Here’s a scary thought for every Clemson opponent: That defensive line you have to face, the one already regarded as the best in college football, is going to be even better than you anticipated.
That’s because defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence revealed Tuesday he competed the entire 2017 season at “probably 45-50 percent.”
Lawrence said a nerve block robbed him of full use of his lower body, essentially playing the entire 2017 season without the use of his toes.
“I had got a nerve block during surgery, and it had irritated some of my nerves in my leg and my foot. It took a while to come back,” Lawrence told The State. “I never dealt with nothing that serious. I always had, like, rolled up ankle or hands, but nothing ever that serious. I just had all the guys, every guy on the team was on my side, pushing me through it, making me go to rehab, keeping me accountable, things like that.”
Despite that, Lawrence was still a First Team All-ACC performer as a sophomore, collecting 39 tackles, 2.5 sacks, three TFLs, five pressures, one pass breakup and one forced fumble over 12 games.
Lawrence said he started feeling 100 percent in July and is now competing with an extra pep in his step — literally.
“The thing is letting him know how good he is. He’s still good enough to dominate the guys,” fellow defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “He just seemed like he was down mentally; physically, obviously, is one thing, but if you’re not over the mental hump — that’s the hardest part to get over. So really just being there for him. He always feels like I’m a guy he can lean on and talk to about anything, so just being there for him, talking him through some stuff — being a big brother for him.”
Clemson memorably occupied the entire defensive line on the preseason All-ACC First Team, and now we know the combination of Lawrence and Wilkins on the inside with Austin Bryant and Clelin Ferrell on the outside should be even more fearsome than we thought it would be.