Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, tight ends coach Danny Pearman and the Tigers had only one available scholarship for the tight end position in the 2021 recruiting cycle, and they succeeded in landing the lone player they coveted — Jake Briningstool.
“Danny recruited all over, evaluated a lot of guys, and he wanted to be the one guy and we wanted him to be the one guy, and man, is he special,” Swinney said during Clemson Football’s National Signing Day Show at the Reeves Football Complex after Briningstool signed with the Tigers on Dec. 16.
Briningstool, a product of Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tenn., is the son of former Michigan State linebacker Tony Briningstool who played for the Spartans in the late 1980s-early 90s.
The younger Briningstool — a unanimous four-star prospect and consensus top-100 national player — is the complete package as a tight end according to Swinney.
Briningstool is regarded as the top prospect in the Volunteer State by both ESPN and 247Sports and is billed as the No. 1 tight end in the country for the 2021 class by the 247Sports Composite rankings.
“He’s long, he can run, he’s got a great skill set as far as finishing passes,” Swinney said. “He’s tough. He really brings everything we’re looking for, and he’s got great growth potential. He’s not fully developed in what he’s going to be physically. His dad was a great player… So, we’re really excited about Jake and what he brings. Going to be a great leader for us. Don’t have any doubt about that. I think a lot of people have him as the best player in the state of Tennessee. But got a bright future in that tight end room.”
Briningstool (6-6, 215) drew a comparison from Pearman to former Clemson tight end Brandon Ford, who had 65 receptions for 728 yards and 12 touchdowns across 44 games in his career as a Tiger.
Ford served as Dwayne Allen’s primary backup at tight end in 2010 and 2011 before emerging as one of the nation’s top tight ends in 2012, when he earned first-team All-ACC honors after recording 40 receptions for 480 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games (all starts).
“From a catch radius standpoint, maybe a Brandon Ford kind of a kid,” Pearman said during Clemson’s signing day show, comparing Briningstool to Ford. “He’s played a lot of flex guy outside as a receiver. He’s run a bunch of Bang-8 glance routes, slant routes. Big red-zone mismatch down in the plus territory. So, I’d say maybe kind of a Brandon Ford from that standpoint for us.”
Swinney likewise sees similarities between Briningstool and Ford, particularly in terms of their comparable length.
“He’s long,” Swinney said. “Brandon was a really long kid, and his catch radius is tremendous. He’s taller than Brandon, but he’s got that same length to him and can run.”
A three-year starter at Ravenwood, Briningstool racked up 111 catches for 1,955 yards and 22 receiving touchdowns during his high school career.
An all-region selection in 2019 and 2020 and second-team All-Mid State performer as a junior, Briningstool was a Mr. Football finalist in Tennessee for 6A as a senior after tallying 39 receptions for 774 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also had a 51-yard kickoff return for a score, giving him 13 touchdowns for the year.
“He’s a dynamic kid and exactly what everybody’s looking for,” Swinney said. “That’s why he was such a highly recruited guy. It’s hard to find guys that can bring everything to the table as a tight end, and that’s what everybody is looking for because of the mismatch opportunity, the ability to have the edge in the run game that you need and then again, to be able to flex him out, play him in the box, do different things — whether it be your play-action game, pass protection or just stretching the ball down the field. So, he brings all that to the table.”
Briningstool, who committed to Clemson while on campus for the program’s elite junior day event in January of this year, is expected to enroll early in January 2021.
“He had been over here several times. He had camped with us, he had been to a game or two, and he came over and he just didn’t want to leave town without going over there Sunday morning and putting his name on a scholarship, and I’ll remember him for that probably as much as anything,” Pearman said. “Comes from a very successful program over there at Ravenwood with Coach (Matt) Daniels. They just do a good job year in and year out. So, he’s used to the competition, he’s used to winning, and he’s ready to get on board.”
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