Clemson's head coach talks about the Tigers' newest additions at linebacker
Two of the earliest commitments in Clemson’s historic 2018 recruiting class came from linebackers — the only two linebackers the Tigers would sign in the class.
Clemson picked up its first pledge from a 2018 prospect when four-star outside linebacker Mike Jones Jr. committed in the summer of 2016.
Fellow four-star outside linebacker Jake Venables became the third member of Clemson’s 2018 class when he committed the following December.
“We got two linebackers that have been committed forever,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “We offered them early.”
Specifically, Clemson offered Jones when he was a freshman in May 2015. The national top-250 prospect gave his verbal pledge to Swinney during Swinney’s high school football camp in June 2016, and never wavered on the commitment thereafter.
Jones had been a regular participant in Swinney’s youth and high school camps since he was a kid. When Jones committed, he was confident that Clemson was the place where he wanted to continue his career at the next level.
“Mike Jones — this is our youth camp paying off,” Swinney said. “This is a kid that has been coming to youth camp his whole life, and then he became a high school kid… This kid came up to me in the 10th grade and said, I’m coming to Clemson.”
Jones, the son of former NC State and NFL defensive lineman Mike D. Jones, is ranked by ESPN as the No. 10 outside linebacker in the country. He chose Clemson over offers from Florida, Mississippi State, NC State, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Tennessee and others.
Jones played his final two years of high school football at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The native of Nashville, Tenn., helped lead IMG Academy to a combined record of 20-0 and pair of top-five final national rankings in his two seasons there.
“He was the first commitment in this class, led the way, and he’s an awesome, awesome prospect,” Swinney said. “He played a lot of safety and kind of grew down into the box, and I think he’s going to be an outstanding player for us as he goes through.”
Venables, meanwhile, is the son of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. The younger Venables committed to Clemson on Dec. 18, 2016, his dad’s birthday.
Swinney says Venables is a chip off the old block.
“Jake is a knock off from his dad,” Swinney said. “He’s a fast, tough, physical, instinctive, smart football player that literally lives and breathes it.”
The No. 4 prospect in South Carolina per 247Sports, Venables was a three-year starter at Daniel High School in Central. As a senior, Venables produced 70 tackles, including 22 for loss and five sacks. He was named to the All-Region I-AAAA team in 2017 and played in the Shrine Bowl all-star game.
Swinney believes Venables’ uncommon work ethic will carry him a long way as a Tiger in the future.
“He is an unbelievably committed guy,” Swinney said. “It’s very seldom that he’s not working out at 5:30 in the morning… For a young guy to be as driven and motivated as he is, that’s going to separate him as he matures in his career.”