As good as they want to be
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney cannot wait to see what his defense can do this year.
When Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant decided to return for another season, it meant his team had eight starters back from a unit that led the ACC in every major category in 2017.
But, their returns mean more than just experience. Not only does the talent Wilkins, Ferrell and Bryant bring back to the table is big, but so is their motivation. They all came back because the NFL told them it was in their best interest to do so. So, therein lays the motivation.
“When you have guys that can leave and they decide to come back, they don’t come back to kind of coast,” Swinney said. “They come back with something to prove. To kind of put a statement or an exclamation point on their career. I think we have a bunch of guys on that side (of the ball).”
It’s hard to imagine guys like Wilkins, Ferrell and Bryant having something to prove. They have all already had excellent careers at Clemson. They have been a part of a team that won a national championship, they have all reached All-American status and they have all put up big numbers.
“We are just ready to go out there and play and perform because that is what it is all about,” Ferrell said. “I mean, people just keep asking us how good we can be. I don’t know. We’re very talented, but I hope I get asked this question at the end of the season. That would be a better time to answer it.”
And that goes back to Swinney’s point. The motivation to be the best lies within all of them, which means they are likely to play with more of a sense of purpose than they have the last two seasons.
With Dexter Lawrence making up the fourth All-American on the defensive line and Albert Huggins coming along and developing into an All-ACC caliber player, while guys like All-ACC linebacker Kendall Joseph and Tre Lamar lead the linebacking corps, Clemson’s defense has the potential to be one of the best in school history.
“We have a couple of juniors that may have an opportunity to test the waters this year,” Swinney said. “Now, that is not what it is about, but they are all eager to perform at a high level. They all understand that they need the guy next to them. There is a lot of connectivity on that defense.”
And Swinney cannot wait to see how good they can be as a collective group.
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