Christian Wilkins and the rest of No. 3 Clemson‘s defensive line was at the forefront in Week 2’s victory against No. 13 Auburn, but they’ve been making noise for years now, helping to lead the team to back-to-back championship games, including last year’s title.
Even before he stepped onto Clemson’s campus, Wilkins was a force. He was rated the top player in state of Connecticut following his senior year, according to 247 Sports, and was the sixth ranked defensive tackle. Wilkins had 71 tackles and eight sacks that season.
Although the Tigers failed to complete a perfect 15-0 seasonand win the championship, the team looked destined for greatness.
And then in 2016, Wilkins and his Clemson teammates took another step forward. He was a Bednarik Award semifinalist, as well as a Football Writers Association All-American, totaling 56 tackles and 13 for a loss.
The aforementioned matchup against Auburn last week was very similar to last year’s defeat of Georgia Tech, where they gained a porous 124 yards.
Wilkins’ successful season didn’t stop following the regular season, he kept it up against Ohio State and Alabama in the semifinals and championship, respectively. In the former, he had one tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. Against Alabama, he pressured Jalen Hurts three times and had two pass breakups, making life hard on the Tide’s quarterback.
After winning the championship in 2016, the Tigers roster was dismantled seeing losses to QB Deshaun Watson, RB Wayne Gallman, WR Mike Williams, WR Artavis Scott, TE Jordan Leggett, DL Carlos Watkins, and more. For the powerful defensive line, Watkins’ loss had the biggest impact due to his experience and forceful talent.
But so far during the 2017 campaign, Austin Bryant, Clelin Ferrel, Dexter Lawerence, and Wilkins seem to have it all figured out. Against the Tigers last week, Clemson allowed only six points, 117 total yards, 38 rushing yards, and sacked Jarrett Stidham 11 (!) times!
Wilkins himself had 10 tackles, four solo tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks. He kept Clemson in the game while Kelly Bryant and the offense were struggling mightily.
The Tigers are off to another 2-0 start, but face a tough matchup at No. 14 Louisville this coming Saturday. Wilkins will be tasked with trying to slow down 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson, and the Cardinals’ terrific offense.
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