As the Clemson Tigers reload for 2014 to try and make a run at the ACC title and a spot in the College Football Playoff, there is no doubt that the Tigers’ defensive line will be a major strength this fall. The team returns everyone off a fearsome front in 2013 that should once again wreak havoc in 2014. One of the faces of that line that will see an expended role and make a significant impact for Clemson this fall will be sophomore Shaq Lawson as he emerges as a future leader for the Tigers’ defense.
As a true freshman in 2013, Lawson didn’t record a single start as he toiled behind one of the ACC’s top pass rushers in Vic Beasley. Despite not starting, however, he provided a phenomenal pass rush off the bench as part of their defensive rotation and finished the year with four sacks, 10 tackles for loss, nine quarterback pressures, and a pass breakup. His four sacks tied a Clemson record for a true freshman and his efforts earned him second-team Freshman All-American honors.
This season, he’ll once again be considered a backup as Clemson gets both starting ends in Beasley and Corey Crawford back this season. But that won’t stop Lawson from being an impact player for Clemson in his sophomore season as he has earned more reps in what should be a quicker rotation this season. The Tigers like to throw relentless pressure at opposing quarterbacks and having the fresh legs of Lawson able to come in and not see any significant drop-off in pressure is a huge advantage for Clemson.
Lawson is the future face of the Clemson defense and with much of the defensive line in their final year of eligibility, getting him valuable experience in 2014 will go a long way in maintaining their defensive success in 2015 and beyond. That increase in opportunities should create an opening for Shaq Lawson to break through this season and become a future star of the ACC.