Clemson underclassmen Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, Kendall Joseph and Mark Fields have elected to return to school for another season, according to a tweet from Tigers sports information director Tim Bourret on Saturday night.
Bourret said Tigers coach Dabo Swinney made the announcement that the four players would return for the 2018 season during the team’s banquet Saturday night.
Bourret indicated that Swinney didn’t provide information on junior defensive lineman Christian Wilkins, who is ranked the No. 9 player available for April’s NFL draft by ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Regardless of what Wilkins decides, the return of Ferrell and Bryant, two of the team’s top defensive linemen, is a major boost for the defending ACC champions.
Ferrell, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound redshirt sophomore, is ranked the No. 8 player available for the draft by Kiper; McShay ranked him as the No. 18 prospect. He had 61 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 8 1/2 sacks and 12 quarterback hurries in 13 games.
Bryant, a 6-5, 265-pound junior, had 54 tackles, 14 1/2 tackles for loss, 7 1/2 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries in 10 games.
Joseph, a 6-foot, 225-pound linebacker, was Clemson’s second-leading tackler with 80 stops to go along with 4 1/2 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hurries.
Fields, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound cornerback, played in five games this season and dealt with several injuries.
The Tigers, who went 12-2 this past season and lost to eventual champion Alabama 24-6 in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, ranked No. 2 in the FBS in scoring defense (13.6 points) and No. 4 in total defense (276.7 yards).
Clemson junior receivers Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud, guard Taylor Hearn and safety Van Smith previously announced they’re entering the draft. All-ACC offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt, also a junior, announced he’s returning to school for the 2018 season.