As predicted by many, Clemson's defensive line was the rock of the defense. While the entire defense contributed to Clemson's #1 defensive ranking and 10-3 record, this defensive line was possibly one of the best in Clemson history. The star of the defense was Defensive End Vic Beasley. He broke the Clemson career sack record owned by William Perry and the late Gaines Adams with 33 sacks in his four years in Tiger Town. Beasley led the team with 11 sacks this year. The second most sacks on the team was 4 by Tony Steward and Shaq Lawson. Lawson, while playing a backup role, was also a big player in 2014. In addition to his 4 sacks, Lawson racked up 32 tackles in 2014. He will be the key returning lineman for a unit that is losing a lot of guys to graduation. After missing the first game of the year with suspension, Corey Crawford stepped up and was a solid compliment to Vic Beasley at the other end position. Behind him, fellow senior Tavaris Barnes had a solid enough year to earn himself an invite to the NFL combine. Barnes was a guy I was big on to begin the year, and he was a great contributor for the Tigers. I feel like Barnes is a guy that could've been a starter at another school but fell victim to less playing time at Clemson because of the incredible amount of NFL talent at defensive end. Barnes will be joined at the combine by Beasley, Crawford, and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who was an absolute force for the Tigers in the middle. Clemson will also miss the play of defensive tackle Deshawn Williams. Williams had 22 tackles and 3 sacks, and also helped force the fourth down incomplete pass to give Clemson the win vs Louisville.
So, with all of this talent graduating, where does this put Clemson's DL for 2015? While having to replace this much talent at one unit is a tall task, the slogan "We Too Deep" rings true in this case. I'm not saying that Clemson has another Vic Beasley waiting to step in and take off, but the guys we are bringing back are extremely talented. At one defensive end, we're bringing back Shaq Lawson, who as mentioned before, is a beast. This will be his junior year, so the spotlight is finally on him. Clemson fans know about his pass rushing talents, but expect him to be a nationally known name in 2015. At tackle, our experience is coming from D.J. Reader. At 6-2, 325 pounds, Reader has the potential for a breakout year. He's very athletic for his size, and racked up 16 tackles and 2 sacks last year despite being lower in the depth chart.
The question will be who else can fill in the void at DT. Scott Pagano is a fan favorite, and if nothing else, passes the eyeball test. The Honolulu, Hawaii native is one scary looking dude. He only saw action in 3 games last year, so we don't have much to base him on except for his physique. He will be one to watch in the spring. Albert Huggins will be another one to watch out for. The four star defensive tackle from Orangeburg is committed to Clemson. Huggins may be playing Defensive End for Clemson. Regardless, he has the ability to be an immediate contributor. Also at end is Ebenezer Ogundeko. He will be a sophomore in the fall. Ebo was a big recruit out of New York in 2013, and like Pagano, has all of the physical qualities that we like to see. So, for 2015, expect a very talented but young defensive line for Clemson.