Clemson signed Dietrick Pennington in December as an offensive lineman. But there was a time when the two-way lineman from Evangelical Christian School in Memphis, Tenn., desired to play on the defensive side of the ball.
“He played both, but he really wanted to play D-line,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said during the program’s National Signing Day show on Dec. 16. “And then I think he realized, you know what, I’ve got a really bright future as an offensive lineman.”
Swinney recalls seeing Pennington work out with both the offensive and defensive linemen at one of Clemson’s high school football camps in the summer of 2019, and Swinney remembers thinking at the time about how much potential Pennington would have if he decided to play on the offensive line.
So, following Pennington’s performance at the camp, the Tigers pulled the trigger on offering him as an O-lineman.
“I remember going over and watching this kid – I guess he was maybe a 10th grader, and he’s working in the D-line – and I remember watching him and I’m going, ‘Man, what a great looking kid he is,’” Swinney said. “And then I watched him in our OL-DL pass rush, and he was a good D-lineman. But when you’ve coached long enough, every now and then you come across him and you say, ‘Man, if he would ever buy into playing OL, he could be something special. He’s a good D-lineman – he could be an elite offensive lineman.’ And unfortunately, a lot of guys won’t buy into that.”
However, Pennington did buy into playing the position, and he ended up committing to Clemson last July, choosing the Tigers over Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and other schools on his double-digit offer list.
Clemson is getting a mammoth individual in Pennington, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and well over 300 pounds.
Between Pennington and fellow offensive line signee Marcus Tate, the Tigers are adding two huge players to their O-line room.
“He is a mountain of a man,” Swinney said of Pennington. “This is probably two of the biggest guys that we’ve signed coming in here with Marcus and Dietrick.”
“And a great kid,” Swinney added of Pennington. “Great kid, great fit for us, and one of the cooler moments when he committed. He had his whole family and his grandparents and everybody in the room. It was a pretty special moment for all of them, and a guy that we think has a bright future here for us.”
A four-star signee according to ESPN and 247Sports, Pennington is ranked among the top 150 players (No. 135) in the 2021 class regardless of position by 247Sports. He was named Mr. Football for D2-AA in Tennessee in 2020 after being the runner-up for the honor in 2019.
Pennington, a two-way starter on Evangelical Christian’s 2019 D2-AA state title team, was a preseason and postseason all-state honoree in 2019 and MVP of the D2-AA West Region in 2019 and 2020. He graded at 93 percent or better for every football game his junior and senior seasons, and the three-sport athlete also played basketball and threw shotput and discus.
Despite being a sought-after prospect, Pennington wasn’t a hard person to recruit according to Clemson offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell.
“He doesn’t say a word. It’s easy to recruit,” Caldwell said during Clemson’s signing day show. “You do all the talking. So, he just says, ‘Yes sir, no sir.’ Got good people around him, good advice. … But he is a very special young man. Good student, too.”