- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
With the news of the top player in the land Robert Nkemdiche (Loganville, Ga./Grayson) committing still fresh, Clemson now has even more reason to smile as off the heels of the verbal of the No. 1 rated defensive end the Tigers have added a verbal from ESPN 150 D-End Elijah Daniel (Avon, Ind.). This is a big pick-up for Clemson for a couple reasons.
First off, the Tigers are getting a good prospect in Daniel the No. 6 rated defensive end in the nation. The defender out of the Hoosier State does not possess the same type of freakish size that Nkemdiche does, but Daniel does have good size at this stage with a frame that should be able to support more good mass with time in the Tigers weight program. He can be a disruptive player as he possesses good initial quickness. He displays good promise as an edge rusher with just enough speed to get tackles thinking which can lead to mistakes and Daniel flashes the ability to be able to take advantage of those errors whether it’s around the edge or countering back inside. He doesn’t display the ability to win solely with speed and needs to continue to develop the use of his weapons, but with polish and a plan he has the tools to cause consistent problems as a pass rusher.
Daniel can not only get after the quarterback, but also displays the tools with further development to be able to stay on the field and be a productive run defender. He moves well for his size and displays the ability to see and react well to blocking schemes. He uses his hands well and is able to quickly separate and shed. He is a defender with a nice motor and uses good angles in pursuit. He may not offer the same type of immediate impact ability that Nkemdiche does, but the tools are there for Daniel to develop into a very good college player.
In addition to Daniel being a very good prospect in his own right, this is also a big pick-up for Clemson in the fact that if you want to make your top players like Nkemdiche more effective and more dangerous, then surround them with other good players. Daniel’s is a prospect with the ability to be a good defender and when you can surround a prospect like Nkemdiche with players like Daniel it can make it tough for offenses to put their focus on a player like the nation’s top prospect. For example, a player like Daniel on the edge, makes it easier to be able to slide a player like Nkemdiche inside as a nickel rusher and stack your D-line with dangerous pass rushers, forcing offenses to have to keep in potential receiving targets to bolster protection or ask your lineman to have win some tough one-on-one battles. Nkemdiche is a very good prospect and even if he should realize his full potential he can’t do it alone and surrounding him with players like Daniel should only make everyone on the Tigers defense better.
Lastly, when you pick-up a player like the top prospect, you hope that it can help lead to other victories on the recruiting trail. Good players often want to play with other good players, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Clemson would quickly add another good defensive prospect even one from outside their recruiting base like Daniel whose out of Indiana. The Tigers are still in the hunt for other highly rated D-Lineman so there is a good change its not over for Clemson upfront in this class. Naturally all these prospects need to sign and then work hard and realize their potential which only time will tell, but right now Clemson fans have a lot to be happy about as the Tigers are landing the pieces to assemble a potent D-Line in the near future.
4hTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney