Cade Denhoff, who signed with Clemson in December, checked off all the boxes the Tigers look for when evaluating a defensive end during the recruiting process.
But what head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff really appreciate about Denhoff – a four-star prospect and national top-100 player – is his non-stop motor and how hard he plays all the time.
As Swinney put it, there is no off-switch when it comes to Denhoff’s relentless effort off the edge of the defensive line.
“The thing that we love about Cade – he’s got the length and the get-off and all that stuff that you look for in a D-end, he’s tough – but he’s got a motor you can’t coach,” Swinney said during Clemson’s National Signing Day show in December. “There is no switch. The switch is just broken. It’s taped on all the time.”
A five-year letterman at Lakeland (Fla.) Christian School, Denhoff saw action in nine games as an eighth grader and played 48 games overall, recording 282 career tackles, 26.5 sacks, seven caused fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
As a senior in 2020, Denhoff played seven games and had 40 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, in a pandemic-shortened season.
The Tigers extended an offer to Denhoff in July 2019 after seeing him work out at the Swinney Football Camp that June, and he committed to Clemson in January 2020 over offers from more than two dozen other programs, including finalists Alabama, LSU, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Virginia.
“We’re really excited about Cade and what he brings to the table,” Clemson defensive ends coach Lemanski Hall said during the program’s signing day show. “He camped with us, so we had a chance to really evaluate him. Watched him play in person. He’s long, explosive, plays with great effort, tough kid, and we’re excited to have him here.”
Denhoff was on Clemson’s recruiting radar for a long time, and the Tigers recognized his upside early in the process. The long and lanky edge rusher just needed to fill out his frame, and he has done just that.
The 6-foot-5 Denhoff currently weighs 243 pounds and hopes to get up to 255 by the time his freshman season rolls around next fall.
“He’s a guy that we knew about early, and just the epitome of the game of football,” Swinney said. “A guy that, as a ninth grader, you saw the potential but really had to physically develop, and man oh man oh man, has he. He’s long. His body has really started to blossom and mature.”
Denhoff is a unanimous four-star prospect according to the major recruiting services, while ESPN (No. 82) and 247Sports (No. 89) both consider him a top-100 national player in the 2021 class.
One of two defensive ends that Clemson signed in December, along with four-star Zaire Patterson, Denhoff arrived on campus in early January as a midyear enrollee.
“Really, really excited about Cade and his future at this position,” Swinney said. “Fits a huge need for us.”