South Aiken star defensive end Rasool Clemons sent out a tweet Saturday night which read, “Feel so much better now.”
The tweet was in reference to the news that broke hours earlier on the social network. Clemons, one of the most prized recruits in the state for the class of 2015, announced a verbal commitment to play college football at the University of Virginia hours earlier. He likened the move to removing a large weight from his shoulders.
The 6-foot-6 Clemons had offers from several Division I programs including the likes of LSU, Tennessee and, most recently, West Virginia. The scouting website Rivals.com has him listed as a four-star recruit, the No. 13 weakside defensive end in the nation and the No. 5 overall recruit in the state of South Carolina.
Virginia was the first school to offer Clemons a scholarship more than a year ago. That fact was not lost on Clemons when it came to making his decision. He noted the loyalty the Cavaliers showed to him as one of the big reasons for making the decision.
The decision also weighed on Clemons heavily because of his affinity for one of the other schools that offered him a scholarship as well. LSU was in contention to land his talents but Clemons made the tough decision not to attend the school.
“I mean, LSU was my heart, but at the end of the day it was a business decision,” Clemons said. “Virginia is a school where I feel like I can go and be a part of turning the program around. It’s a great system. They’re talking about using me at defensive end and outside linebacker, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Clemons said he’s also looking forward to playing in the ACC, even though some of his friends have been partaking in some good-natured joking with him about his decision to choose the ACC school. He spoke about the luster of the SEC but ultimately said it wasn’t the right place for him at the next level.
“Growing up you’d hear people say the SEC was grown man football and how it’s the best conference, but I didn’t find the right school there,” Clemons said. “At the end of the day, I’ll still be playing at a school in a high level conference, and I’ll be getting my degree. That’s all that matters.”
Clemons was in Charlottesville on July 30 for a visit which sealed the deal for him. Initially, Clemons was going to wait a bit to make a decision, but he said the visit and talks with his mother changed his plans.
“It’s like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders,” Clemons said. “Now, I can just focus on school and football.”
A big part of the decision to announce on Saturday was due to avoiding distractions for him and his teammates. Many who know Clemons say that he doesn’t always like to be the center of attention. He held true to that with his announcement. He decided to commit to Virginia shortly after his visit, but he didn’t want to turn the week leading up to Friday night’s Aiken County Jamboree into a spectacle revolving around his decision, so he chose Saturday, a day after the Jamboree and the start of a bye week for South Aiken. The T-Breds don’t start the season until Aug. 29 against rival Aiken.
“He’s a team guy; he just wants to be the best South Aiken football player he can be. He’s all about the team,” head coach Jeremy West said. “Now he can just worry about his senior year. That will be a good thing.”
Clemons will be a big part of what the T-Breds are hoping is a season to remember. He is a game-changer on the field South Aiken. He displayed his propensity to break up plays in Friday night’s scrimmage against Ridge Spring-Monetta when he pressured the quarterback into making an ill-advised throw, which was picked off. Clemons finished the 2013 season with 66 tackles and 19 tackles for loss.
Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter @EricJ_Russell.