Shaq facts

CLEMSON - One of Clemson's biggest keys to the 2015 season is its pass rush.

Coming off a season that saw the Tigers finish No. 1 in the country in total defense and tackles for loss, and with six starters from that front seven headed to the NFL, it's a natural concern.

Especially when one of those starters is going to be a top 10 pick in the NFL draft later this week in defensive end Vic Beasley.

Beasley's value to Brent Venables' defense over the years is fairly easy to document. After all, the 2014 ACC defensive player of the year recorded a school-record 33 sacks in his four seasons on the field.

His "other" numbers are pretty impressive as well. For his career, he recorded 101 tackles, 52.5 tackles for loss, 29 quarterback pressures, 11 pass breakups, seven caused fumbles, two recovered fumbles and two touchdowns in 1,421 snaps over 48 games (25 starts).

Wow.

Think that kind of production will be easily replaceable this season?

It probably won't be, but there is at least one candidate who has the size and ability to try: Shaq Lawson.

I posed the question to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney two weeks ago, "Is there a player on your roster right now who you feel like can replace Vic Beasley's production as your go-to pass rusher?"

Without hesitation, Swinney responded, "Shaq. We couldn't block him (this spring). He's a handful."

There certainly some interesting "Shaq facts" to support the notion.
Consider a year ago, Shaq had 44 tackles in just 295 plays while Vic Beasley had 37 stops in 557 plays.

In case you are wondering, that means he recorded a tackle every 6.7 plays while Vic had one every 15 plays.

When it comes to stops behind the line of scrimmage, Shaq was eerily similar to his future first-round counterpart as well as Vic had a tackle for loss every 26 snaps while Shaq every 27.

So in limited playing time Shaq's numbers were either similar, or actually better than Vic's in certain categories.

Of course, Shaq may not be as quick off the edge as Vic was in his Clemson career. But he's also better in run support given his size, and his arms are longer too- which could assist in making up for the loss of speed.

Swinney agrees.

"Shaq will bring some different things to the table," he said. "You may lose some things but you pick up other things but we know he is going to be a great player. He's already a great player but now he get's a chance to be THE guy.

It's probably not realistic to think Clemson's defense will retain its No. 1 ranking this year, but if Shaq can hold his own in run support and continue his production from previous seasons, there may not be as big of a fall off as many national pundits are expecting.

"I think with our first group defensively you aren't going to see much of a drop off between the bowl game and what we look like this season," Swinney adds. "We've got some big-time NFL prospects. Carlos Watkins beat out a lot of our guys from last year and is healthy again. We've got Big Shaq. [Kevin] Dodd is a lot like Corey Crawford and D.J. Reader has been unblockable in practice. People are going to be surprised."


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