FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — St. Thomas Aquinas High School four-star linebacker Derek Wingo is looking to check out Clemson, a place he has heard a lot of positive things about.
The Clemson Insider visited St. Thomas Aquinas on Thursday as part of our Blue Chip Road Trip and spoke with the elite class of 2020 prospect while there.
“I haven’t been up there yet, but I’ve always heard great things and there’s always been positive vibes there,” Wingo said of Clemson. “Not only just the facilities — the coaches, the players, the people who come out of there, and just the role models that they have and stuff like that.”
Wingo (6-2, 210), the nation’s No. 3 outside linebacker, intends to visit Clemson. He just doesn’t know exactly when he will do so.
“If I’m not able to make it for a game, definitely after the season,” he said. “I’ll definitely be up there. I have a lot of friends going up there. I have Chez (Mellusi) from Naples High School that’s committed there. So, I’ll definitely be getting up there with him.”
Wingo has formed a friendship with Clemson 2019 running back commitment Chez Mellusi, who plays at nearby Naples (Fla.) High School and who is trying to get Wingo on board with the Tigers.
“I’m actually from Naples,” Wingo said. “I’ve lived there my whole life. So, I kind of grew up with him. He was kind of a guy I looked up to and I played a lot with. So, I’d go over to Naples and hang out with him a lot.”
“He’s always influencing me on Clemson,” Wingo added with a smile.
Wingo has also developed a relationship with Brent Venables and thinks highly of Clemson’s defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
“I think he’s a great guy,” Wingo said. “The biggest thing about him that I love is his enthusiasm in practice. He’s always keeping a high tempo, keeping his guys up pace and producing great players. So, that’s a big thing.”
Venables paid a visit to St. Thomas Aquinas during the spring evaluation period, and a week later, he extended an offer to Wingo.
“Honestly I thought it was something that was going to come a lot later,” Wingo said of the offer from Clemson, which is very patient and selective with scholarship offers, especially with underclassmen. “It’s always been a school that I’ve looked up high to, and they’ve always been the standard just like St. Thomas. So, that’s a big thing to look up to, and to have the praise from Coach Venables is something great.”
According to Wingo, Venables sees him fitting in the Tigers’ scheme as a versatile edge-rusher.
“I’ve talked to him a lot about it,” Wingo said. “Kind of like more of a rush linebacker on the outside, maybe drop back into a little bit of coverage, stuff like that.”
Along with Clemson, Wingo named Ohio State and Oklahoma as a couple of the schools he wants to visit moving forward.
Wingo, who has close to two dozen offers, said those are the three schools currently standing out in his recruitment.
“Obviously Clemson’s up there, Oklahoma and I’d say Ohio State are kind of those three that are up there competing,” he said.
Wingo said he would like to make his decision at the end of his upcoming junior season. As he goes through the recruiting process and evaluates his options, he is looking at several factors that will carry weight in his college choice.
“I’d say definitely the earliest time I can get on the field,” he said. “Somewhere I can also compete, push myself. Where the coaches are going to hold me to a high standard, and the guys around me, and hopefully to produce a national championship and somewhere to prepare me for the next level after college.”
Wingo is ranked by Rivals as the No. 8 prospect in Florida, No. 3 outside linebacker and No. 60 overall prospect in the class of 2020.