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Clemson Football Season Preview: Defensive Line

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Clemson's DL looks to be a strength of the 2014 team

Streeter Lecka

Defensive Ends: Clemson is bringing back a stable full of talented DE's. So much that it's a shame that we can only play 2 at a time. Clemson's pass rush game will be nasty. I'm looking forward to seeing some third and longs where our guys just pin their ears back and come full on at the QB. I want to see our guys play disciplined and keep the contain as well. Against Sakerlina, our guys did a good job on keeping Mike Davis contained, but Connor Shaw was able to evade the pocket and hurt us with big plays. Our play against mobile QB's used to be abysmal, but under Venerables, it has drastically improved. Hopefully we see even more improvement against Jameis Winston in week 3. Our key ends are:

Vic Beasley #3, Senior, Adairsville, Ga, 6-3 235: Arguably the best defensive end in college football this year. "The Beast" racked up 12 sacks in 14 games last year. His fumble recovery in the second half of the Boston College game turned the tide to keep the Tigers undefeated and in the top 10. Compared to the likes of Da'Quan Bowers and the late Gaines Adams, Vic is a little undersized, but has combated that with his speed and athleticism. Beasley turned down NFL money for one more year in Tiger Town, and should be rewarded by being a first round pick in next year's draft. Despite switching positions multiple times before his sophomore year and being under the radar before his Junior year, Vic has found his home at end and proved the doubters wrong countless times. Personally, I love watching a fellow Northwest Georgia boy succeed, but even more when it is a stand up guy like Vic.

Corey Crawford, #93, Senior, Columbus, GA, 6-5 275: When you wear #93 as an end at Clemson, you better be good. The number was made famous by the late Gaines Adams, a unanimous All-American in '06 and the fourth overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2007, and Daquan Bowers, also an All-American and the thirty-third overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011, has earned a special spot in Clemson lore. Crawford has been a solid contributor to Clemson throughout his career. Another Georgia boy at end, he racked up 3 sacks in 2013. His first half interception of Aaron Murray in the opener vs UGA stopped a potential scoring drive for the Dawgs. Unfortunately, Crawford will be suspended for the UGA game for violation of team rules, so we will have to wait for week 2 to see him play.

Tavaris Barnes, #9, Senior (RS), Jacksonville, FL, 6-3 275: A player that I have been looking at to contribute for years will get his time in the spotlight between the hedges. Barnes will get the nod at End with Crawford suspended, so consider this his audition for whether he should be a full time starter or not. He is listed as a co-starter with Crawford on the depth chart, so the former defensive tackle has already given the coaches a lot to like. The big man sacked Aaron Murray in the opener. and racked up 9 tackles for the year. He certainly has the size and the ability, and is definitely intimidating enough to play the position, so I look for him to be a huge contributor in his last season in the Orange & Purple.

Shaq Lawson, #90, Sophomore, Central, SC, 6-3 275: Lawson was a beast as a Freshman last season. Recording 30 tackles in his first season, Lawson looks to push for a starting position. The local kid also intrigued me by busting out Andre Branch's old "handcuffed" sack celebration against NC State last year. Hopefully we'll see Shaq on the field standing over QB's with his hands behind his back a lot this year.

Defensive Tackle: The Ends aren't the only ones making noise. The big dudes in the middle will also be making plays this year.

Grady Jarrett, #50, Senior, Conyers, GA, 6-0 290: The All-ACC DT returns for one more year in Tiger Town and should continue to dominate. The son of former Falcons Star Jessie Tuggle and "nephew" of former Ravens star Ray Lewis impressively recorded 57 tackles last season, including an impressive 8 tackle game against Syracuse. Another Georgia native, Jarrett has commented on how the Bulldogs did not recruit him out of high school. He will definitely have a chip on his shoulder as he goes into Athens, looking to repeat or improve on his 6 tackle performance vs the Dawgs last year. Despite being a little smaller than opposing offensive linemen, Jarrett has emerged as a force in the middle.

Josh Watson, #91, Graduate (RS), Wilmington, DE, 6-4 290: Watson continues to break through for the Tigers. He had a huge game against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, recording 5 tackles. This year, he is one of three co-starters at defensive tackle, so he will need to continue to fight to be a contributor on a team with a deep pool of talent.

Deshawn Williams, #91, Senior, Central, SC, 6-1 295: Another local boy, and another upper class man who is poised to wreak havoc in 2014. The big man had a solid season last year, and can separate himself from the pack early on with a big game against UGA. Similar to Grady Jarrett, he is a little shorter than other lineman, but his weight is up there with anyone.

D.J. Reader, #48, Junior, Greensboro, NC, 6-2 325: The third co-starter for this DT position is the youngest of the three. Reader was also a pitcher on the baseball team during the 2013 season, so he is a very versatile athlete. He played well at DT last year, and also saw some time at fullback. The biggest of the DT's has proven to be as athletic as anyone on the line. He led the team in QB pressures vs GT last season with 3. The athleticism of Reader lends itself to legendary Clemson nose guard William "The Refrigerator" Perry, who could dunk a basketball at over 300 pounds.