How does it feel to be a committed?
It’s awesome, it feels awesome. Big relief. It’s great to have all the recruiting stuff done and it’s slowing down and now I can focus on my season.
How many offers can you remember that you were deciding between?
I had 18 offers with three Power 5 conference offers from Wake, Boston College and Duke. Duke was definitely just the best choice out of all of those. I’ve been a fan of theirs for awhile, love the school, love the academics, that’s a big thing that drew me in was the academics. It just felt like a good fit.
How far back does your interest go with Duke?
Probably, I started watching them four years ago. I respect schools that can be able to go to bowl games and also carry that weight of top academics because it’s harder to find athletes that can keep the grades up and perform on the field.
What got you interested at that time?
I’ve been watching ACC ball for awhile and they were always playing, so if they were on TV I just really wanted to watch them. They’ve always had a good defense and I like watching explosive defenses, so that’s why I watched.
What are your impressions of how they both run their defense and utilize guys that play your position area?
They are all about rushing the passers, they call it being Rush Men, so I think it’s a really great fit for me. They love to get after it and be aggressive on the line.
Before we dive further into your recruiting process, can you give Duke fans a sense of who you are as a player and a person, on and off the field?
I would say I’m a good leader, I don’t do anything off the field that could compromise my ability to get on the field and I also take my academics seriously. I love football and I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that. I’m pretty proud that I’ve stayed out of drugs and all that kind of stuff, I’ve just really dedicated myself to earning what I want to do on and off the field.
Have you already completed any AP or honors courses?
Yeah I’ve taken one or two classes each year to get my GPA up even more. I’ve taken several IV type courses and I’ll be taking some more this upcoming year.
Are you in position to graduate high school a little early your senior year? Is that something you are even looking at?
Honestly probably not because I’m a wrestler too and I’d like to finish my senior year wrestling season. I think that’s a big key there, I don’t want to leave high school early because I actually have a chance to win state this year in wrestling. I placed 4th this past season at the state tournament, but I’m hoping I can get even higher this season.
Which weight class do you wrestle?
Last season I wrestled at 220, this season I’ll probably weigh around 250. Weight comes on really easily for me after wrestling season because conditioning stops for that and then you get to focus in the weight room for football and stuff and it comes on really fast.
What do you think for you has made it so easy to add on the weight?
My dad, he used to be a bodybuilder, so he was able to pack on pounds really easily as well, so I think it’s the genes that have helped me do that. I haven’t lost any speed, I’ve felt pretty good with the weight that I’ve put on, and I’m not trying to put on too much, too fast. I like to stay around 250 until, maybe a little more, we’ll see.
So from freshman year to now, how has your height, weight and wingspan progressed from what you can remember?
I’ve always been a long and lankier kid. My freshman year I was probably around a buck eighty for my weight, then I put on about 20 pounds each year. My sophomore year I was up to 205 or so and then last year I was 220, then this year I’ll be 250. One of my best measurables I think is my wingspan, I’ve got a plus 5, 80 inch wingspan, 40 time I’ve tested pretty consistently in between a 4.7 to 4.75, I’m 6’3 for my height.
How has your high school utilized you as a player and are you projected to do anything different role wise this season for them?
This year we’re running a completely different defense from what we did last year since last year we ran a 4-3 and this year we’re going to be running a 3-4. So it’ll be different since last year I played defensive end and then we had an interior line injury, so they moved me from Leo to an interior tackle position and I played that most of the year. I’ve learned how to play pretty much every position on the defensive line last year, I’m a power player, so they like to put me where I can come off the ball fast and I can also rush the edge well. So really, anywhere on the defensive line I think I’m effective.
In college, what do you think you project to play position and role-wise?
If I keep putting on weight like I have been, they might find that they could use me at defensive tackle too, so I don’t know. It’s tough because I can’t see down the road, but they have me as a strong side defensive end which I can play too, so it just depends on how much weight I put on because it’s been other schools who have said I could play strong side defensive end, but I don’t think Duke is necessarily set on me playing there, but they’ve mentioned it. Duke has said they saw me at strong-side defensive end because they like how I set the edge on the end and they like how I rush the passer and they’ve talked about how their strong side defensive end is kinda like the anchor in their system, but they haven’t talked with me much about it, I don’t think anything is set in gold yet.
Have they discussed with you how they see you fitting in with the other defensive line players in your class that have also verballed to them?
I haven’t really gotten a chance to meet any of the commits yet or hear about them much, but I’ve only been on campus once so far, that’s when they offered me at their camp and they told me a little bit about where they were recruiting me, but they haven’t told me anything yet about the other positions they are recruiting.
Let’s talk the Duke recruiting process since you mentioned it….
Yeah, the Duke camp I think was my last camp, I think it was around the 18th or so last month. They came to the school awhile, awhile back and they said they were interested, but I hadn’t heard much from them after that and then I told them I was planning on coming on the 18th/19th for camp and then I showed up and they liked the way I performed in that camp and they offered. Then I got a tour of the campus and it was good.
What was the feedback from the Duke staff to you from your performance at the camp?
They liked my speed and they told me that they don’t usually see somebody at my weight with that kind of speed. We had a lot of one on ones and they really liked what I did in those including how my hand movement was, how I mixed it up and don’t stick with one move. They liked my motor and how I go 100% all the time. I think by the lunch break they knew they were going to offer me.
Who presented the offer to you?
They took me back up to Coach Cutcliffe’s office and we had a little conversation about their program, then he offered me. I had talked with Coach Matt Guerreri once before, and that was actually my first conversation with Coach Cutcliffe, it was cool. I like him a lot, he’s real personal and down to earth, and I can tell he likes a family atmosphere to his team. There wasn’t much communication prior to the camp, it was pretty much that they liked me and wanted me to come to their camp just like a lot of schools do. They might not have been completely sold on me yet, but I performed well at the camp and that’s what did it for them I think.
When you headed down there for the Duke camp, were you already thinking you were potentially interested in committing?
Yeah, that was definitely my favorite school of the ones that I wanted to get an offer from definitely. I had a bunch of schools come in that didn’t offer that wanted me to come to their camps, so I kinda had to pick and choose which ones I went to because there’s so many camps, you can’t go to all of them. So I picked 5 which was Duke and some other schools with great academics and football. Duke was definitely my #1 choice and they have a great physical therapy program, so I definitely made sure they were on there because I really wanted an offer from them.
So when the Duke offer came, how did you and your family feel in the moment?
It was awesome, that was the school that they wanted to and they loved. I mean, what parent wouldn’t want to say that their kid is going to Duke, so that was, it was awesome. My dad couldn’t believe it, he was really proud. My mom, she’s on board with it too. I didn’t commit there though, I went back home and I was waiting to see with another school to see if they were going to offer, so I took the offer home and thought about it a little bit, and I was ready to commit a couple of weeks ago and Coach Cutcliffe was on vacation so we waited until he was back.
So how did you go about your commitment?
I was waiting on a text from Coach Guerreri which was my recruiting area coach on when Coach Cutcliffe was going to be back in the office, and he texted me the night after Coach Cutcliffe got back from where he had been on vacation during the dead period and he gave me Coach Cutcliffe’s # and told me to give him a call, and that’s when I committed. It’s a big weight lifted off your shoulders, it felt good.
Did the staff discuss with you whether they expect you to come in and compete right away or that you will likely redshirt your freshman year?
I talked to them about that when I was there after they had offered. We’ll have to see how things go in the first weeks of camp once I’m there and they can see whether they can use me early on. They aren’t going to force me to redshirt, it just depends on if they can use me at that time or not, or if I need another year in the weight room, we’ll see.
It sounds like though there may be potential opportunities to play at defensive end or tackle at Duke, is that a good read from what you have heard from them?
I think for me and just what I know about me, with knowing how much weight I’ve been able to put on, they haven’t told me directly that you could be a defensive tackle here, but from what I’ve heard from a bunch of different schools, once I put on some more weight, they could see me at defensive tackle, but that doesn’t mean that I just want to be a defensive tackle, I like both positions, but I think they see me as a defensive end potentially.