Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney believes the Tigers hit it out of the park when they signed Cade Denhoff and Zaire Patterson as part of their 2021 class.
Swinney sees a bright future ahead for the pair of talented defensive ends and thinks both of them have a very high ceiling.
“I think he and Cade are both in that category,” Swinney said when asked if Patterson and Denhoff are two of the bigger-upside players he has signed.
Denhoff and Patterson are unanimous four-star prospects according to the major recruiting services, and both are top-100 national players per 247Sports. Denhoff is ranked as the No. 89 overall prospect in the 2021 class, while Patterson checks in as the No. 97 overall player nationally.
Denhoff, a five-year letterman at Lakeland (Fla.) Christian School, recorded 282 career tackles, 26.5 sacks, seven caused fumbles and four fumble recoveries in 48 career games, including nine as an eighth grader.
The 6-foot-5, 243-pounder posted 40 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, in seven games during his pandemic-shortened senior season in 2020.
“Cade, man, he’s a blossoming guy,” Swinney said. “Got a motor that you can’t coach. He’s long … Both of those guys are long.”
Patterson, meanwhile, was a multi-sport star in high school and played multiple positions during his football career at Winston-Salem (N.C.) Prep. But the standout athlete settled in as a defensive end on the gridiron and has started growing into his long, lanky frame.
Patterson did not have a fall 2020 high school season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but as a junior in 2019, he posted 129 tackles, including 27 for loss and nine sacks, and also recorded three interceptions for 78 return yards to go with nine caused fumbles.
During his high school career, Patterson amassed 181 career tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 25 sacks, three interceptions and 10 caused fumbles in 21 games over two seasons.
The 6-foot-6 athlete also played three years of high school basketball and initially had aspirations of playing that sport at the next level before deciding to focus on football.
“Zaire transitioned to football kind of full time, if you will, and gave up the hoop dreams and realized you know what, he’s going to have a lot more opportunity putting his hand in the dirt, and him buying into that,” Swinney said. “And quarantine’s been good for him. I think the first time we saw him, he may have been about 205 pounds or something like that, and now he’s about 240-plus there, and big-time athlete — fast, twitchy, long.”
Patterson is slated to enroll at Clemson this summer, while Denhoff arrived on campus in early January as a midyear enrollee.
Swinney is excited to see what the future holds for the promising D-end duo as Tigers.
“Both of those guys, I think we hit a home run when it comes to their upside and their potential of what they can be here at Clemson,” he said.