terrorize opposing offenses the last two seasons.
“That was going to be one benefit when we all made the decision to come back,” Ferrell said. “It’s even sweeter because we are very close. And to have all of us come back and now just to be in the Valley, that’s a good feeling.”
The Tigers have been among the nation’s best in terms of sacks, quarterback pressures and tackles for loss. It’s was that way before Ferrell, Wilkins, Bryant and Lawrence got to Clemson and they want it to stay that way long after they leave.
“We want to be known not just for being great players, but some of the great leaders, great program builders to this university,” Ferrell said. “We enjoy the aspect of not only seeing our names in the rankings as far as statistics, but when you come back and the Xavier Thomas’s and the Xavier Kelly’s and the K.J. Henry’s you want to hear them say, ‘Clelin Ferrell or Christian Wilkins or Austin Bryant or Dexter Lawrence, those guys were my leaders and they taught me what I know today.’ That’s the biggest thing.”
Ferrell, Wilkins and Bryant decided to return to school for one more season so they could play for each other one more year and to leave their legacy, but more importantly, they came back to win another national championship.
“That’s another reason why you go out there and try to win,” Ferrell said. “You are playing with your guys and fighting with them. For some of them this might be the last time you play with them.”
Hot off the press. ‘Back with a Vengeance’ is now available for online orders. TCI takes an in-depth look at the upcoming season as the Tigers march towards another national championship. Order your copy today!