Tigers’ defensive tackle is healthy for the first time since his freshman year
As much talk Clemson has received with the return of Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant on its defensive front, very little has been mentioned about Dexter Lawrence.
Maybe that is due to the fact few people knew about the injuries that nagged him all season in 2017 and limited his production. Despite his limitations, the 6-foot-5, 340-pound defensive tackle still earned Second-Team All-American status and was a First-Team All-ACC selection as well.
However, what many people don’t know, especially the national media, is that Lawrence played at less than 100 percent all season. He started the season with his toe, which never truly healed all the way after having off-season surgery.
Later in the year, he injured his ankle, which held him out of two games and bothered him the rest of the season.
“It is really crazy he played last year,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “He was never really hundred percent going into the season coming off surgery and was just kind of getting his strength back in his ankle and all of his flexibility back. But, that is how talented he is. He was still really, really good, but then he gets rolled up two games in a row … I think it was Georgia Tech and maybe NC State, which really limited him.”
Though his numbers still looked good compared to other defensive tackles, Lawrence’s numbers were way down from his freshman season. He recorded 39 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and 5 quarterback pressure in 2017, down from the 79 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks and 23 quarterback pressures in 2016.
“He really played well at times, but not fully capable of what he has been doing and it has been really fun to see him and how he is moving,” Swinney said.
Swinney said Lawrence now looks great. He says he will be hundred percent when the Tigers take the field Friday for the start of fall camp.
Lawrence appears to have his confidence, his strength and his flexibility back.
“He can pick them up, put them down and change direction and he is strong,” Swinney said. “His confidence is through the roof. You know how it is when you can go, but you are just not quite hundred percent? There is nothing like really feeling at full speed and that is where he is.”
In the spring, Clemson intentionally held Lawrence back so he could let his injuries completely heal.
“We had a great approach as far as how we handled him this spring,” Swinney said. “We kept him out of all the live stuff and got in all the position work and stuff, but we did not scrimmage him. I think that really helped him. He just needed some time (to rest) and just continue through the strengthening process.”
And now the Tigers have a healthy Dexter Lawrence back to go with Wilkins, Ferrell and Bryant.
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