|by David Hood|
Junior defensive Vic Beasley made it official Wednesday evening, announcing that he would return to Clemson for his senior season, meaning the Tigers will return all four starters from a defensive line that dominated Ohio St. earlier this month in the Orange Bowl.
Beasley led the ACC in sacks with 13 and finished second in tackles for loss with 23. His sack figure on a per game basis was third best in the nation and his tackle for loss figure on a per game basis ranked second. He led the nation in tackles for loss per game against teams that finished the season with a winning record (19 in eight games). He was also 10th in the nation in caused fumbles with four.
Beasley was projected as a possible first round draft pick and speculation earlier this month centered on an early entrance into the NFL; however, his return makes an already strong defensive line even stronger and he might become the face of the program, taking over for Tajh Boyd.
Joining Beasley is defensive tackle Grady Jarrett – one of the league’s best – who was Clemson’s third leading tackler with 83 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and two sacks; defensive end Corey Crawford, who had 52 tackles, 10 ½ tackles for loss and three sacks; defensive tackle Josh Watson, who had 47 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack; defensive tackle D.J. Reader, who had 43 tackles, five tackles for loss and three sacks; and future star and defensive end Shaq Lawson, who had 35 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Add in talented backups in Carlos Watkins, Kevin Dodd, Roderick Byers and freshmen like Ebenezer Ogundeko, Dane Rogers and Scott Pagano, and the competition will be fierce along the defensive front during spring practice, and that collection of talent will undoubtedly give opposing offensive coordinators nightmares next season.
The defense will be breaking in two new linebackers and there will be several newcomers in the secondary, so the strength of the defensive line will be key early next season while the newcomers find their way.
Beasley was outstanding against the Buckeyes in the Orange Bowl, with four tackles for loss and a sack. It was the most tackles for loss in a bowl game for a Clemson player and tied for the third-most tackles for loss in any BCS Bowl game dating to 1999.
The 2013 season was Beasley’s first as a starter. He played just 304 snaps over his first two years. He had eight sacks as a backup in 2012, and has 21 career sacks and needs just eight in 2014 to break the school record of 28 held by Michael Dean Perry and Gaines Adams.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Beasley and his teammates along the defensive front will be living up to the hype – other players at his position have struggled to live up to the hype machine – but Beasley responded this season and seems driven to be the best and turn himself into a certain first-round pick next spring.
The good news for Beasley is that he won’t be a one-man show, and will have plenty of help. The Beastly Boys are back.
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org