As Dexter Lawrence neared the end of his recruitment, it remained uncertain whether any program could convince him to leave his home state for college. On Monday, the blue-chip defensive lineman from Wake Forest, N.C., revealed that he will head south, to Clemson. Lawrence chose the Tigers over North Carolina State, Florida, North Carolina, Alabama, Ohio State and USC.
Lawrence, who plans to enroll early, made his decision after taking official visits to Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Florida. In May, he indicated that he liked 17 schools but singled out the Gators, whom he identified as his “childhood favorite team.” Yet Florida faced stiff competition from the more than 25 schools that extended Lawrence scholarship offers.
In the end, Lawrence settled on a Tigers program that stands two wins away from its first national championship since 1981. Listed at 6’4.5”, 335 pounds, Lawrence ranks No. 3 among defensive tackles and No. 4 among players in the class of 2016, according to Scout.com. He’s one of the most highly touted recruits to pick Clemson since defensive end DaQuan Bowers in 2008.
“Lawrence is a prospect who jumps out the minute he steps off the bus,” Scout.com wrote of Lawrence. “First, he looks the part. Then you see his bend and flexibility—an A+. Then you see his burst and quickness in drills. Then you see him use all of that to make plays in opposing backfields. Really strong in using size, power, and quickness to get penetration. Solid against double-teams. When fires off with god pad level, tough to slow down. Flashes violent hands.”
As a senior at Wake Forest (N.C.) High this season, Lawrence recorded 91 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 13 sacks, according to MaxPreps.
Lawrence joins a Tigers recruiting class that now counts commitments from 13 players, including Tavien Feaster, the nation’s top running back, according to Scout.com, and four-star defensive end Xavier Kelly. This marks the second consecutive year Clemson is adding one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the country; in 2015 the program signed Christian Wilkins, who ranked No. 39 in the 2015 Scout 300.
Wilkins recorded 27 total tackles and received three votes for the ACC Rookie of the Year honor this season while helping the Tigers rank third in the conference in scoring defense, yet Lawrence arguably possesses more potential than Wilkins. Together, they can make life miserable for opposing offensive coordinators. Lawrence will team with Wilkins, Kelly and possibly junior Carlos Watkins on a line that should be among the best in the ACC even though star defensive end Shaq Lawson is leaving for the NFL.
Don’t expect the Tigers’ line play to slip any time soon, either: Over their last two classes (2015 and ’16), they’ve have landed six defensive tackles and four defensive ends, six of whom were assessed four-star ratings or better by Scout.com.
Lawrence's announcement is gravy for Clemson, which is in the midst of a dream season that could get much better if it wins two more games. Coach Dabo Swinney has built the Tigers into a national contender, and clearly top recruits are taking notice of their success. Lawrence is the type of talent who can help Clemson maintain the defensive consistency it showed this season after returning only four starters from last year’s stellar unit. For more on the Tigers’ class, check out the video below: