Clemson Hosts Pro Day; Lawson, Alexander Shake Off CFP Injuries
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson and cornerback Mackensie Alexander showed NFL personnel they have recovered from injuries during the College Football Playoffs.
Lawson, an All-American, left the Orange Bowl early with a ligament sprain while Alexander was helped off the field at the national title game with a hamstring injury. Both moved easily and without problems in front of representatives from every NFL team Thursday at Clemson’s pro day.
Several coaches were among the crowd — including Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, Chuck Pagano from Indianapolis, Buffalo’s Rex Ryan and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin — watching Lawson, Alexander and a third potential first-round draft pick in Kevin Dodd go through drills at the school’s indoor workout facility.
While Lawson went through defensive line and linebacker drills, Alexander showed off his speed with a 4.40 second time in the 40-yard dash with interested scouts hanging on every stride. Alexander went through the full regimen of defensive back drills, going up high several times to bring down passes that looked out of reach.
Alexander did not take part in the NFL combine workouts as he rehabbed his hamstring. He was pleased with his pro day performance.
“Teams were really impressed today and that’s what I wanted,” Alexander said. “It was great.”
Then again, it was a stellar season for Alexander and the Tigers, who want 14-0 and rose to No. 1 before falling to Alabama 45-40 in the national championship game two months ago. Alexander, though, was led to the sideline just before half and did not return.
Alexander was not on the field for two, long plays to Alabama tight end O.J. Howard, the first that went for a 51-yard touchdown pass and the second, a 63-yard catch, that set up Derrick Henry’s clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Alexander believes he would have made a difference in the second half.
“I would like to think so,” he said with a laugh.
Lawson, who missed most of Clemson’s 37-17 semifinal win over Oklahoma at the Orange Bowl, played throughout against Alabama on what he called “50 percent” of his ability because of the injury. There were no signs of discomfort during Lawson’s time on the field.
He chose not to run or lift. Lawson, however, go through full linebacker workouts to showcase his versatility should NFL teams want him to drop back in coverage.
Lawson said this showing, combined with his effort at the title game to play despite the injury, proved to NFL teams he had the right mentality to battle through injury and be productive.
“I feel that was a great sign to show what teams are looking for, players that are not going to quit on you,” he said.
Dodd, a lanky, 6-foot-5 first-year starter, also worked out for teams as a defensive lineman and linebacker. Lawson and Dodd finished 1-2 in the country in tackles for loss and were a big reason why the Tigers swept to an Atlantic Coast Conference title this season.
Dodd’s NFL stock began rising big time against Alabama when he had three sacks and five tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
“It was a job interview but it was fun,” Dodd said. “I had a lot to show these teams, show them my athleticism and overall, I got a lot of things accomplished.”
Alexander, Lawson and Dodd were among six starting underclassmen — safeties Jayron Kearse and T.J. Green, and linebacker Travis Blanks were the others — who gave up their remaining college eligibility for the NFL draft. This group hopes to enhance the run of first-round success the Tigers have had with four such high selections in the past three drafts, including Atlanta Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley and New Orleans Saints linebacker Stephone Anthony a year ago.
“We’re just going to keep breeding them up here long after we’re gone,” Alexander said.