Last season, South Carolina beat Clemson 27-17 behind a 4.5-sack performance by Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. This season, Clemson could use a big effort from defensive end Vic Beasley if it wants to end a four-game losing streak in the intense rivalry.
Last week, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said he thought Beasley, a junior, needed to return for his senior season. Going off Beasley's performance, that would seem wise.
Beasley (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) has 10 sacks this season; he is second in the ACC and tied for ninth nationally in that category. But he has only one sack in the past five games, and just five of his 17 tackles for loss have come in that span.
South Carolina has surrendered 20 sacks, and if Beasley is at his best Saturday, he will cause issues for Gamecocks junior left tackle Corey Robinson (6-8, 341). Robinson is huge and if he locks onto you, you're done. But Robinson can struggle moving laterally, and Beasley's speed rush could cause problems. In addition, Robinson's footwork can be spotty, which means Beasley's surprisingly strong bull rush could work, too.
A lot of pre-game attention has been focused on Clowney because of how he dominated against the Tigers last season. Indeed, Clemson left tackle Brandon Thomas spent a lot of time Monday rehashing what went wrong last season. But Beasley could end up being the defensive end who makes the most game-turning plays Saturday. And if he does, expect Swinney to get some new questions about Beasley's draft stock.