Rasool Clemons generally shies away from attention and making any bold predictions when it comes to the football field. South Aiken’s 6-foot-6 rising junior simply said “just keep watching” when asked about what he and the Thoroughbreds have in store for the season.
Watching is precisely what many in the area and perhaps around the nation will be doing this year when it comes to Clemons. That’s what lands the physical defensive end at No. 6 on the Aiken Standard’s list of top players to watch in the 2013 season.
A year ago at this time, Clemons was just preparing to play his first season of football. He had aspirations to be a “Randy Moss-like receiver.” However, he made waves at defensive end, capturing the attention of top Division I programs like Florida State and Clemson.
Recruiting web site 247Sports already has him listed as the No. 4 recruit in South Carolina for the class of 2015 and the No. 6 weak-side defensive end in the nation.
“It’s kind of unreal right now so I’m taking it day by day,” Clemons said of the recruiting hype. “It’s still early. I’m not really thinking about (making a decision) right now. I’m just trying to keep improving.”
Clemons’ laid back approach and humbleness is what his coach Jeremy West said might be the best part about him as a player. He doesn’t feed into the hype surrounding him.
After only one year, Clemons has already earned offers from a trio of ACC schools, the aforementioned Tigers and Seminoles and Virginia as well. Additionally, a number of other colleges such as LSU and South Carolina have expressed interest as well. Despite it all, West is glad Clemons hasn’t gotten caught up in the recruiting buzz.
“He’s fun to watch because he’s humble that’s one big thing he has going for him,” West said. “Most kids like that, it’s hard to coach them sometime because they start believing the press clippings. But he’s his own boy and is just worried about how he can get better and what he can do to help the team get better.”
Two areas Clemons wants to improve this season are in the weight room and with his speed. The added speed will come in handy this year, as Clemons will finally get a chance to impact the passing game. West plans to utilize Clemons as a tight end this season. The team was looking at him as a receiver when he moved to the area but after a strong showing on the defensive side in scrimmages and the first game, West saw no need to move him to the offensive side of the ball. However, the coach now feels that Clemons is ready to take on the task of playing both ways.
“His motor doesn’t stop, and he’s relentless,” West said. “The biggest thing he has going for him is he knows how to use what god gave him.”
West said he marveled at Clemons’ ability to make plays all over the field last year and his propensity to get into the offensive backfield. Last season he recorded 52 tackles – seven of them for a loss of yards – as well as four forced fumbles and an interception.
Clemons’ long arms and big frame helped him pile up those stats. They should also help him in the passing game. He wants to use the same physicality he does at defensive end as a tight end.
“It’s new to me, Playing both sides of the ball,” Clemons said of his the switch he’s excited to make. “I was a little disappointed because when I came to be a receiver I didn’t get to, but it came out good. I liked playing (defense) and now I get a chance to get in the passing game too.”
Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken in May 2012 with a degree in communications.
This story is the third in a series highlighting the top 10 Players to Watch in the Aiken area for the rapidly approaching high school football season. The list will be revealed in descending order on a daily basis, with the No. 1 player to watch to be revealed on July 21.
• July 12 — No. 10 Reggie Preston, RS-M
• July 13 — No. 9 Jaylen Lawrence, SB
• July 14 — No. 8 RJ Tyler, W-S
• July 15 — No. 7 Taylor Hearn, W-E
• Today — No. 6 Rasool Clemmons, SA
• Wednesday — No. 5
• Thursday — No. 4
• Friday — No. 3
• Saturday — No. 2
• Sunday — No. 1
The order was determined by Aiken Standard sports editor Noah Feit, staff writers Jeremy Timmerman and Eric Russell, North Augusta Star news editor Scott Rodgers, Aiken Standard intern Kyle Dawson, as well as ASTV broadcasters Ed Girardeau and Ken Brace.