In the last several years, Clemson has had some success with its early enrollees. Guys such as Deshaun Watson, Artavis Scott, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence enrolled in school early and made an immediate impact on the football field the following season.
The expectations for this year’s early enrollees are probably at its highest since Watson’s and Scott’s freshman year in 2014.
This past January, Clemson had nine players from its 2018 signing class enroll in school early. Former five stars Trevor Lawrence, Xavier Thomas, K.J. Henry and Jackson Carman joined guys like Mike Jones, Derion Kendrick, Braden Galloway and Darnell Jefferies in the spring as they went through spring drills with the rest of the team.
Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott says the Tigers’ early enrollees are perhaps the best group they have had since Watson’s freshman year. In the spring, high school and college coaches that visited spring practices had a hard time distinguishing between the freshmen and the rest of the team.
“Just physically, they do not look like they are supposed to be in high school,” Scott said. “They look like they belong. It is kind of fun to have some of these guest coaches—college coaches and high school coaches—asking about some of these guys. They think they have been on our team for a year or two. So that stands out.”
Scott thought all of the freshmen showed some flashes of what they are capable of.
“I think they have done a good job trying to keep up,” he said. “We are coaching and teaching at a pretty fast tempo because we have a lot of older guys so those younger guys are forced to try and catch on as fast as they can.”
Some of them caught on fast enough to get their names put on Clemson’s preseason depth chart for fall camp. Of course Lawrence is No. 2 and is pushing incumbent starting quarterback Kelly Bryant for the starting job.
Carman is listed as the third-team guy at left tackle and left guard along the offensive line. Kendrick is tied for the No. 2 spot on the field position side at wide receiver.
“DK reminds me of Sammy (Watkins) — it’s just a different gear,” Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said. “When he moves and takes off the line, he just moves at a different speed… DK is a guy early on, coming right out of the gate that is really pushing these guys athletically.”
On the defensive side, Thomas and Henry are both listed on the depth chart at defensive end, while Jefferies made his way on to the list at defensive tackle. All four guys are list as fourth-team guys, but they’re expected to be in the rotation this fall.
At linebacker, Jones is listed as the No. 3 guy at the SAM linebacker position.
Clemson will open fall camp in August and all the early enrollees will have an opportunity to compete for playing time this coming season.
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