CLEMSON — Clemson has every reason to expect big benefits from Vic Beasley’s decision to return to Death Valley for his senior season.
Having Beasley back next year also changes the dynamics of what should be one of the nation’s best and deepest groups of defensive ends.
Of the Tigers’ top five defensive end returnees for next season, three will be seniors — Beasley, Corey Crawford and Tavaris Barnes. Rising sophomore Shaq Lawson is part of the regular returning rotation, while Martin Aiken got his feet wet as a redshirt freshman.
Rejoining the competition this spring will be sophomore Kevin Dodd, who redshirted this season because of injury after playing as a first-year freshman, and redshirt freshmen Ebenezer Ogundeko and Dane Rogers. First-semester freshman Chris Register was signed as a linebacker, but has the size (6-4, 235) to compete at defensive end, as well.
With no immediate need for additional defensive ends, the coaching staff limited its 2013 recruiting efforts to a handful of prospects. So far they’ve come up empty-handed, with Ricky Leonard of Middletown, Md., and Lorenzo Featherston of Greensboro, N.C., choosing Florida State in head-to-head battles with the Tigers.
Also landing elsewhere were Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama), Kentavius Street (N.C. State), Jalyn Holmes (Ohio State), Jesse Aniebonam (Maryland) and Cory Thomas (Tennessee).
One of the few remaining uncommitted prospects on the Tigers’ list for 2014 is a defensive end — four-star Andrew Williams of McDonough, Ga., whose long courtship with Clemson has included efforts by Deshaun Watson, Demarre Kitt and Milan Richard to persuade him to join them in the Upstate.
Auburn is considered to be the Tigers’ top competition for Williams. He plans to visit Auburn this weekend, Mississippi on Jan. 24, and Clemson on Jan. 31. He might make a mid-week visit to South Carolina.
Whether or not Clemson picks up Williams as a late addition to its 2014 class, the 2015 recruiting cycle looms large for the Tigers as they assemble their next wave of defensive ends.