Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, Clemson’s two monster defensive tackles, don’t have a nickname yet, but one is in the works.
In the meantime, what they do not want to be called is All-Americans, even though both were voted preseason All-Americans earlier this week.
“All of that All-American stuff is a bunch of bull crap right now,” Wilkins said after a practice this past week. “We grinded all summer and practiced as hard as we could, but that’s all on potential. That basically says we had a good sophomore and freshman campaign and now a lot is expected of us… I have no trophy in my hands so that’s all potential.”
It is easy to see why so much is being expected of Lawrence and Wilkins heading into 2017.
Lawrence was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year after last season. He finished fifth on the team in tackles with 79 and broke a Clemson freshman record with seven sacks.
Wilkins was named an All-American after recording 56 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2016. He put up those impressive numbers after moving outside to defensive end because Clemson had more of a need there.
Wilkins is moving back inside to his more natural position this season and is teaming up in the middle with the man he calls his little brother. Despite Lawrence adding muscle and losing weight this offseason, Wilkins still believes he has the edge as a player.
“I come from a big family and I’m the baby so it’s nice to have a lot of younger brothers on the team, but me and Dex are definitely real close,” Wilkins said. “I’ve just got a lot of love for the guy. Just really push each other on the field each and every day. But it’s also that big brother, little brother relationship to where you’re never going to let the little brother beat you. You can kind of see the little brother getting better and better and better, and you’re like, ‘Oh shoot.’ You’re getting scared a little bit, a little nervous, but he’ll still never beat you in anything.”
Lawrence laughed at Wilkins’ description, and while he didn’t say he has passed Wilkins as a player, Lawrence did say that he feels comfortable enough with Wilkins now that he can point out his mistakes and the two can grow together.
“When I first got here, it was more of I’m learning. Now I’m kind of teaching and learning at the same time,” Lawrence said. “He forgets stuff, nobody’s perfect, so I’m there to help him out, and I got his back.”
The two also have each other’s backs off the football field. They eat meals together and take part in other activities.
“I take him to the park, take him to get his haircut. We go play basketball together. I teach him how to talk to girls, things that a big brother would do,” Wilkins said with a smile.
Smiling and laughing is something else Wilkins and Lawrence constantly do away from the football field, but in between the lines, they are two of the toughest defenders to block in college football.
The fact that they are beside each other on the defensive front should be a scary thought for opposing offenses.
“I can power, but I’m a little bit more finesse. I use my speed and my athleticism a little bit more,” Wilkins said. “Dex is a freak though, too. He can really use his athleticism, but why if you can just power through the way he does.”