Clemson went into Wake Forest (N.C.) High School and pulled out one of the biggest gems of the 2016 recruiting class in defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. Now the Tigers are reaching back to that program in pursuit of another talented defensive tackle.
Jaden McKenzie, a 6-4, 280-pound Shrine Bowl selection, isn't as highly touted nationally as Lawrence was coming out of high school, but he is a very good prospect in his own right.
“Coming off the ball, he reminds me of Dexter,” said Wake Forest High coach Reggie Lucas. “That’s how quick he is. He’s very explosive coming off the ball.”
McKenzie has not made it to Clemson for a game this season but he’s planning to get there. He has been to the campus three times. According to stats compiled for MaxPreps, McKenzie had 97 tackles and 9 sacks as a junior. He also had 9 sacks as a sophomore. And in seven games this season he’s recorded 42 tackles and 6 sacks.
McKenzie knows about the legacy of talent on Clemson’s defensive line but feels he has the pedigree to fit right in if he chooses the Tigers.
“I know they’ve got a defensive line that the whole front is elite players. I’ll have to step my game up more,” McKenzie said. “I feel like I could be a good fit on their D-line with some work."
McKenzie has been to Wake Forest and North Carolina for games. He has official visits set with Wake for Nov. 30 and North Carolina the following weekend. Those two, he said, are recruiting him the hardest. He also has offers from South Carolina, Ohio State, Duke, UCF, East Carolina, Memphis and others. McKenzie said he is not graduating early but he does plan to sign in December.
Saturday’s Louisville game offered Clemson the chance to host some top targets. Among those on hand were center Clay Webb of Oxford, Ala.; RB Jerrion Ealy of Jackson, Miss.; and 2020 CB RJ Mickens of Southlake, Tex.
Ealy is an Ole Miss commitment and also a highly rated baseball prospect. Mickens also has Ohio State and Texas A&M high up on his list.
Wide receiver Ali Jennings of Highland Springs, Va., also was at Clemson Saturday. His reported offers include Georgia Tech and West Virginia. He’s the brother of Clemson safety K’Von Wallace. He also visited USC last month.
Also visiting Clemson Saturday were 2020 OL Colby Todd of Aynor, 2020 SAF Donqua Wilson of A.C. Flora, and 2021 OL Quinton Bradford of Norcross, Ga.
Clemson and USC target LB Quavaris Crouch of Charlotte took his official visit to Michigan this past weekend. He also has taken an official to Florida State. He’s been to Clemson, USC and NC State for games.
Four teams have emerged as the frontrunners for former Georgia commitment CB Jalen Perry of Dacula, Ga. USC, Michigan, Auburn and Florida have a chance to land Perry after he wraps up his visits in December.
Perry has been to USC twice for games this season. He also went to Michigan for the Wisconsin game. He plans to take an official visit to Florida soon and will visit Auburn this month. He plans to return to USC for the UT-Chattanooga game.
Offensive lineman Jakai Moore of Nokesville, Va., remains a much coveted prospect by USC, Clemson and others. He has taken one official visit thus far, to USC in April. He was back at USC for the Tennessee game last month.
“The visit was amazing, I’m not going to lie to you,” Moore said. “For my first game visit to South Carolina, it was a good one, I liked it. The coaches are chill. I can talk to them. They are basically like family.”
As for his real family, Moore said his mother “loves South Carolina.” Moore watched the Gamecocks take down Tennessee and he also got the chance to talk with Will Muschamp who further drove home the message he has used in recruiting players the last three years.
“They need me and they can get me to the NFL the best way because playing in the SEC is a whole different level,” Moore said. “And they are only getting better. I definitely seen that out there.. If I don’t start off the jump, I’ll definitely have the chance to play early.”
Moore said the visit left the Gamecocks very high on his list though he’s not naming favorites. He has one more official visit set and that’s to Penn State in December. Clemson also remains in Moore’s ear and he will visit there unofficially for the USC game.
“I’ve been talking to Coach Caldwell all the time, just constantly contacting me and calling me on the phone, we keep in contact a lot,” Moore said. “They’re the top dogs.” Moore said he will consider an official visit to Clemson before making his announcement on Dec. 19.
USC is showing increased interest in Mullins ATH Xavier Legette. Legette visited for the Tennessee game and might eventually call Columbia home.
“I feel like I fit in pretty good with them” Legette said. Legette plays quarterback for the Auctioneers but said the Gamecocks like him primarily as a receiver, though he also talked with defensive coordinator and secondary coach Travaris Robinson about playing over there.
Legette also met with Muschamp in his office and got an offer from the Gamecocks’ head man, though it came with a twist.
“He said I’ve got a full scholarship offer from there right now but as of right now I can’t enroll in June. “I have to enroll August 1st when the school starts because he doesn’t have enough (scholarship) numbers right now. He put me on the scholarship with the 2020 class.”
Legette said that arrangement is fine with him though he wasn’t prepared to say yes right away. He also has an offer from Coastal Carolina and is hearing from Georgia State and Wake Forest. He also has been to Coastal Carolina and Georgia State for games.
Placekicker Alex Herrera of Spring Valley was back at USC for the Tennessee game, his third visit for a game this season. Herrera said the visit went well and he’s been invited back for the UT-Chattanooga game.
Wisdom Asaboro, a 6-8 275-pound lineman from Nigeria, has suddenly burst onto the recruiting scene. He plays for Covenant Day School in Matthews, N.C., and is being recruited for the Class of 2020.
USC and North Carolina were his first offers and Clemson is also entering the fray. Asaboro visited USC for the Tennessee game and was scheduled to visit Clemson this Saturday.
Asaboro plays defensive line but he projects for either the offensive or defensive line and there is no consensus among the recruiters about which position he would play. He also plays basketball.
Cornerback Emon Hill of Hoschton, Ga., visited USC for the Tennessee game. Hill has not yet landed offers but he’s also getting interest from Mississippi State, Louisville, Oregon State and Kentucky. He was at Tennessee over the weekend and will go to Notre Dame this weekend.
TreVeyon Henderson of Hopewell, Va., also was in for a visit at USC for the Tennessee game. The Gamecocks like him as a safety. He’s also getting interest from Indiana and Michigan and he’s planning visits to Virginia, Temple and Cincinnati.
Linebacker Dameon Wilson of Kings Mountain, N.C., has a USC offer and was back for the Tennessee game. He also was in Columbia for the Georgia game. He has an offer from North Carolina and went to Clemson for the Syracuse game.
USC offered cornerback Maurice Gaines, a native of Sacramento who attends St. Thomas More Academy in Connecticut. He currently is committed to Arizona. Georgia Tech and Baylor are among his other offers.
Cooper Dawson of Hanahan took an official visit to Army over the weekend. The offensive/defensive lineman is scheduled for an official to UCF this weekend and one to Vanderbilt the following weekend.
The early signing period for basketball is next week and Clemson coach Brad Brownell will be signing three guards to help offset the loss of this year’s starting backcourt.
On Friday, 6-4 Alex Hemenway of Newburgh, Ind., committed to the Tigers over Creighton, DePaul and Belmont. He joins 6-3 Chase Hunter and 6-1 Al-Amir Dawes in the Tigers’ class.
Gerald Drumgoole (6-5), who took an official to USC in late September, made an official visit to Minnesota over the weekend. He’s also has Creighton and Oklahoma on his short list.
Christian Brown (6-7), formerly of A.C. Flora and Lower Richland and most recently at McCeachern High in Powder Springs, Ga., enrolled last week at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. He has taken official visits to Clemson, Georgia and UNLV.