We’re now less than two months away from the start of the 2013 college football season, and that means preview countdowns! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
Here’s a stat you may not have been aware of: Clemson’s defense recorded 34 sacks last season, tied for 20th in the country. So while pundits continued bringing up Orange Bowl embarrassments and a porous defense, the Tigers were actually improving immensely under new defensive coordinator Brent Venables. While it’s not the entire story, much of that was due to the more aggressive pass rush led by the departed Malliciah Goodman and returning junior Vic Beasley. Despite missing six of last year’s 13 games, Beasley still managed to record eight sacks. Now, so long as he’s healthy, he’s poised to see that number spike as he switches over to Goodman’s strongside position as the unquestioned leader of this defensive front.
A lot of that will depend on what type of size he brings into the fall, though. Previously, he was incredibly undersized at just 6’2″ and 225-230 pounds; his speed functioning as his main advantage over slower (yet much larger) offensive linemen. Now, already putting on 10 pounds in the offseason, he’s aiming to be at 250 pounds of muscle. Rather than just adding bulk, Beasley is maintaining a delicate balance between getting stronger and losing speed around the edge. If the speed start to go, he’ll lose his advantage due to size. If the size doesn’t increase, the speed won’t matter.
But regardless of his final weight come late July/early August, everyone seems high on his potential at Clemson. Both Dabo Swinney and Venables have raved about the raw athleticism and strength he possesses, even with a smaller frame. Swinney even thinks that at 240 pounds, he can play like he’s 280. ESPN talked about his spring, citing his two interceptions during spring ball, plus the four sacks he recorded in the official Clemson spring game. And he’s still learning, which is probably most frightening of all.
Again, if Beasley can stay healthy, it could be a breakout year for him on a team that needs a star up front. No one’s worried about the Tigers’ offense, but there’s plenty of concern about the defense. So it stands to reason this Clemson team will go as far as Beasley and this defensive unit will take them.