During his national signing day press conference, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney had high praise for talented all-around athlete Barrett Carter, one of the five-star prospects the Tigers signed on Wednesday when college football’s early signing period got underway.
Carter was labeled as a linebacker by all the major recruiting services, but while he is more than capable of manning that position, Clemson doesn’t plan to limit him exclusively to any one role as he possesses the versatility to play all over the field on defense.
“We’re going to use him in a versatile way,” Swinney said. “He’s not a guy you can kind of put in a box there. He absolutely can play linebacker, there’s no question about that. But we think he could play either safety, we think he could play nickel-SAM – I mean, he is as dynamic a guy as we’ve signed. And if you just watch him and what he’s done offensively as well – he’s fast, he’s got the size and the physicality to play in the box, but he’s got the speed and coverage ability and range to play on the back end.”
Carter – rated as a five-star prospect and a top-35 national prospect in the 2021 class by both Rivals (No. 21 overall) and the 247Sports Composite (No. 33) – played on both sides of the ball at North Gwinnett High School in Georgia, seeing action at linebacker, running back and even quarterback.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder finished his prep career with 162 tackles, including 27 for loss and 18 sacks. In seven games as a senior this year, he tallied 38 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and five sacks to go with 429 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns, along with seven receptions for 68 yards. He had a 79-yard interception return for a score and also threw a 13-yard touchdown pass.
Clemson cornerbacks coach Mike Reed believes Carter’s skill set and ability to line up at multiple positions on defense will force opposing teams to have to game plan for him at the next level.
“He’s a guy that teams are going to have to scheme against,” Reed said during Clemson Football’s National Signing Day show at the Reeves Football Operation Complex on Wednesday. “As Coach alluded to, he’s very dynamic, can do a lot. When you have a guy like that, it’s one of those kind of kids you have to be accountable for on every play. You never know where he’s going to line up. I mean, heck, he even played quarterback this year and did a heck of a job as a quarterback, and a running back. So, those type of athletes in our defensive scheme will allow us to do a lot of things.”
Swinney says Carter is the type of player who can be deployed on defense against any kind of offense, regardless of the personnel it uses.
“He’s a guy that in today’s world of offensive football and people spreading people out and 12 personnel (one running back and two tight ends), 11 personnel (one running back and one tight end), 10 personnel (one running back and zero tight ends), multiple personnel groupings and those type of things, he’s a guy that can play any down,” Swinney said. “He can play in any package against any personnel that an offense puts on the field. He’s physical enough to hold up against any 12-personnel type of attack. He’s fast enough and athletic and rangy enough to play against a 10-personnel team. There’s really nothing he can’t do.”
Clemson fans can expect to see Carter utilized in a way similar to former Tiger All-American defender Isaiah Simmons, who went on to be selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
“I think again, just his versatility, it’s hard to just kind of pencil him in,” Swinney said of Carter. “He’s one of those guys we’ll figure out, like an Isaiah Simmons. We’ll figure him out as we go, but you’ll see him do a lot of different things throughout his career.”
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