COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Rece Davis isn’t ready to crown Clemson’s defensive line as the best there has ever been in college football — at least, not yet.
However, the ESPN anchor and College GameDay show host says the Tigers’ starting front four takes the cake as the best in college football right now, and stakes its claim as perhaps the best college football has ever seen.
“I would hesitate to say ever because there have been some great ones,” Davis said to the media in College Station on Friday afternoon. “Pittsburgh once had Rickey Jackson and Hugh Green on the same defensive front. There have been some great ones. Florida State has had some great ones, Alabama has, but these dudes don’t take a backseat to many, and they’ve got versatile guys.
“So, it’s the best defensive line in the country right now for sure, and I think they stake their claim … they’re in the argument if you start assessing the great defensive lines in college football history. They have staked their claim to be in the discussion, at the very least.”
Three of the four members of Clemson’s starting defensive front — Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins — are all projected first-round picks according to the latest 2019 NFL Mock Draft released by CBS Sports on Friday.
While Austin Bryant was not pegged as a first-round pick in that particular mock draft, Davis would bet that Bryant, too, will be a first-round selection when the 2019 NFL draft rolls around next April.
“(David) Pollack and I have a friendly little agreement… I think all four of them are going in the first round,” Davis said. “I know that some would say maybe Austin Bryant is going to be right on the edge of that. But I think they’re special.”
Clemson’s defensive line is the first in NCAA history to have four returning players who have been a first- or second-team All-American previously in Ferrell, Wilkins, Lawrence and Bryant.
But what makes the unit even more special in Davis’ opinion is that “they are all really good dudes” as well.
“I know we say that a lot,” he said. “But I had a chance this week to have dinner at Clemson’s facility, Kirk (Herbstreit) and I did. We spent a little time with Clelin Ferrell, who I always enjoy talking to. Everybody knows about Christian being a kindergarten teacher and making 80 bucks a day or whatever. It was family night at Clemson with all of the coaches’ wives and all their kids and everybody in there having dinner at the football facility with them.
“So, I’m sitting there with Dabo (Swinney), Woody McCorvey and some of these guys and I look over in the game room and all of the kids are in the game room. Well you know who is in there letting all the kids climb on him and picking them up? It was Christian Wilkins. … They’re just a lot of really neat guys in addition to being tremendous football players.”
Davis and the ESPN College GameDay crew are on location in College Station for second-ranked Clemson’s game against Texas A&M, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday at Kyle Field.