To say Clemson’s defensive line is loaded up for the 2018 season might be an understatement.
Not only did Dabo Swinney announce Saturday night that star defensive ends Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant will be back for another campaign, but the Tigers will also have a handful of promising freshmen as part of the D-line unit this upcoming season.
Clemson signed five defensive linemen on Dec. 20, the first day of the early signing period. That includes five-star ends Xavier Thomas and K.J. Henry, four-star end Justin Mascoll and four-star tackles Josh Belk and Darnell Jefferies.
Clemson defensive line coach Todd Bates is excited to have the newcomers on board and believes they share a common trait that will help them be successful at the next level.
“That’s the one thing that you’re going to see, the common thread, is those guys put in the work,” Bates told The Clemson Insider recently. “Nobody is coming in entitled. They all know that they have to earn it. I look forward to seeing them come in and do what they do.”
Four of the D-line signees are early enrollees. Thomas, Henry, Belk and Jefferies all arrived to Clemson last weekend, began classes Wednesday and will be able to participate in spring practice.
“It’s a good thing those guys are getting in there midyear,” Bates said. “They’ll get a chance to dive into the scheme and roll their sleeves up and get right to work.”
Thomas, Henry, Belk and Mascoll were all considered top-150 national prospects by multiple recruiting services. Henry played in the Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month while the others suited up in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
Clemson’s defensive line signees were all highly sought-after recruits and held an abundance of scholarship offers.
But as good of players as they are on the field, Bates says they are even better people off of it.
“They are Clemson men, through and through,” Bates said. “They are people who want to serve their community, people who want to make others around them better, people who care about others’ well being. Good human beings before good football players.
“Of course they wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t play football on this team, but they also wouldn’t be here if they weren’t good people, because that’s where we start.”