Back Clemson’s Front One for the Ages

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Clemson’s Front One for the Ages

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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In returning all four starters from the game's best unit, the Tigers, quite literally, are poised to have one of the premier fronts in college football history.

Over the last five  years, Clemson ranked number one in college football in tackles for loss from 2013-2016 and finished 6th in the nation this past season. The Tigers have compiled 619 such stops in that span. Clemson's trend of winning at the line of scrimmage defensively won't be ending anytime soon. In returning all four starters from the game's best unit, the Tigers, quite literally, are poised to have one of the premier fronts in college football history.    

In end Clelin Ferrell and tackles Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, Clemson brings back a trio of All-American linemen and, another, end Austin Bryant, who was All-ACC. From the outside-looking-in at least, having this same starting four for another season was quite unexpected; this amount of returning talent may truly be unparalleled. Bryant, Ferrell and Wilkins all turned down the NFL despite likely being first round selections and Lawrence, just a rising true junior, is considered a top prospect for 2019.

Remarkable, but, at the same time, not surprising, there is early speculation that all four of the aforementioned could go in the top half of the first round next spring.

Simply put, the game hasn't had many tackle tandems like Wilkins and Lawrence, ever. A truly dynamic, versatile talent who can play inside or out, Wilkins has 26 career tackles for loss and 14 career pass deflections, having also converted a fake punt run, blocked a kick and caught a touchdown pass during his career. Lawrence, at 6'4'', 340 pounds, overwhelms most blockers at the point of attack. Ferrell and Bryant combined for 18 sacks, 33.5 tackles for loss, 15 hurries and four forced fumbles a year ago. 

Teaming with other returnees like Albert Huggins, five-star edge rushers Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry will bring even more talent to Clemson, giving Brent Venables, the best defensive coordinator in college football, depth beyond compare. The Tigers will not only have a first-team fit with four future first round picks, but reserves who would undoubtedly be day one starters at other power programs.

Consistently-dominant defensive line play has become the foundation for both what Clemson does and where Clemson is. This fall, the Tigers are poised to have their best unit yet and, potentially, one of the greatest groups college football has ever seen.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports