Clemson is putting the message out there.
Defensive end is a critical need for the Tigers in the 2023 recruiting class, and the coaching staff is looking for players that are capable of coming in and making an instant impact.
One of the priority targets is AJ Hoffler. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound pass rusher from Atlanta, was offered by Clemson after he visited for Elite Junior Day in early March, He was back on campus for another visit recently, this time with his mother, and his one-on-one meeting with head coach Dabo Swinney was the highlight of the trip.
"It was real good," Hoffler told All Clemson. "The biggest highlight was meeting with coach Swinney for like 40 minutes and he was talking about football and non-football stuff. That was my favorite part."
The two had an in-depth conversation about what the Clemson program has to offer, and one of Swinney's biggest selling points was the chance of being able to come in and play right away.
"One of his main messages was is they're losing four ends and they're signing three so they have more than the normal amount of spots," Hoffler said. "As well as like, if I'm developed physically and mentally I have a chance to play early as a freshman."
However, while early playing time is something that Hoffler will consider when making a decision, it won't be a deciding factor.
"If I were to pick Clemson it wouldn't be because of that," he said. "But it's definitely something I'm thinking about as far as my consideration.
Another big selling point, and something else that really stood out to Hoffler, is how committed Swinney is to developing his players. Not only on the field but also off the field as men.
"Off the field, he was just saying how they would develop me as a man," he said. "Like it's more than football. Like he cares about the football part, but being a man is more important to him than the football side, which I liked a lot."
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The first visit to campus really resonated with the 2023 SI All-American candidate. This second trip only reinforced what Hoffler already knew, that Clemson is different, as he now considers the Tigers one of his top two schools.
"Definitely. I'd say probably up there in my top two, if not tied for one," Hoffler said.
Northwestern, Boston College, Ohio State and Oklahoma are some of the schools Hoffler said he is hearing from the most right now, with the Buckeyes being the other team at the top of his list. He visited for South Carolina's spring game and had plans to visit Kansas State, where his brother plays, as well.
The Clemson staff sees Hoffler as a high-end talent that can get after the quarterback, a perfect fit for the aggressive scheme the Tigers run on the defensive side of the ball.
"Coach Goodwin and coach Hall, they went over the new defense and how they were gonna run it, where they saw me," he said. "So I know how they see me as far as fitting into the somewhat new scheme."
Barring something unforeseen, Hoffler said he'd like to be committed before his birthday in August. When that time comes, though, football might not be the priority many assume it will be.
"The schools I'm considering, football's not as much in the equation as you'd think," Hoffler said. "It's more so like the people there off the field, the academics. Not necessarily the coaching staff because you can't just base your recruitment solely off of a coach because you never know. But the people, the facilities, the campus, the education there, the location, not too much, but a little bit, and how my family feels about the school."
Hoffler knows that at Clemson and Ohio State, the football part will take care of itself, as each school has ranked right up there with the very best in recent years.
"As far as football-wise, every school I'm considering is really good at football, so it's not that big of a concern. I know both of them will develop me really, really good. So football is not as big into the equation as far as everything else."
The Tigers, who went 10-3 in 2021 and finished 14th in the final Associated Press Poll, are the fourth team on FanDuel Sportsbook's list to win it all in 2022.
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