A Peach State defensive lineman on Clemson’s radar for the future was among the top performers at the Elite Underclassmen Camp this past weekend in Johns Creek, Ga.
Covington (Ga.) Newton defensive end Justin Benton put on an impressive showing and, in the process, earned invitations to Under Armour’s Future 50 Underclassmen Camp and the 2023 Under Armour All-America Game.
“It felt great,” Benton said of receiving the invites following a strong camp effort. “I really felt accomplished, and that’s been a childhood dream for me. So, I’m really glad that I got that invite and I’m blessed.”
A 6-foot-3, 245-pound rising sophomore, Benton is attracting plenty of early interest on the recruiting trail and already cites more than 20 offers including Georgia, LSU, Florida, Florida State, Penn State, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Oregon and Southern Cal among others.
Benton – whose father, Phillip, was a linebacker at Georgia from 1992-95 – feels there are several schools, among those on his offer list, showing him the most interest early in the process.
“At this point, a few schools that are showing the most love is Georgia, Penn State, LSU, North Carolina, USC and South Carolina,” he said.
Clemson is also showing significant early interest in Benton, who happens to be a cousin of Clemson redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Darnell Jefferies, who likewise attended Newton High School.
“That’s my boy,” Benton said of his relationship with Jefferies. “We do a lot of things together. That’s my boy. That’s one of my main guys right there.”
Defensive tackles coach Todd Bates, who was Jefferies’ main recruiter, sees a lot of potential in Benton and his ability as a D-lineman.
“He loves my physicality, he likes how I get off the ball, he likes my stature, he likes my stats,” Benton said. “Coach Bates is a really good dude, and I like the way they play football at Clemson.”
Benton burst onto the scene as a freshman last season when he amassed 79 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks and a pair of forced fumbles.
“As a player I’m very disruptive,” he said. “I have a very high motor, and I’m going to get after the quarterback. I’m a pass rusher but I can play the run, too. So, if anybody needs somebody who wants to get after the passer, that’s what I can do.”
Benton says he has no favorites in his recruitment this early in the process and is “just trying to take it all in right now.”
The Tigers typically don’t extend offers to prospects until the summer before their junior year, but they will claim a spot high on Benton’s list of college choices if they decide to offer in the future.
“That would mean a lot to me because Clemson is a tough offer to get and a great offer to have,” he said. “So, if Clemson came in the offer race, they’ll be one of the schools that would be most higher to the top of my list because I really like Clemson and I feel like it’s a prestigious school and a prestigious offer to have.”
Benton made an unofficial visit to Clemson in April 2019 and hopes to return to campus for another visit after the NCAA dead period, which was recently extended through Aug. 31, eventually comes to an end.
Clemson masks are now available.
Please stay safe and get your officially licensed Clemson gear right here!