Elite 2021 DE Denhoff Picks Clemson, Talks Commitment
John Garcia, Jr.
Before Cade Denhoff visited Clemson on Saturday, he told SI All-American the Tigers were on top followed closely by national title game foe LSU.
That ACC Tiger lead held strong into the trip and now the public knows as much considering the 6-foot-5, 230-pound pass rusher made his verbal commitment to Dabo Swinney's staff while on campus for the programs elite junior day.
"I just kind of fell in love with their program, coaching and culture," he said. "And obviously they're winners."
Denhoff, who registered 11 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 92 tackles for Lakeland (Fla.) Christian in 2019, has long been high on Clemson. There is a strong connection, too, as his mother went to high school with longtime Tiger defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
CU basically led this recruitment from the outset.
"I knew a couple of weeks ago," he said of the timing. "I knew we were going to be at the junior day and I kind of just locked it in after talking to my family some more. I knew it was the right decision for me. I love the area, I've been up there four or five times for me, through a couple of games and camps.
"This is the place for me."
Much has been made of the culture through Clemson's recent run in the College Football Playoff but Denhoff says you can see it even as a recruit.
"It's really just a family," he said. "It's one big family up there. You're not just close with your position coach or the defensive coordinator, maybe the head coach. As a recruit you're close to assistants, recruiting coordinators, and people like that -- it's one big family.
"In my eyes, the family atmosphere, they just make everything fun."
Part of the Clemson culture is Swinney's ability to maintain his coaching staff. Few elite programs have experienced less turnover than the ACC power.
"That was actually a big thing because when Jeff Scott left, even though he was on the offensive side of the ball, I kind of wondered why," Denhoff said. "As I figured it out it was just him wanting to go his own route and wanting to be a head coach. But the rest of them, under Dabo's leadership, he does a really great job of not necessarily keeping guys, but they want to be there because they enjoy it.
"I think all the coaches at Clemson enjoy being there, enjoy being under Dabo's leadership, that's the biggest thing."
As per usual, Denhoff views this pledge as a true end to his recruitment. LSU and Georgia made the race interesting, but he doesn't even envision taking visits to any program not named Clemson moving forward.
"It's the place where I want to be," he said. "Recruiting hasn't been stressful for me, necessarily, but you get coaches asking you, 'hey when are you going to come visit?' I don't set up visits months ahead, I do it on the fly. So it's nice to get it done now and to not have to do that, take visits, set up officials in April and all that stuff."
The junior day weekend was Denhoff's first trip back to campus since October. On Saturday CU landed California wide receiver Beaux Collins in the junior class. As the Tigers hit the ground running for next cycle, Denhoff becomes the second class of 2021 verbal commitment out of the state of Florida, joining big offensive lineman Marcus Tate. The Tigers signed three Floridians in their top recruiting class of 2020.