Fall camp is a grind for all players, but especially true freshmen like DeMonte Capehart going through it for the first time.
Capehart, a consensus four-star recruit and unanimous top-60 national prospect coming out of high school, enrolled at Clemson in January and went through spring practice.
But the defensive tackle says it was during fall camp when it really hit him that he was not in high school anymore but now a big-time college football player banging pads with the big boys, having to battle through the August heat and the mental and physical challenges camp brings.
“Definitely when I was in camp, it hit me hard,” Capehart said on Monday. “Camp, it really brings the best out of you. It can crumble you as well. So, I just stuck with it and bared with it.”
After toughing out fall camp and pushing through it, Capehart started to see his hard work pay off last Saturday during top-ranked Clemson’s 49-0 win over The Citadel at Death Valley.
Making his college debut, Capehart tied for the team lead with 2.0 tackles for loss among his three total tackles and recorded his first career sack in the final moments of the fourth quarter.
“It was just a good experience, it was fun,” Capehart said of playing in his first game with the Tigers. “All of what I thought (it would be) from recruitment to now, it was all the same, felt the same.”
Capehart said the biggest adjustment he has had to make in the transition from high school to college is the mental preparation, both in terms of learning the game plan each week and also breaking down film of opposing offenses and understanding how they try to attack the opposition.
From a physical standpoint, Capehart arrived on campus thinking he was physically ready to play but then realized he needed to gain some weight, something the 6-foot-5, 305-pounder has been able to do.
“I felt like I was ready, but then again, you have to be true with yourself,” Capehart said. “Sometimes you might feel that you’re ready but you’re really not. So, I’m just going along with what the coaches are telling me, what I have to do.”
Ranked as high as the No. 4 defensive tackle and 26 overall prospect in the country coming out of high school by ESPN, Capehart finished his prep career at IMG Academy in 2019 after playing three years at Hartsville High School in South Carolina.
At IMG, Capehart started all 10 games and tallied 44 total tackles, including a team-best 16 tackles for loss and a team-high tying 5.5 sacks, en route to earning first-team postseason All-American honors by Sports Illustrated. As a junior at Hartsville, Capehart posted 40 tackles, 19 of which were tackles for loss, and seven sacks.
Capehart became the first commitment in Clemson’s 2020 class when he gave his verbal pledge to the Tigers in June 2018. Proximity from his hometown of Hartsville, S.C., to the school’s campus was an important factor in his college decision.
“I kind of knew I was coming to Clemson because I wasn’t too far from home,” Capehart said. “I didn’t want to be too close, but not too far, so I just kept it in state with Clemson.”
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