Bamberg's next great DE feels right at home in Clemson

by - Senior Writer -
Aiken (middle) racked up 112 tackles, 36 tackles for loss and 13 sacks as a junior.

Bamberg is a town of less than 4000 souls, tucked away in the southern midlands of the state. It joins with Ehrhardt, population 614, to form Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School, which boasts an enrollment of 528 students for the 2010-11 academic year.

A small school serving a small but tight-knit community, but someone might need to go take a trip down Interstate 26, and catch Highway 301 to find out exactly what’s in the water. Or take a trip to see what special ingredients are added to the food at Bamberg’s Big Chic restaurant, because the area is churning out star defensive end prospects at an amazing rate.

First was Ricky Sapp, and then came Da’Quan Bowers, who both ended up at Clemson. Sapp was drafted by the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles a year ago, and Bowers will most certainly be a high pick this year. Now, another one could be the way in the person of Martin Aiken Martin Aiken
Defensive Line
6-3, 240
Bamberg, SC

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, a junior who figures to be one of the Southeast’s best prospects for 2012.

Aiken was back on the Clemson campus for the spring game, and he told TigerNet he understands what being from Bamberg and playing his position means.

“I feel like I have to work a little harder, because more is expected of me,” Aiken said. “Just because of that, with who they are and what they’ve done. But I just try and use those guys as motivation. They pretty much just tell me to make sure I go where I want to go, and make sure I work hard enough to get there. They stay on me a little bit, but they are like coaches for me. They come back here and tell me what they know and give me a little bit of advice.”

It comes as no surprise that the 6-3, 245-pound strongside defensive end prospect has 26 offers. He racked up 112 tackles, 36 tackles for loss and 13 sacks as a junior, and posted 35 tackles, eight tackles for loss and five sacks as a sophomore.

And, he says, the best is yet to come. He says he watches film of Dwight Freeney, the six-time Pro Bowl defensive end of the Indianapolis Colts, and wants to make sure that like Freeney, his motor never stops.

“I like watching Dwight, but I can't really get that spin move like he does,” Aiken said. “But I never take a play off. That is one thing the coaches down here are big on, is to play every snap like it’s your last play. If you watch my film, you see that I play just as hard on the last snap of the game as I did on the first play.”

Aiken took in the spring game with his mother, who was able to spend one-on-one time with head coach Dabo Swinney, and he says that Clemson is a place that he loves to visit.

“It is just somewhere where I have been going for a while,” he said. “I am definitely not a stranger up there, and I love going up there. My mom also knows that they will take care of me up there. I grew up liking Clemson, so it is a definitely a place I love to be.”

He said the environment surrounding Clemson is also attractive to him.

“I want to go to a school that is pretty strong with academics, and a school that makes sure I do everything I need to do, on and off the field,” he said. “I want to be around good coaches and players – people that keep me straight. And it has to be the kind of team I want to be on.”

Aiken has a new recruiter in defensive ends coach Marion Hobby, who joined the Clemson staff in January, but he says the two are building a solid relationship.

“I am getting along with him pretty good,” he said. “I hear from him or he calls my coach every week. He is staying on top of me to make sure I am doing everything I can to get better. He is calling my coach and not letting me fall through the cracks, and he is not even my coach yet.”

He says that Clemson, Auburn, Georgia Tech and South Carolina are the four schools he is looking at the most, and wants to make a decision by June or July.

“I just want to make a decision and not think about recruiting,” he said. “I just want to play football and focus on my senior season and do what I can do to get better. It’s hard to stay focused when you have to do both. I am trying to evaluate all the schools before I make my final list, though.”

He says he doesn’t know what makes Bamberg a hot spot for defensive end talent, but he also wants to be known as the best.

“The coaches tell me that I remind them of Da’Quan when he first came in,” he said. “But if you see me play, you will see that I am not Ricky, and I am not Da’Quan. I am still a good athlete, and I have some good things they have, and I have some things they don’t have. As a junior, I did some things the coaches didn’t see from those guys when they were here.”

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