Dabo Swinney still has a clear visual in his head of the photo he received in a text message from Christian Wilkins, with the former Clemson three-time All-American defensive lineman pictured next to Marcus Tate, one of the players the Tigers signed in December during the early signing period.
Tate, a mammoth offensive lineman from Sunrise, Fla., was working out in the Sunshine State at the same place as Wilkins, who now plays in the NFL for the Miami Dolphins. And Swinney vividly remembers seeing how Tate dwarfed Wilkins in their photo together.
“I guess this would have been back, I don’t know when it was, last year or something,” Clemson’s head coach said during the program’s National Signing Day Show on Dec. 16. “But somehow or another – because obviously Christian Wilkins lives down there – and somehow or another they were training at the same place. And I get this text message from Christian Wilkins, and it was Christian Wilkins and he was smiling with this kid, and he sent me the picture.
“If the random person saw this picture and you said OK, which one’s the NFL player and which one’s the high school player, you would’ve picked Marcus. That’s how big he is, because he made Christian look tiny.”
Clemson offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell described Tate, an early enrollee who arrived on campus this week, as a “mountain” of a man.
“He’s over 6-5, probably closer to 6-6, and with his hair he’s probably about 6-8 or -9 it looks like,” Caldwell joked during Clemson’s signing day show. “But big man. 325 pounds, can run, athletic.”
A consensus four-star recruit according to the major recruiting services, Tate committed to Clemson on Sept. 24, 2019, choosing the Tigers over Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, LSU, Ohio State and Oregon among other schools on his list of 20-plus offers.
Tate played his first three high school seasons at NSU University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. That school cancelled its 2020 season due to COVID-19, so Tate played for Tru Prep Academy (Miami Gardens, Fla.) in 2020, when he was a member of the school’s state championship team.
“He finishes blocks,” Caldwell said of Tate, a top-150 national prospect per multiple services. “Several clips, you’ll see him mash him over into the sidelines. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and so personable… Great family, and he’s just fun to be around. He’s been committed since September, and he knew what he wanted.”
Tate is one of four offensive linemen that Clemson signed in December, along with five-star Tristan Leigh, four-star Ryan Linthicum and four-star Dietrick Pennington.
“He is a big, athletic man,” Swinney said of Tate. “Again, a winner. Great family. Been committed a long time. Loyal young man, and one of those guys that you love his personality. He’s got a lot of depth to him, and very smart. Knows what he wants in life, and a great addition to that OL room.”