Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney welcomed nine freshmen midyear enrollees from the historic 2018 signing class to campus in January.
The group is tied for the biggest class of midyears for the Clemson program. Swinney also had nine midyear enrollees in 2015.
The nine newcomers started classes on Jan. 10 and are able to participate in Clemson’s spring practices, which began Feb. 28.
In the fifth installment of our Impact Freshmen series detailing Clemson’s early enrollees, The Clemson Insider looks at five-star defensive tackle Josh Belk:
Hometown (High School): Fort Lawn, S.C. (Lewisville)
Height, Weight: 6-3, 309
Prospect ratings/rankings: 5-star, No. 1 DT, No. 2 state, No. 25 national (247Sports); 4-star, No. 7 DT, No. 2 state, No. 96 national (ESPN); 4-star, No. 21 DT, No. 5 state, NR national (Rivals)
High school stats/accolades: Played defensive tackle for Lewisville High School where he helped team to a 9-4 season and the third round of playoffs… All-Region and All-State by High School Sports Report (for all classes) and Coaches Class A All-State… Finished the year with 116 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, seven caused fumbles, a recovered fumble and a pass deflection… Probably had best game against Lamar with 10 tackles and three tackles for loss… Named to the U.S. Army All-American Game… Lettered in basketball as a freshman and sophomore
Strengths: Belk possesses the intriguing combination of size (6-3, 309) and strength that makes him a high-upside prospect. He has a great skillset to go with his natural strength and athleticism. To put his athleticism into perspective, Belk actually took reps at wide receiver for Lewisville before the game we saw during our Tour of Champions visit to watch him play last season. He is a broad-chested, powerful disruptive presence in the run game and uses his hands to help him shed blocks. He gets off the ball well, plays with great leverage and knows how to penetrate into the backfield to make plays. Belk is a raw prospect that will continue to develop physically at Clemson and polish his skills with the help of the coaching staff. He has the physical ability and tools to become a key cog in Clemson’s defense in the future.
How he fits in: Belk will be a nose tackle at the next level. That’s the position that Dexter Lawrence plays, backed up by Jabril Robinson and Nyles Pinckney last season. Clemson’s staff could opt to redshirt Belk in 2017 and save a year of his eligibility. But there’s a chance he could see reserve action as a true freshman this fall if the Tigers want to get him some experience in preparation for a larger role come 2019. Either way, Lawrence is expected to move on following the 2018 season, so there will be a greater opportunity for Belk to make an impact in the not-too-distant future.
Coach speak: Lewisville head coach William Mitchell on Belk — “He’s such an explosive athlete, for one thing, and that’s just his natural ability. … He’s got some physical gifts, plus when he puts his motor with that, that really makes the kids around him better. To me, that’s the biggest sign of a good player.
“He has terrific athletic ability, is very competitive, and has good work ethic. He’s going to have some growing pains going from a small school to the highest level. But he’s mentally and psychologically prepared for that. He’s going to get in there and battle. How early he plays, I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see. The thing about Josh is, you don’t find too much stuff he can’t do.”
–Staff reports contributed to this story
Previous installments in TCI’s Impact Freshmen series: