A 6-foot-3, 245-pound sophomore, Covington (Ga.) Newton defensive end Justin Benton is attracting plenty of early interest from major college football programs and is already a sought-after recruit in the class of 2023.
The four-star prospect, ranked as a top-100 national player by 247Sports, cites close to two dozen scholarship offers with schools such as Georgia, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Oregon and Southern Cal comprising his offer list.
The Clemson Insider recently caught up with Benton, who is on the Tigers’ recruiting radar as well, about his recruitment.
“Recruiting wise, I’m grateful for the many opportunities ahead of me,” he said. “I’m honored and humbled at the thought of pursuing my dream at any of the schools that have offered me the opportunity thus far.”
Benton’s father, Phillip, played linebacker at Georgia from 1992-95, and the younger Benton has a tie to Clemson as well.
Benton is cousins with Darnell Jefferies, a redshirt sophomore defensive tackle for the Tigers who likewise attended Newton High School.
“That’s my boy,” Benton said of his relationship with Jefferies. “We do a lot of things together. That’s my boy. That’s one of my main guys right there.”
Clemson defensive tackles coach Todd Bates, who served as Jefferies’ primary recruiter, is showing interest in Benton and sees plenty of potential in the talented D-lineman.
As a sophomore in 2020, Benton tallied 85 tackles, including 25.5 for loss and 13.5 sacks, while recording four forced fumbles, two pass breakups and an interception.
“He loves my physicality, he likes how I get off the ball, he likes my stature, he likes my stats,” Benton said. “Coach Bates is a really good dude, and I like the way they play football at Clemson.”
Moving forward, Benton hopes to see the Tigers join his already impressive offer list that should only keep growing in the future.
“Clemson is a great school,” he said. “I would be honored for an opportunity to continue my academic and football career there.”
Benton made an unofficial visit to Clemson last April and is looking to return to campus, as well as check out other schools, when the NCAA dead period eventually comes to an end.
All in-person recruiting visits have been suspended since the dead period was implemented last March due to COVID-19, and the dead period is in place through at least April 15.
“I will be glad when the recruiting process opens back up,” Benton said. “I hope to be able to visit as many schools as possible including Georgia, LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Tennessee, and more.”
Benton is ranked by 247Sports as the 11th-best prospect from the Peach State, No. 10 strongside defensive end nationally and No. 99 overall prospect in the class of 2023.