CLEMSON — He’s back.
It took almost until the eleventh hour, but All-American defensive end Vic Beasley decided to keep his talents in Clemson for one more year, the school announced Wednesday night.
The Vic Beasley Watch endured into after dark on Day 12, as late as it could; a surprise considering Beasley intimated on the field at Sun Life Stadium just after Clemson’s 40-35 Orange Bowl win over Ohio State that he was pretty set on his decision and planned to announce it Jan. 5.
Wednesday was the deadline for underclassmen to submit their name for the 2014 NFL Draft, an act a record 91 players have done so far.
Multiple websites and scouting services periodically reported Beasley was on his way to the NFL, even intimating he was prolonging the time of his announcement until he could settle on an agent. But in the end, Beasley ensured Clemson’s entire defensive line would return for the 2014 season.
A near-consensus first-team All-American, Beasley’s 13 sacks ranked third in single-season school history and third in the nation. Twenty-three of his 44 tackles were for a loss, adding 12 quarterback pressures and four forced fumbles.
“My endurance can be a lot better,” Beasley said Oct. 14. “I feel like I’m going to be the type of guy that’s an outside linebacker (at) the next level, just being able to run down plays from the back side, to stand out somehow.”
A wild factoid about defensive ends in the state of South Carolina, which doesn’t tell the whole story yet nonetheless intrigues: Beasley has six multi-sack outputs in 26 career games, while Jadeveon Clowney produced five multi-sack efforts in 36 games.
Since he’s returning, Beasley needs 7.5 sacks to supplant Michael Dean Perry and Gaines Adams as Clemson’s all-time leader, despite just two full years of work (he only logged two tackles, and no sacks, in 16 snaps his freshman season of 2011.)
In his career, Beasley has 21 sacks on 864 snaps — a 41.1 snaps-per-sack ratio that bests Perry (44.9 plays per sack) and Adams (61.7) as well as everyone else on the Tigers’ sacks leaderboard.
He’ll get one more year of experience at his position; he was recruited as an athlete, and bounced around from running back and tight end to outside linebacker, before settling in at defensive end for his sophomore year.
“It just kind of clicked,” Beasley said Oct. 14. “The beginning of my career, I had a lot of doubt, just moving positions a lot. But from last year to this year, I’ve gained a lot of confidence. What made me be so effective on the field is my commitment.”
Beasley’s not a high-tackles player (just 59 in two seasons), which gives him room for improvement leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.
“My ability to attack the run. A lot of people doubted me this year, can he be an every-down guy?” Beasley said. “I feel like I’ve held my ground in that area, but I always can improve in that area. That was definitely my weakness.”
Among the pass-rushing down linemen returning to Clemson next year are Beasley, rising senior Corey Crawford (10.5 TFLs, 16 quarterback pressures), sophomore Shaq Lawson (10 TFLs, four sacks) and senior Tavaris Barnes.
Clemson led the country with 123 tackles for loss this year; its 98.5 TFLs among players returning to the 2014 roster alone would rank 13th nationally.
Previously this month, wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant and cornerback Bashaud Breeland declared for the NFL Draft, while Crawford and linebacker Stephone Anthony officially announced their returns.
Without any further attrition, Clemson expects to have nine seniors back in 2014 with at least 10 career starts: Beasley, Crawford, Anthony, defensive tackles Grady Jarrett, Josh Watson and DeShawn Williams, safety Robert Smith, wide receiver Adam Humphries and left guard David Beasley. The Tigers had eight such seniors depart after 2013.
Vic Beasley said the NFL Draft Advisory board estimated he could be drafted as high as the second round this May if he came out, and Scouts.Inc rated him the No. 36 prospect in the pool. That wasn’t enough to woo Beasley to the pros.
“I know I can move up into the first round,” Beasley said Dec. 31 in Miami, “if I decide to come back.”