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Crabbs | Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell poised for a big 2017

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Scouting Notes

Crabbs | Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell poised for a big 2017

The Clemson program has had a lot of success grooming defensive linemen for the NFL over the course of the past several years. While there are some mixed results in regard to success in the NFL, the volume of prospects to pass through is highly impressive. Names like Carlos Watkins (2017), Shaq Lawson (2016), Kevin Dodd (2016), Grady Jarrett (2015) and Vic Beasley (2015) have passed through during the Tigers’ push to the top of the college football landscape.

And while Beasley and Lawson were 1st round selections (Dodd also went in the top 50), the prospects currently loaded into the starting lineup might be better than all of them. One, Chris Wilkins (#42), is a freakish athlete with a stunning combination of size and explosiveness. Listed at 6’4, 310 lbs, Clemson primarily played Wilkins as a Defensive End; a testament to his burst and lateral mobility.

The other is the one I’d like to showcase here and now, Redshirt Sophomore Clelin Ferrell (#99). Ferrell is an imposing 6’5, 265 lbs and clearly has the needed length to be a dominating presence fighting off of contact.

As a Redshirt Freshman, Ferrell stepped into the starting lineup and was a fixture at the top of the depth chart for all 15 games in 2016. At a school as stocked with talent as Clemson, that alone is an impressive feat.

From a production standpoint, Clelin Ferrell was the best of the bunch. He led the team in pressures with 24 and tallied 6.0 sacks to go along with 12.5 tackles for loss.

Yet what stood out to me in re-watching the 2016 National Championship Game (Ferrell played only the first half before a lower body injury kept him from the rest of the contest) is that there’s a ton of plays in which Ferrell makes his presence felt without logging anything in the stat book. It’s an omen of what should be a tremendous 2017 season for the budding star.

This is a great showcase of some natural athleticism playing backwards. Ferrell does well to keep eyes fixated on the Quarterback whilst still staying in a position to challenge OJ Howard if the ball does not come out hot. Once the delivery is initiated in the backfield, Ferrell quickly gets lateral width and shows off his length; forcing an errant pass. This is a difficult play to make, let alone making it look so easy.

But Ferrell’s ability to influence in space and at the line of scrimmage is what should really excite fans.

This is played perfectly. An effective punch puts Clelin into a firm run fit immediately at first contact and because Ferrell stepped with his inside foot out of his stance, he’s able to re-direct while engaged to stay flat along the line of scrimmage. Note how hard he works to press and extend his hands, enabling him to disengage either inside or out as the back manifests in the hole. As the end defender, primary run responsibility is to play outside in and here Ferrell prevents himself from getting reached, forcing the ball back inside to his teammates. And excellent rep all around.

A splash play against a tight bunch can be pointed again to how well Ferrell gets out of his stance and his reactive quickness to slide down the line upon reading the bunch sliding down. What I like best about the play is Clelin’s balance while engaged; he’s able to sustain his trajectory and greet the ball carrier in the backfield.

The Clemson defensive line is reloaded for another quality season and beyond. There are currently no seniors on Clemson’s projected two-deep on the defensive line (courtesy of Ourlads), meaning this team will continue their run of studs up front for at least the next few seasons. But if I were a betting man, I’d expect Clelin Ferrell to be the best of the bunch.

Kyle Crabbs

Kyle Crabbs is the founder/Director of Scouting of NDT Scouting Services, a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the lead NFL Draft analyst for the FanRag Sports Network.

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