Christian Wilkins makes decision on NFL
Going down to the wire, Christian Wilkins completed the quartet of returning starting Clemson defensive lineman Monday by opting to forgo the NFL draft and return for his senior season.
Wilkins, a two-time first-team All-American, joins draft-eligible defensive ends Austin Bryant (rising senior) and Clelin Ferrell (rising redshirt junior) in opting to return, as well as rising junior starting defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, in a bid for a second national title in their time with the Tigers.
Wilkins had up to Monday to decide on declaring for the NFL draft early, and he informed the Clemson football staff of his decision Monday afternoon, per a school release.
ESPN’s Todd McShay projected Wilkins to go No. 16 overall in the first round and both USA TODAY and ESPN regarded Wilkins as a top-10 “big board” prospect.
Wilkins was named the national Defensive Lineman of the Year after a 60-tackle, 8.5-TFL and 4.5-sack junior campaign.
The Springfield, Massachusetts native was a Nagurski Trophy finalist and a Bednarik Award semifinalist as a first-team All-American also in 2016, posting 56 tackles, 13 TFL and 3.5 sacks over 15 games.
Clemson has lost four players who were eligible to return for the 2018 season: wide receivers Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud, strong safety Van Smith and offensive guard Taylor Hearn. Hearn graduated, but had another year of eligibility after redshirting 2014.
Clemson will have eight returning starters on defense for 2018 overall, where in addition to the front four, the Tigers also return starting linebackers Kendall Joseph and Tre Lamar and defensive backs Trayvon Mullen and Tanner Muse.
The three starters lost on defense are first-team All-American graduate linebacker Dorian O’Daniel, graduate cornerback Ryan Carter and safety Van Smith.
Last year Clemson ranked second in the nation in scoring defense (13.6), fourth in total defense (276.7), fourth in pass defense (161.9) and tied for first in sacks (46). Additionally, Clemson was second in fewest yards per play allowed (4.27) and second in passing yards per attempt (5.7).
We backkkkkkkk ???????? https://t.co/nUDTzvlluX— Austin Bryant (@_austinbryant7) January 15, 2018
???? bout to be scary ! https://t.co/0Bup2xDhW8— Amari Rodgers3?? (@arodgers_3) January 15, 2018
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