The stories of Dexter Lawrence coming out of camp in the summer of 2016 seemed like that of legend. There were tales of heroic feats. Things and plays that have never been done before by a 340-pound defensive tackle were being made.
It all seemed like a fairytale until we all saw Lawrence with our own eyes in Clemson’s season-opening win at Auburn. He totaled 10 tackles that night on the Plains in Alabama, including a sack and broke up a pass. He also played on offense as the lead blocker on a Wayne Gallman touchdown run.
For Clemson fans, it was like the second coming of William Perry.
No defensive tackle had been as heralded since Perry’s days from 1981-’84. Lawrence finished his freshman campaign with a freshman-record seven sacks, while also producing 9.5 tackles for loss and 23 quarterback pressures.
The All-ACC defensive tackle and Freshman All-American was unblockable and played a big role on why the Tigers won their first national championship since 1981. Coincidently, 1981 was Perry’s freshman year.
After having such a dominant freshman year, expectations were high for Lawrence in 2017. However, he never quite lived up to the expectations.
He was still a First-Team All-ACC performer, but an injury to his toe that spring hampered him for much of the season, which was then followed by an ankle injury suffered in Week 9 vs. Georgia Tech. He missed the following two games and came back and finished out the season with good outings against South Carolina, Miami and Alabama.
But the season was not what Lawrence and everyone else expected. He tallied just 39 tackles, 40 less that he had as a freshman. He had just three tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks and only five quarterback pressures.
In the spring, Lawrence only performed in individual drills as the trainers had him sit out contact drills so he could get his ankle 100 percent healthy.
As the start of fall camp moves closer, and with the new season just two months away, Lawrence is ready to leave a new mark on the Clemson football program and he hopes to be as dominate as he was when he was a freshman.
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!