A.J. Terrell’s last game in a Clemson uniform was not what he imagined it would be. The former Tiger, who decided to forgo his senior season and declared himself eligible for the 2020 NFL Draft, was part of a Clemson secondary that was chopped up by Joe Burrow in the national championship game.
LSU’s Heisman Trophy winner completed 31-of-49 passes for 463 yards and five touchdowns while snapping the Tigers’ 29-game winning streak.
Though Terrell was not responsible for allowing all of those yards, he did give up two pass plays of 52 yards and 56 yards to Ja’Marr Chase, who set a College Football Playoff National Championship record 221 yards on nine catches in LSU’s 42-25 victory in New Orleans.
Many thought Terrell’s performance would cause him to return to school for his senior season. However, despite what happened in the game, the 6-1, 190-pound corner is still considered a late first-round to early second-round pick by some in April’s NFL Draft.
A First-Team All-ACC selection, Terrell played in all 15 games this past season for Clemson, while recording 34 tackles. He also had two interceptions in helping a Clemson defense that finished fourth nationally in passing defense, third in scoring defense and sixth in total defense.
Terrell, who played a big role in the Tigers’ return to the national championship game, had six inceptions in his Clemson career, to go along with 20 PBUs.
In all, Terrell played in 44 games and started 30 of them at Clemson. The 6-1, 190-pound defensive back had a pick-six in last year’s national championship game against Alabama, which started the scoring. He also had a career-high eight tackles. Clemson went onto beat Alabama that night and claim the national championship.
Terrell has all of the same qualities as former Tiger Mackensie Alexander, but he has a little more, too. Terrell is also very tall, and he has the length to go with it. Unlike Alexander, who plays for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, Terrell uses his 6-1 frame to go up and get the football.
“He can make some plays on the ball that Mackensie can’t make, which is why is a rare dude with that length playing corner,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said previously.
That length allowed Terrell to earn All-ACC honors in each of the last two seasons. His best interception came last January in the CFP title game when he stepped in front of a Tua Tagovailoa pass on Alabama’s first drive and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown.
Swinney said Terrell is that guy who can just take away one side of the field.
“He has played high level ball. He has gone day in and day out against elite players,” the Clemson coach said. “He has played in big games and made big plays. He is confident. He has put in a lot of work.
“He is in a great place physically. He really understands the game. He is a guy that can take a guy away for sure.”
He can also out jump a receiver for the football, and because he is close to 200 pounds, he can’t just be pushed to the side and run by either.
“He can get up there and lineup on 6-5 guys and matchup with them,” Swinney said.
At Clemson, Terrell lined up against 6-5 receivers every day in practice, as he went up against Tee Higgins, Justyn Ross, Diondre Overton and Joseph Ngata. When he goes up against those types of receivers, then there is nothing an opponent can throw at him that he already has not seen.
“You really can’t take plays off, especially with our receivers,” Terrell said prior to the 2019 season. “That is the beauty of it out here. Being able to go against our receivers every day. They always bring the best out in you and you can’t sleep on any plays. You just have to keep competing every day and give it everything you have.”
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