DALLAS — Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney broke the story of the week on Monday, when he announced that All-American Dexter Lawrence, freshman Braeden Galloway and offensive lineman Zack Giella tested positive for a banned substance, Ostarine, in a mandatory NCAA drug test.
The news came ahead of the second-ranked Tigers’ matchup with undefeated No. 3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl Classic for the College Football Playoff Semifinal. It took the focus off of the game itself, shifting it to how the team would respond to the possibility of losing Lawrence on the defensive line and how it will impact the team.
Entering the game, the narrative of the defensive front four, or Power Rangers, returning for vengeance after last year’s 24-6 loss to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl clouded the coverage but not anymore.
The “Power Rangers” are perhaps the closest unit on Clemson’s team and part of the reason they all returned is their closeness off the field. Defensive end Christian Wilkins has been best friends with Lawrence since he walked on campus for the first time.
Wilkins was one of the first people to hear the news after Lawrence was told of his potential suspension in Swinney’s office last Thursday. At first, Wilkins thought it was a joke but as he discovered the pending reality it hurt the 6-foot-4, 315-pound defensive tackle.
“It hurts a little bit because that’s my best friend and my brother, he plays right next to me,” Wilkins said. “I’m excited for an opportunity for other guys.”
There is still little clarity in the situation, Clemson Athletic Communications Director for Football Ross Taylor said they will update the media as they are updated. Clemson is still awaiting the B-sample test results, which are expected to arrive in the next couple of days.
Despite the difficult circumstances and the fact his future is up in the air, Wilkins reported that Lawrence is staying positive and hopeful.
“It’s obviously a tough situation, but Dex is dealing with it pretty well,” Wilkins said. “We are trying to keep him in good spirits and are hoping for the best.”
Wilkins is also excited for some younger guys, like Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry, an opportunity to shine on the biggest stage. It also potentially makes way for senior Albert Huggins to play a pivotal roll in the biggest game to this point.
In the waiting period Lawrence is doing all he can without participating in any drills or getting reps to comply with the NCAA’s current ruling. However, Wilkins knows he means more to the team than just his contributions on the field.
“It’s great that Dex is still here with us,” he said. “His impact is greater than just on the field.
“He is respected and a leader, so he is going to be able to help out and be another coach essentially. He sees things we don’t see and will be able to help us, he is a leader.”
Clemson participates in Cotton Bowl Media Day Thursday and the team is still waiting to see whether or not Lawrence can participate.