Clemson’s defense is going to be even scarier in 2018.
Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins said Monday he’s returning for his senior season in 2018. Wilkins is staying at Clemson along with defensive end Clelin Ferrell, defensive end Austin Bryant, linebacker Kendall Joseph and cornerback Mark Fields.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said over the weekend that the latter four players were returning in 2018.
Wilkins has been an impact player in each of his three seasons on campus. He had 84 tackles as a freshman in 2015 and had 56 tackles and 13 tackles for loss a year ago. In 2017, he had 47 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
Ferrell, a redshirt sophomore, had 61 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks in 2017. He had six sacks in 2016 as Clemson won the national title.
Bryant had 54 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 2017. Joseph was the team’s second-leading tackler behind senior Dorian O’Daniel. Joseph had 80 tackles this season. Fields had 20 tackles in six games. He missed over half of the season with a foot injury.
The decision by the players to come back for another season means Clemson’s defense returns eight starters in 2018 and its entire defensive line when you include sophomore Dexter Lawrence. That’s got to be frightening for other ACC teams. Clemson had 46 sacks in 14 games in 2017 and Wilkins, Lawrence and Ferrell were first-team All-ACC selections. Bryant was on the second team while Joseph made the third team.
Offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt is also returning for his senior season. Hyatt announced his decision late last week. Like Wilkins, Hyatt played a key role as a freshman as Clemson went to the National Championship Game.
While many defenders are returning, wide receiver Deon Cain said Monday he was heading to the NFL. Cain had 52 catches for 659 yards and six scores in 2017.
"Going to miss running down The Hill on those rocking Saturday night games. Best fans in nation, thank y'all for your support…"
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) January 15, 2018
Wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud had previously declared for the draft.
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