Clemson scored a commitment from one of the nation’s top defensive tackle prospects on Tuesday when Payton Page announced his verbal pledge to the Tigers during a ceremony at a training facility in his hometown of Greensboro, N.C.
In this feature, The Clemson Insider gives an in-depth breakdown of the newest addition to Clemson’s 2021 class, how the Tigers landed him, what they are getting and more:
Payton Page Profile:
Hometown (High School): Greensboro, N.C. (Dudley)
Height, Weight: 6-4, 335
Power Five Offers: Clemson, Alabama, Auburn, Colorado, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Syracuse, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Ratings/Rankings: 4-star, No. 30 national, No. 2 DT, No. 1 state (Rivals); 4-star, No. 31 national, No. 4 DT, No. 3 state (ESPN); 4-star, No. 213 national, No. 14 DT, No. 15 state (247Sports)
How Clemson got him: The Tigers offered Page more than a year ago in June 2019 and made him a top priority, honing in on him as their lone target at the defensive tackle position in the 2021 cycle. Clemson has played host to Page for several unofficial visits over the years, including for a couple of games at Death Valley last season and most recently the program’s elite junior day on Jan. 25.
On Jan. 11, Page made the first cut in his recruitment, narrowing down his list of 30-plus offers to five schools: Clemson, LSU, North Carolina, Oregon and Tennessee. Then, in April, he named a final three of Clemson, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Clemson had long been considered the frontrunner for Page, and while Tennessee was believed to have made up ground this spring after getting Page’s final visit before the NCAA dead period was imposed in March, Page said his recruitment ultimately boiled down to the Tigers and in-state Tar Heels. At the end of the day, he chose to attend the school he felt most comfortable at.
“I really felt comfortable at Clemson, the most comfortable I ever felt,” he said during a question-and-answer session with The Clemson Insider and other reporters on hand for his commitment ceremony. “I felt way more comfortable at Clemson than UNC.”
Head coach Dabo Swinney, defensive coordinator Brent Venables and defensive tackles coach Todd Bates did a great job of building a strong relationship with Page and his family during the process. Bates is Page’s primary recruiter and should be commended for his longstanding efforts to establish a tight-knit bond with Page, who said “Coach Bates is like another father to me.”
Page said North Carolina and Tennessee offered about 12 other defensive tackles, so the fact he was Clemson’s only D-tackle target meant a lot to him.
What Clemson is getting: At 6-foot-4 and well over 300 pounds, Page looks physically ready to play in college right now. His stout frame and weight make him really tough for an offensive lineman to move, and he is not only a run-stuffer but also more than capable as a pass-rusher.
Page is athletic for his size, and when he is not bull-rushing over somebody, he is nimble enough to skirt around an O-lineman in the interior and get into the backfield, while he has the quickness to move laterally and make tackles as well. He disrupts a lot of plays with his force off the line of scrimmage and ability to overpower the opposition.
Overall, Page presents a major problem for defenses with his sheer size and strength, and he has plenty of room to improve as a defensive tackle which is a scary thought for Clemson’s future opponents. Expect him to be a difference-maker up front for the Tigers.
What his commitment means: Clemson is likely done recruiting at defensive tackle in this cycle after picking up Page’s pledge.
With Page now on board, the Tigers hold commitments from the top two prospects in the state of North Carolina per Rivals in Page and Matthews (N.C.) Weddington running back Will Shipley, respectively. So while North Carolina head coach Mack Brown is doing an excellent job on the recruiting trail – the Tar Heels’ 2021 class ranks in the top 10 nationally according to the 247Sports Composite (No. 8) – Swinney and his staff were nonetheless able to dip into North Carolina and nab the state’s best in this cycle.
Swinney has had a lot of success recruiting defensive tackles from North Carolina during his tenure at Clemson, landing future NFL players Dexter Lawrence, Carlos Watkins and Page’s fellow Greensboro native, D.J. Reader.
Clemson now owns the No. 4 recruiting class in the country according to the 247Sports Composite following Page’s commitment.
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