Saturday night there was one name missing when Coach Swinney announced who among the defensive line would be returning, Christian Wilkins. On Monday Wilkins ended speculation about his future by announcing that he would return to Clemson for his senior season. It is a coup that sees Clemson’s entire DL from 2017 return for 2018.
That Wilkins was even considering staying for his senior season was a surprise. When Wilkins arrived at Clemson QT said we should only expect to see Wilkins at Clemson for 3 years. And even heading into the start of the 2017 season it seemed like Wilkins was certainly going to the NFL after the year ended.
Why the difficult decision? Well it is no surprise that a lot of these guys on the DL are very close. Everyone has seen things like the Power Rangers costumes, the swag surfin’ against Georgia Tech, and the general enjoyment these guys have at being at Clemson. Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell’s interest in staying had to have a hand in getting Wilkins to reconsider heading to the NFL.
In terms of football, the NFL Draft Advisory Committee also played a part. As hard as it is to believe, David Hood mentioned that no one, even Wilkins, received a first round grade for the 2018 Draft. That uncertainty likely played a part in Wilkins’ decision.
With this decision Clemson’s scholarship numbers for 2018 remain tight. Going into the decision Clemson had 15 commits for the class of 2018 with 9 players classified as seniors, 5 players leaving early or transferring, and 2 walk on scholarships given to younger players. That gave them room for 1 player. The problem with that is Clemson’s desire to sign Justyn Ross, the WR from Alabama, and an OL prospect in Richard Gouraige. Clemson will need at least one player to transfer if not more to get under the 85 player limit come August.
As for the 2018 season, Clemson absolutely has the best defensive line in the country. And that is without adding guys like Xavier Thomas, KJ Henry, Josh Belk, and Justin Mascoll. It’s going to be fun.