Former five-star cornerback A.J. Terrell was the highest-rated signee among Clemson’s 2017 class by any recruiting service, no small title considering the Tigers signed two five-stars on the offensive side of the ball in quarterback Hunter Johnson and wide receiver Tee Higgins.
Early in fall camp, Terrell — who was ranked as the No. 13 overall prospect nationally by Rivals — is showing why he was so touted in high school.
“He’s long and instinctive, good ball skills, excellent speed,” Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables said after Clemson’s practice Tuesday. “Very competitive, tough, super coachable.”
Despite the merit he entered Clemson with, Terrell is like any freshman in that he has a lot to learn.
Acclimating to the speed of the college game while picking up the defensive install in Venables’ complex scheme isn’t easy to do as a first-year player.
“Trying to get the calls down,” Venables gave as an example. “When we’re in three-deep zone, don’t play man-to-man. We’re in two-deep, stay in the flat. Things like that.”
However, Venables said Terrell is making progress in the knowledge department and doing a good job overall of handling what is being thrown at him.
“He’s still got a lot in front of him,” Venables said. “He’s getting comfortable with a new language. He’s very natural with a lot of the things that he does, but he’s just learning. Things go very fast at practice, so our job is to get things to slow down for him. But he’s coming along. He’s doing well.”
At 6-foot-2, 188 pounds, Terrell has the size along with the length and athleticism to play multiple positions in the secondary.
While cross-training the Atlanta, Ga., native was a possibility, the Tigers saw it best to work him solely at cornerback at the start of his career.
“We’re trying to get him good and comfortable at one thing, and really trying to see if he can win a job and if he can earn our trust,” Venables said. “He’s on his way. He’s doing a lot of really good things.”
Terrell isn’t the only top defensive back prospect Clemson inked in February.
LeAnthony Williams, a former consensus top-250 prospect in the country, joined the mix at cornerback as well.
Like Terrell, Venables has liked what he’s seen from Williams in the early going.
“He’s very well coached. That jumps out to you,” Venables said. “He doesn’t get overwhelmed. He’s got a lot of confidence. He’s done well. … I’ve been pleased with his attitude, work ethic and skill.”
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