CLEMSON — Clemson has about three more weeks to continue the appeal process for three football players suspended after testing positive for ostarine prior to the College Football Playoff. And as the clock keeps ticking, the on-field implications only seem to loom larger.
Star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, now officially headed to the NFL, commanded the spotlight and the headlines when news of the failed drug tests originally broke last month. Whether he could play in Clemson's eventual 44-16 national championship win over Alabama was one of the biggest storylines in college football.
But now, as Clemson looks to open spring practice in about five weeks, Lawrence is no longer the player the Tigers are most concerned about. That role shifts to Braden Galloway, a freshman tight end, who along with redshirt junior offensive lineman Zach Giella could be facing a one-year suspension.
Clemson already enters 2019 with questions at the tight end position. Galloway's absence would complicate matters greatly.
Graduate tight end Milan Richard, the nephew of former Georgia great Herschel Walker, is out of eligibility and is moving on from the program. Garrett Williams, a 6-2, 230-pound tight end who started in 13 of 14 games last season, said earlier this month at Clemson's national championship parade that he had not yet made a decision about his future.
Williams, who said offseason surgery was in his plans, has always wanted to pursue a career in the military. He said he would like to be an infantry officer in the Marine Corps. The Tigers are still waiting for him to decide if he'll return for one more year of football or leave to pursue a military career.
"Since I've gotten hurt (with an ACL tear in April of 2017), I've kind of gone back and forth on what I want to do," Williams said in November. "I know there are positives to both.
"I fully appreciate my opportunity here for sure. I love this place with all my heart. If I did make the decision to leave, that would be tough decision to make. I hope I can follow God's will for my life. That's what I always try to do. So I'm going to follow whatever He tells me to."
If Williams leaves and if Galloway's appeal is denied, that would leave J.C. Chalk, who caught two passes for 21 yards in 15 games, as the only tight end with actual experience at the college level. The Tigers also like early enrollee Jaelyn Lay out of Atlanta, though just a few months ago he was playing high school football.
Galloway, 6-4, 240 pounds, played in 12 games last season and finished with five catches for 52 yards and one touchdown.
Swinney was able to see him play at nearby Seneca High School as a tight end and a quarterback. Williams was ranked as a top 15 tight end in South Carolina by multiple recruiting services despite not playing football until his junior year of high school.
But none of that matters for the upcoming season if he is ineligible. An NCAA representative told The Post and Courier last week that fewer than 10 of 1,100 players a year tested on average for championship events test positive for the category ostarine falls under. Between 10 and 30 percent of appeals are successful.