Sugar Bowl Football

Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant (2) passes to wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (21) in the first half of the Sugar Bowl against Alabama in New Orleans on Monday. AP Photo/Butch Dill

NEW ORLEANS — Clelin Farrell knelt for long seconds on the turf at the Superdome on Monday night, pondering Clemson's 24-6 loss to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl semifinals.

Was the star defensive end, projected as one of the top draft-eligible underclassmen for the NFL Draft, also pondering the end of his college career?

"I don't mean any disrespect, but that's not the right question to ask right now," Ferrell told reporters in the locker room. "There's too much other stuff going on, so many other things going through my mind right now.

"Hopefully, I can get some time off and think about and talk it over with my family and get a decision made."

A couple of lockers over, Ferrell's linemate, Christian Wilkins, got the same question. The junior also is considered a top NFL prospect.

"I'll take some time to myself and think about that," an emotional Wilkins said. "I haven't made up my mind, and I'll have to sit back and do my research and make the right decision for me.

"I know there's a couple of weeks until I have to make my decision, and I'm definitely going to take my time. It's a tough decision to make."

Juniors Deon Cain (receiver), Mitch Hyatt (left tackle), Austin Bryant (defensive end), Van Smith (safety) and Kendall Joseph (linebacker) also are projected as early draft picks.

Wilkins, 6-4 and 300 pounds, could be the top defensive lineman taken in the NFL Draft, some analysts say. ESPN's Mel Kiper has him in the overall top 10.

If another defensive lineman goes ahead of Wilkins, it could be Ferrell, the 6-5, 260-pound end. ESPN analyst Todd McShay has him at No. 7 in his mock draft.

Lineup change

Backup linebacker J.D. Davis got the start at middle linebacker for Clemson in place of Tre Lamar.

Lamar had missed the last three games with a shoulder stinger, but said this week that he was healthy. He had 52 tackles and four sacks during the season.

Davis, listed as the backup at weakside linebacker, started for the fifth time this season.

Strong safety K'Von Wallace moved over to free safety to start for Van Smith, with Tanner Muse starting at strong safety. Smith did play.

Drew Costa Effect

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney gave credit to Bishop England High School alum Drew Costa this week for pushing Tigers kicker Alex Spence in practice.

Spence came through with a 44-yard field goal in the second quarter against Alabama and a 42-yarder in the third, giving him eight makes in his last nine tries.

Dabo hugs

Tigers coach Dabo Swinney went around a somber locker room after the game, spreading hugs and heartfelt words to his players.

"It's a very disappointed locker room, but I'm very thankful for our seniors," Swinney said. "And this is a team, nobody picked us to be here this year. This is a team that went to their third playoff in a row, their third ACC championship in a row. They won 50 games in their career, 40 in the last three years. So I'm very thankful for my seniors."

Extra Points

• Clemson's appearance in Monday night's Sugar Bowl was the Tigers' second; they lost to LSU by 7-0 in 1959. It was Alabama's record 16th time in the Sugar Bowl.

• Monday night's game was just the second time in history that two teams have met in three straight postseasons. Clemson and Alabama did it in 2015-17, and Ohio State and Southern Cal met in three straight Rose Bowls from 1973-75.

• Clemson is the first Sugar Bowl team to fail to score a TD since Auburn kicked three field goals in a 9-7 win over Michigan in 1984 ... Clemson and Alabama's 449 combined yards were the lowest in the Sugar Bowl since 1969.

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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