From under-the-radar recruit to defensive MVP, Grady Jarrett looking for more

Dan Brooks: 'I'd had a couple of 'rasslers before and I liked that...Nobody beat him one on one in camp. He was a hundred percent'

Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett celebrates sacking LSU's Zach Mettenberger during the second quarter at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson defensive tackle Grady Jarrett celebrates sacking LSU's Zach Mettenberger during the second quarter at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

From unheralded two-star recruit to team defensive MVP as a sophomore, with no redshirt year in between.

What's the deal with Clemson's Grady Jarrett?

Absolutely nothing that Tiger defensive line coach Dan Brooks didn't see coming.

As a senior at Rockdale County High in Conyers, Ga. - an east-side Atlanta suburb - Jarrett put together an impressive football resume, earning all-state honors twice.

But little recruiting attention followed. A the time he committed to Clemson - on June 17, 2010 - Jarrett had other offers from Western Carolina, Buffalo, Georgia State, Middle Tennessee and Mississippi State.

He had statistics, and he had a high-level football pedigree, as the son of Atlanta Falcons linebacker and five-time Pro Bowler Jessie Tuggle and as the 'adopted' nephew of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, who he grrew up calling 'uncle,' though they're not biologically related.

What Jarrett lacked was height (6-foot-1) and measureable speed.

What Brooks saw was strength, toughness, a high motor, and an advanced understanding of leverage by an accomplished high school 'rassler.'

But what sold him for sure was when, on Jarrett's second trip to Dabo Swinney's High School Camp in June, 2010, the undersized defensive lineman took on all comers, including numerous four-star offensive linemen, and never lost a matchup.

"Grady was a guy who was, quote, 'undersized' - mainly height," Brooks said. "But we had watched him play, and he played with tremendous effort and was a great competitor and had great strength levels from rasslin'. I'd had a couple of 'rasslers before and I liked that. So he came to camp going into his junior year and then came back before his senior year. He was a hundred percent. Nobody beat him one on one in camp. He was a hundred percent."

A two-time Georgia heavyweight wrestling champion, Jarrett also earned a state track title in the shot put.

"His understanding of leverage and how to use his strength was a big point with me," Brooks said.

Brooks said Jarrett's status as an 'under the radar' recruit is a rarity these days.

"It still happens sometimes, usually because of some special circumstance," he said. "When I first started, you could find a guy like Carlos Watkins, from a little bitty school out in the middle of nowhere where you have contacts. You'd try to get on him really young, before nobody knew about him. But today, with social media and recruiting services, everybody in the world finds out about a guy like that.

"I think people knew about Grady, but they really didn't know what he could do because they didn't have the first-hand experience of having him in camp like we did. And even though people knew about him, the 'measurables' weren't there to suit a lot of people.

"It's a credit to Coach Swinney to step up and say 'we're taking football players.' "

A football player is exactly what Jarrett has proved to be. Among a rapidly developing group of defensive lineman, he's the one player who has a solid spot as a starter.

Brooks said Jarrett is the closest thing the Tigers have to a player that opposing offenses have to 'game plan' to account for.

"I don't know that we've yet got a John Henderson, who was a guy I had who won the Outland, or an Albert Haynesworth," Brooks said, referring to a pair of star defensive linemen he coached at Tennessee. "But Grady probably approaches that just because he plays the game so hard and makes people worry about where he is. That's where you want to be as a defensive lineman.

"You want to be so disruptive that the offensive coordinator has to say 'how are we gonna get that guy blocked? We don't have that yet, but Grady's close, just because of his competitiveness, his strength and the whole package.

"For an sophomore defensive lineman to be the MVP of your defense, he did a lot."

Brooks said he's been impressed this preseason with the way Jarrett has picked up where he left off, not just in performance but in attitude.

"He knew coming into this season that what he did last year didn't guarantee him anything," Brooks said. "So he approached it that way in everything he's done - trying to get better, trying to be as good as he can be."

Jarrett, who grew up just 45 miles from Athens, said he has no special feelings about Georgia, one way or the other. The Bulldogs, he said, just happen to be the next opponent standing in the way the Tigers' quest for execution and improvement.

"I was never a Georgia fan - I really wasn't a fan of

anybody growing up," Jarrett said. "It's just another game where I'm going to try to play with relentless effort, do the things the coaches tell us to do, and then let everything else take care of itself.

"It's a big game for us, a big game for me, a big game for everybody. We're a good defensive line, they're a good offensive line so it should be a really good matchup. I expect it to be a good game in the trenches."

Jarrett wouldn't mind seeing the Tigers and Bulldogs defy expectations and engage on one of those old fashioned defensive slug-outs that defined the Clemson-Georgia series back in the 80s.

"I'd love to see a low score," he said. "But that's something that's out there for us to do. We can't change the perception until we get out on the field.

"This is going to be a great opportunity for us."

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lhaselden writes:

got to love these guys!

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