2010 Tiger Targets: DT

Clemson will return its entire two deep following this season at defensive tackle ... however after that, the numbers start to get pretty thin.

The Tigers are looking to land some talented beef on the inside of the defensive line and there are still number of possibilities on the board:

Ethan Farmer is currently rated as the No. 56 defensive tackle prospect in the nation according to Scout.com.
DT Ethan Farmer

THE LOW DOWN: Farmer is not just a big prospect, but is quite a talented athlete. Lining up at tight end for much of the season last year, Ethan displayed his athleticism in the passing game. Though not the most agile or graceful runner in the open field, he does have very good straight line speed and is a bull with the ball in his hands. However, Farmer's ultimate position may be along the defensive line. Some schools see him as a big defensive end, though he will likely grow into a defensive tackle as he is already a healthy 260 pounds. In a short stint at defensive tackle last season, Farmer showed promise, utilizing his brute strength and burst to be disruptive in both the run and passing game, though is run defense is far more polished than his still developing pass rush. Though he is athletically talented, his technique needs a lot of work and his football IQ at defensive tackle is still fairly low. However, with experience and some coaching up, Farmer has the chance to be an impact player on the defensive line at the next level.

THE CONTENDERS: One of the more underrated recruits in North Carolina, Ethan has seen his stock soar as he has made the camp circuit rounds. Clemson stepped out early in the process and offered while unleashing Dan Brooks as the recruiter of record. The Tigers established an early lead and have maintained their position. Though his childhood favorite was the instate Tarheels, they have yet to offer and this delay may end up costing them any shot. Alabama was also among Farmer's early offers, but the Tide has had little contact with the prospect over the last month. Ultimately, the Tigers' stiffest competition could be from the Wolfpack. Interestingly enough, NCST likes Farmer on the offensive side of the ball as a tight end. With a visit in the works for either later this month or in August, the Tigers will have every chance to seal the deal. The crystal ball says Clemson lands one of its priorities overall for this class with this very solid defensive tackle prospect.

Now regarded as one of the better defensive tackle prospects in the southeast, Thornton has seen pursuit from suitors intensify over the last month.
DT Mike Thornton

THE LOW DOWN: Much like Farmer, Thornton's stock has been steadily on the rise as he has gotten more exposure. Now regarded as one of the better defensive tackle prospects in the southeast, Mike has seen pursuit from suitors intensify over the last month. A little undersized for the position, Thornton's frame is somewhat limiting as he does not have room for much further growth. However, he plays with great functional strength and has a knack for shooting gaps between linemen allowing him to engage offensive blockers at an angle rather than flush. He has extremely quick hands and readily uses them to swat blockers arms out of the way and gain leverage. While his pass rush is still developing, Thornton is exceptionally disruptive in the run game showing a great ability to penetrate and throw off timing. Mike would best be used as a smaller, quicker defensive tackle playing along side a bigger space eater in a 4-3 scheme.

THE CONTENDERS: Thornton is in the heart of SEC country and, unsurprisingly, is an SEC lean. Though a bit late to the fray, Georgia has come on strong of recent and it is always exceedingly difficult to pull a coveted Peach State product away from the Dawgs. However, Auburn has led for much of the process and continues to be the team to beat. Others like South Carolina and Tennessee have also tossed their hats in the ring and may get visits. The other instate school, Georgia Tech, also stands a reasonable chance as they have recruited Mike longer than most. With UGA's rising interest though, expect the Dawgs to muscle the Yellow Jackets out of the picture as they do so often. Clemson has been solidly in Thornton's top group, but will need to rally to firmly plant itself in the mix. An unofficial, or better yet, official visit would greatly increase the Tigers' chances here. The crystal ball says while Georgia has really come to like Thornton, scholarship limitations prevent the Dawgs from putting on a full court press and the longstanding relationship with Auburn wins out.

DT Tra Thomas

THE LOW DOWN: Yet another prospect that has seen his stock rise, but not as much as the previous two prospects. A consistent performer in camps, he has been noted for his standout effort and work ethic. Not as athletically blessed as some prospects, Thomas is simply a good football player. He plays with excellent leverage and leg strength often able to bull rush bigger blockers into the backfield. He also displays decent quickness with the ability to shoot gaps and be disruptive in the passing game. Equally proficient in run defense and getting after the quarterback, Tra is a well rounded player. Schools have been somewhat reticent to pursue the lineman due to his size. At only 6'0" and 270 pounds, he lacks ideal height and weight. Furthermore, his frame may not allow him to add much in terms of overall bulk. However, his attitude, effort, and technical skills will allow him to be a successful player at the next level in the right scheme. Like Thornton, if he can be paired with a larger, anchoring force inside allowing Thomas the freedom to utilize his quickness, he could be a very effective starter.

THE CONTENDERS: Duke jumped all over this little known prospect early. Cutcliffe has already assembled a remarkable class of overlooked players, and Tra would fit in perfectly. Another solid football player that thrives on effort and attitude and isn't as flashy as some other prospects. Clemson evaluated Tra closely for nearly two months before pulling the trigger on a tender after a visit to campus. Michigan State is also firmly in the mix the lineman, but may have difficulty luring the prospect out of the Carolinas with two major suitors in the nearby area. The Tigers biggest hurdle is going to be overcoming one of the finest defensive line coaches in the business, ex-Clemson man, Marion Hobby. Hobby has built a strong relationship with the recruit and that could prove to be the difference. The crystal ball says with Clemson pulling the trigger, the Tigers have positioned themselves to land a commitment, but don't underestimate Cutcliffe and Hobby.

One of the earliest recruits on Clemson's radar over a year ago, Whitaker is one of the better known defensive tackle prospects across the southeast.
DT Jeffrey Whitaker

THE LOW DOWN: One of the earliest recruits on Clemson's radar over a year ago, Whitaker is one of the better known defensive tackle prospects across the southeast. A big tackle that possesses ideal size and frame, he can be a dominant force in the middle at the next level. Not the quickest of athletes, Whitaker uses strength and size to force his way into the backfield, often doing so through a blocker. He is a bit lacking in technique and moves as he hasn't had to utilize either vary often at the high school level and will need some coaching up. A run stuffing expert, Jeffrey is a prospect you can count on to be plug in the middle slowing down a between the tackles running game. His pass rush consists more of collapsing the pocket and flushing the quarterback more than any true rushing skills. He will need to develop a better ability to beat his man and get to the quarterback to be a more complete player. With a little work in redefining his body and adding some muscle, Whitaker possesses both the size and talent to be the kind of run stuffing tackle NFL scouts drool over.

THE CONTENDERS: Once considered a Georgia lock (in fact, some claimed he'd be their first commitment), Whitaker is now much more open. While Georgia still is the team to beat, with their rapidly shrinking allotment of scholarship offers, if Whitaker takes his time as anticipated, Georgia may end up not being a viable option. Auburn is also strong with the big prospect and will be in the hunt to the end. North Carolina continues to make noise on the recruiting trail, especially along the defensive line, and has attracted Whitaker's attention. Clemson was once a co-leader with Georgia back when Bowden was still at the helm. In keeping with a common theme, the Tigers suffered with the coaching change, but have been able to repair much of the damage and find themselves firmly in the mix. If the Dawgs fill up before Jeffrey makes his decision, a very real possibility, especially along the defensive line, Clemson has an excellent shot. The crystal ball says UGA finds a way to make the numbers work and closes the deal, breaking Clemson's heart.

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