Defenders highlight "The Opening" Charlotte Regional

by - Staff Writer -
Stephen Davis, Jr., shows off his skills Saturday
Stephen Davis, Jr., shows off his skills Saturday

CHARLOTTE, NC – Nike’s “The Opening” Charlotte Regional took place under sunny and warm skies at Mallard Creek High School Saturday, and there were plenty of top-flight performers on hand.

Due to the fact that there were so many great players – including Clemson commits and prospects – we are going to break up our observations piece into two parts. Monday we took a look at the offensive standouts, so today we’ll go with what we saw on the defensive side of the ball.

Let’s jump right into it:

*It would be a shame to start with anyone other than 5-star Wake Forest (NC) defensive tackle Dexter LawrenceDexter Lawrence
Defensive End
6-5, 315
Wake Forest, NC

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who was simply unblockable Saturday afternoon.

We spent a good bit of time watching him go through footwork drills. It was immediately apparent that Lawrence has an explosive first step and his ability to get off the line of scrimmage will be a weapon once he gets to the next level.

Clemson commit Sean PollardSean Pollard
Offensive Guard
6-5, 295
Southern Pines, NC

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was working out at left tackle on Saturday, so he didn’t have to face Lawrence. In between reps, Pollard came over to where we were sitting and said, “Dexter is a college tackle playing high school football. It’s just not fair.”

TigerNet spoke to Lawrence before workouts began and he told us that Clemson is definitely in the mix and will be one of his stops once he starts making visits. Whoever gets him will have a hard time keeping him off the field from day one.

Lawrence is listed as 6-4, 315 by some services. He might be a little heavier than that right now, but some of the offensive linemen were laughing because Lawrence was timed – laser timed – at a 5.0 flat 40-yard dash. One offensive lineman came over to us and laughed and said, “I ran a 5.6 and was ecstatic. He is ridiculous.”

*4-star Irmo (SC) Dutch Fork defensive back Stephen Davis, Jr. was also on hand and just at first glance, he measures up to his listed height and weight of 6-3, 210-pounds. He certainly meets the eye test and is physically everything you want in a safety.

We talked to him about where he stands in his recruitment and he said that while he’s still committed to Auburn, he will take all of his visits before making a final decision. Clemson figures to be in the mix because of Davis’ relationship with defensive coordinator Brent VenablesBrent Venables
Def. Coordinator / Linebackers
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Watching Davis, it’s easy to see why he’s a 4-star. He moves his feet well, has good size and quickness and is able to flip his hips. He was one of the few able to stick with Mecole HardmanMecole Hardman
Wide Receiver
5-11, 175
Elberton, GA

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Saturday afternoon, even though Hardman consistently won his battles.

*Clemson just missed out on Julian OkwaraJulian Okwara
Defensive End
6-4 , 220
Charlotte, NC

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– the 4-star defensive end out of Charlotte (NC) Ardrey Kell – as he recently committed to Notre Dame.

At just 210 pounds, Okwara has some work to do over the coming year and once he gets to Notre Dame to fill out his 6-4 frame, but he’s explosive off the line and will give the Fighting Irish that quick-twitch pass rusher that they need coming off the edge.

Okwara was matched up against Pollard several times, frustrating the Clemson commit with how quick he was, not giving Pollard a chance to get his feet set and his hands in the proper spot.

*Another defensive end that impressed was Florida State commit Josh BrownJosh Brown
Defensive End
6-3, 210
Charlotte, NC

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out of Charlotte (NC) Mallard Creek.

I’ve seen Brown a few times as he’s attended Dabo SwinneyDabo Swinney
Head Coach
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’s high school camp and every time he’s been extremely impressive, but can’t catch the Clemson’s coaching staff’s attention enough to nab an offer.

The first thing I thought when I saw Brown is that he reminds me a lot of what Vic Beasley looked like when he first got to Clemson. He’s 6-3, 220 and looks like he can definitely add a little more size. Again, he’s got a great first move and will give the Seminoles another weapon off the edge.

Brown told us Clemson would definitely be in the mix if the Tigers were to offer, but he’s still waiting.

Dexter Lawrence talks to TigerNet Saturday

*Another standout from Saturday’s performances was Shelby (NC) Crest defensive end Chris Willis, a 6-2, 220-pounder with a crazy first step. He is currently listed as a two-star, but he drew rave reviews from some of the coaches on hand, including NFL offensive tackle Bruce Campbell, who was working with the offensive line and consistently saw Willis get past blocks.

Willis has a few offers – Army and Toledo are two – but that could change after Saturday’s showing. He said Clemson coaches were by the school last week to see Justin Foster – a current Clemson target – and he wouldn’t mind getting recruited by the Tigers.

*One final note. We were told by high school coaches in Georgia in March at the Nike combine that Clemson’s recruiting was on par with the big boys. That was evident Saturday in Charlotte when several high-profile defensive and offensive prospects told us that Clemson simply doesn’t have room in the next few cycles. The coaches are targeting specific players they want and attracting them to Clemson with great success. Did you think you would see the day when Clemson would – out of necessity – turn down top talent because there isn’t room?

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