DALLAS - No. 2 Clemson is preparing to be without star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, who failed an NCAA test for performance-enhancing drugs, when it plays No. 3 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday.
Tigers defensive coordinator Brent Venables said that as of Wednesday, there had been no change in Lawrence's status. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney announced Monday the school had been notified by the NCAA about the failed tests by Lawrence and team teammates. Swinney said the players were found to have trace amounts of a substance called ostarine, which can act like an anabolic steroid.
Swinney said the players had told him they had not intentionally taken any banned substances.
The other players are reserve offensive tackle Zach Giella and freshman tight end Braden Galloway. Swinney said the team was hoping additional testing being done by the NCAA might allow the players to play, but Venables said Lawrence has been at practice but has not been taking normal repetitions.
"First and foremost, you really hurt for him and his family," Venables said. "We wouldn't be here without what Dexter has contributed. What he's done for us, his play as one of the 11 on defense. For us it's like an injury."
Senior Albert Huggins and sophomore Nyles Pinckney will play bigger roles without Lawrence. Each has played in every game this season. Huggins has 17 tackles and 2 sacks. Pinckney has 25 tackles, including 3 for loss.
"I've got a lot of confidence in Albert and Nyles," Venables said. "They've played a lot of winning football. Not just this year."
Lawrence was limited by injuries last season, and Huggins and Pinckney helped pick up the slack.
The 6-foot-4, 350-pound Lawrence is one of the best defensive linemen in the country and a possible first-round NFL draft pick in April if he bypasses his senior year as expected. He is part of defensive line that might be the best in college football, with all four starters in line to be early round draft picks.
All-America defensive end Clelin Ferrell said Lawrence informed his fellow defensive linemen of the failed test in a text message before the team arrived in Dallas.
"I'm like Dexter doesn't need to take anything, he's 6-foot-5, 350 pounds, what more could a person of that build need to do to improve," All-America defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. "It was just funny to me, almost. Obviously, just unfortunate."
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