Tigers Lead for Top Junior DE

CHERAW, S.C. - One of the top defensive ends in the south talks about the recruiting process and his top schools entering the heart of February.

After helping to lead his team to the state championship game, defensive end Cliff Matthews of Cheraw, one of the top ten players in South Carolina in the Class of 2007, realized that it takes hard work from the beginning to reach your goals. Whether falling behind early in the biggest game of the year before making a big comeback or simply skipping out on voluntary weightlifting, Matthews has decided that he plans to work hard from day one next year.

"I learned that if you work hard, then anything that you want just might come true," Matthews said, adding that he learned quite a bit this year from Shrine Bowl running back Chris Massey. "Over the summer I saw him almost every day in the weight room trying to get me to come in there, but I was being hardheaded. This year, I'll be in there."

At 6-5, and a very slender 230 pounds, Matthews certainly has a good, though raw, attitude towards football. A center for the basketball team, Matthews is in the middle of a run at the conference championship and he believes that his time on the court helps him with his attitude on the gridiron.

"I come with a lot of confidence every game and just play the best that I can play. My strength is my speed and my quickness to get to the quarterback, but I need to keep working in the weight room. When I get into the weight room, nobody can stop me.""

College coaches are starting to agree that he could be an imposing for at the next level as a defensive end or even a tight end.

"I have full offers from Clemson, South Carolina, Tennessee, and North Carolina offered yesterday. I like Clemson, well I pretty much like all of them because they all have great football environments."

Matthews was only able to make it to one game last fall, though it was a triple-overtime thriller when the Tigers took on Miami. The big end came away impressed with his experience at Death Valley.

"South Carolina is closer to home, and I know a lot of players that went there from around this area. They have a good football program with Steve Spurrier, and like I said a good football environment.

"North Carolina is once again close to home and that is one of the teams that I always liked and admired them. I always watched them on TV.

"Tennessee is a big school with great coaches and great football."

Time will tell for Matthews, who plans to take a little time before making a decision.

"Right now, I just want to look at all my options. I want to visit all the schools first."

Matthews, who plans to camp at Clemson and Georgia this summer, made 66 tackles and even two interceptions on defense in addition to 17 catches for 210 yards on offense as a junior.

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