Clemson All-American defensive end Shaq Lawson is expected to play in the national championship game Monday night against Alabama, but it is unknown how effective the junior will be.
“We expect him to play,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Sunday morning during a joint press conference with Alabama coach Nick Saban. “Hopefully he’ll be able to perform and play to the level that we all know he can, but you know, if not, I don’t think Coach Saban is going to cancel the game over there.”
Lawson leads Clemson in tackles for loss with 23.5 and sacks with 10.5 but sprained his MCL the second series of the Orange Bowl. He has been limited during practice since then and has had a noticeable limp at events in Phoenix.
If Lawson is unable to play, true freshman Austin Bryant would be called upon. He has 21 tackles, including two for loss and 1.5 sacks on the year. He filled in well during the Orange Bowl with four tackles, including half a sack.
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“We’re going to have to keep playing, so we’ll put the next guy in there. So that’s just the way it is,” Swinney said. “But we expect him to play, and he looked good yesterday. But again, until you get out there and you’re playing in a game of this magnitude with the intensity and physicality, you never know.”
Saban Swinney: Change NFL Draft timeline
Both coaches in the College Football Playoff Championship said it is a distraction for players to have to deal with the NFL draft decision while preparing to play the biggest games of their careers. The timeline for getting draft grades and the deadline to enter the draft should be pushed back, they said.
Swinney said he knows the decision of most of his underclassmen who are considering entering the NFL draft, but he doesn’t like the way the process is set up. Players have to decide by Jan. 18 whether or not they will enter the draft.
“There’s no doubt, it’s a distraction that all of us have to deal with,” Swinney said. “Obviously it’s just two of us left at this point. You get the grades, and some guys, they didn’t get the grade that they want, so they’re pouting a little bit and have to pick themselves up. Then you get the guy that gets the grade he wants, so it’s just… It really should be when the season is over, whenever that is, and they should hold those things.”
Saban said he is going to work to try to get the dates changed.
“I wish they’d move the declare date back,” he said. “I wish they’d make a rule that says you can’t even give a player what his draft status is from the NFL playoff committee until they’ve finished their competition as a college player, so that you don’t put them and their family in this situation where there’s a big timing issue relative to competition.”
Swinney grew up using acronyms
Clemson has adopted several acronyms this season, most notably BYOG, which stands for “bring your own guts.”
Swinney said he learned to use acronyms at a young age.
“That’s just something I’ve done my whole life,” he said. “When I was in school that was just the way I would learn, kind of help me to bring life to what I was trying to learn at the time, and I love words. I think that there’s power in certain words. I’ll kind of bring it to life and I’ll define it for the team, sometimes with an acronym.”
Who: Clemson (14-0) vs. Alabama (13-1)
When: Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Glendale, Ariz.
Line: Alabama by 6 1/2