Reviewing the historic 2018 class: Defense

Reviewing the historic 2018 class: Defense


Reviewing the historic 2018 class: Defense


Clemson signed 15 prospects in its star-studded 2018 recruiting class on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period in college football.

The Tigers got signatures from three of the country’s top five prospects according to ESPN, and four of the nation’s top 10 prospects per the 247Sports composite. Clemson inked four five-star recruits in quarterback Trevor Lawrence, offensive tackle Jackson Carman and defensive ends Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry.

Five of Clemson’s signees are ranked No. 1 in their respective states, the first time that has happened in Clemson history.

Clemson’s 2018 class is currently ranked fifth nationally by ESPN. While the Tigers secured the majority of their class, they are looking to add several more pieces on national signing day in February.

In this article, The Clemson Insider reviews the defensive members of Clemson’s historic 2018 class:

Xavier Thomas, 5-star DE, Florence, S.C. (IMG Academy (Fla.))

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 270

About Thomas: Thomas, a unanimous five-star recruit, committed to Clemson over South Carolina before the Orange & White spring game in April. The U.S. Army All-American is ranked as the nation’s No. 3 prospect by ESPN and top defensive end in the country by all three of the major recruiting services. He is a finalist for the National Defensive Player of the Year Award by the Army All-American game, which will be announced on Jan. 5.

Thomas totaled 129 tackles, 34 tackles for loss and 17 sacks in his first two years at Wilson High in Florence. He even saw some time at running back as a sophomore, recording 568 yards on 59 carries (9.6 yards per carry). Thomas transferred to IMG Academy following his junior season in 2016. At IMG, he was teammates with fellow Clemson signee Mike Jones.

KJ Henry, 5-star DL, Winston-Salem, N.C. (West Forsyth High School)

Ht/Wt: 6-6, 230

About Henry: Henry, ranked No. 5 nationally by ESPN, picked and signed with Clemson over Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia on Wednesday. Henry is listed as the third-best player at his position by all three services. The USA Today All-American will play in the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando next month. Todd Bates and Mike Reed headed his recruitment.

Mike Jones, 4-star LB, Nashville, Tenn. (IMG Academy (Fla.))

Ht/Wt: 6-1, 220

About Jones: Jones became the first commitment in Clemson’s 2018 class when he pledged during the Dabo Swinney Camp in June 2016. A national top-250 player and top-15 outside linebacker by ESPN and 247, Jones helped lead IMG Academy to a 20-record in two seasons there. The native of Nashville transferred to IMG after his sophomore year. As a freshman, he had 11 touchdown passes and ran for another 10 scores while recording 13 sack and 60 tackles on defense. Jones will join Henry in the Under Armour All-American game.

Jake Venables, 4-star LB, Clemson, S.C. (Daniel High School)

Ht/Wt: 6-2, 215

About Venables: The son of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, Jake committed to Clemson on his dad’s birthday, Dec. 20, 2016. Jake was named to the All-Region I-AAAA team as a senior this season after tallying 70 tackles, including 22 tackles for loss and five sacks. He also had an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the season. Venables, a top-five prospect in South Carolina per 247, played in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.

Darnell Jefferies, 4-star DT, Covington, Ga. (Newton High School)

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 275

About Jefferies: Jefferies played defensive tackle for Newton High School each of the last two seasons, logging 141 tackles, 24 tackles for loss and nine season. He had an outstanding 42 quarterback pressures in 2016. As a senior, he was named the Region 8-6A Defensive Player of the Year.

Kyler McMichael, 4-star CB, Atlanta, Ga. (Greater Atlanta Christian Academy)

Ht/Wt: 6-1, 195

About McMichael: McMichael, a national top-125 prospect by all three major services, is ranked as the No. 4 cornerback in the nation by Rivals. McMichael played running back and cornerback at Greater Atlanta Christian Academy. He was named to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Super 11 team as a senior in 2017 after rushing 128 times for 1,483 yards (11.6 average) and 24 touchdowns. McMichael, who committed to Clemson in June, will play in the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio next month.

Josh Belk, 4-star DT, Fort Lawn, S.C. (Lewisville High School)

Ht/Wt: 6-4, 305

About Belk: Belk comes to Clemson from the same school that produced Clemson All-ACC running back Wesley McFadden and former Clemson and NFL linebacker Michael Barber. Belk is ranked as a national top-100 player, the No. 5 defensive tackle and the second-best player in South Carolina by ESPN. As a senior this season, Belk registered 116 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, seven caused fumbles, a recovered fumble and a pass deflection. He was named to the U.S. Army All-American Game.

Justin Mascoll, 4-star DE, Snellville, Ga. (South Gwinnett High School)

Ht/Wt: 6-4, 210

About Mascoll: Mascoll, the No. 6 defensive end and No. 43 overall player in the nation according to ESPN, will play in the U.S. Army All-American game next month. Mascoll played linebacker and defensive end for South Gwinnett High. As a senior, he was a first-team all-region 8-A linebacker. He totaled 127 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks over the past two seasons.

 –Staff reports contributed to this story



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