If you are one to follow the national recruiting scene this early in the 2014 recruiting process, 4-star linebacker Clifton Garrett is surely a household name. The 6-2, 228-pound Illinois product has skyrocketed in the 2014 rankings, rated as the 32nd and 53rd best overall player in the nation, according to 247Sports and Rivals, respectively. Garrett is no stranger to the recruiting scene, already garnering offers from Ohio State, Florida, LSU, Ole Miss, Arizona State, Clemson, Florida State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas A&M, USC, Virginia Tech, and Wisconsin.
Hailing from Plainfield, Illinois, Garrett is rated 98 overall, the 2nd best inside linebacker in the nation, and the best overall player in the state of Illinois, according to 247Sports' Composite Rankings. I was given the chance to speak at length with Garrett and was very impressed with the prep phenom. Garrett is very confident and aware of how he plans to continue to handle his recruiting process, all the while enjoying his time as a teenager and a high profile college football prospect. Already stepping foot on Buckeye campus five times, he is fully aware of what Ohio State has to offer. Check out my conversation with Garrett concerning Ohio State, his recruiting process, and much more:
How'd your junior season at Plainfield go?
It went pretty good. We weren't able to make the playoffs like we had intended and ended up going 4-5 on the season.
What about your season from a personal standpoint?
Personally, my season went well. It was a lot better than my sophomore season where I had 78 and a half tackles. My junior year, I ended up with 114 tackles. Last summer I worked really hard and improved greatly. I focused on my pass rushing skills among other things.
What's your favorite part about playing linebacker?
I like getting down and dirty with the lineman and the fullbacks. I play 5 yards off the ball, so I am able to get in on a lot of the action up the middle. I like to diagnose the plays, make some big hits, and be the captain of my team. I enjoy my teammates looking up to me; I love that part of the game.
What is your biggest strength?
I'd say I'm very physical, and I play with a lot of passion. I play smart, fast, and love to hit.
What part of your game do you need to work on the most?
I'd really like to work on every part of my game, including pass rush and coverage. People have been saying that they really want to see more of my pass coverage skills, and I'd like to showcase that. I've been working on that in order to become a more complete player.
Let's get into your recruitment now. What are the main schools recruiting you currently?
I'd say LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Florida, Virginia Tech, Southern California [USC], Florida State, Oregon, and Tennessee are the main schools. I talk to USC all the time, and I just started talking to Oregon.
Of all the schools recruiting you, are there any coaching staffs that stand out or that you have the best relationships with?
I'd say I have the best relationships with LSU, Ohio State, and Florida.
What do you like about Ohio State?
They have a really good coaching staff, and they're very focused on winning. Coach [Urban] Meyer came out of retirement and went 12-0; that's pretty unheard of. They're incoming recruiting class is really good, and I loved the campus when I visited.
Who is the main coach from Ohio State recruiting you? How often do you speak, and what do you guys talk about?
Coach [Mike] Vrabel. I talk to him every week, Coach [Mark] Pantoni every other day, and Coach Meyer every other week. With Coach Vrabel, we just like to keep in touch. He checks in to make sure I'm still interested in Ohio State, expresses his heavy interest in me, and tells me he wants to get me to come to Ohio State because they need help at linebacker. Coach Vrabel also tells me to enjoy life, take the time to make the right decision, but in the end, he wants me to come to Ohio State and play for the Buckeyes.
What have been your best overall college visits so far?
My last visit to Ohio State really stood out. I got to hang out with the players, see the academic and non-football parts of the school, and see how life would be in college.
I know it's early, but do you have any idea of when you want to announce your decision?
As of now, I'd like to announce sometime in January, either before or after the U.S. Army All-American Game.
Do you plan on attending any of Ohio State's camps this summer?
No, I won't be attending any camps at schools this summer.
How do you deal with the pressure of the recruiting process and being such a highly touted recruit?
Well, you have to remember that I'm only 17 years old. I want to take my time and enjoy life as a kid. I don't want to make my life too much about business right now. Coaches always remind me that I am the one who controls the pace of my recruitment. I stick to focusing on that and my parents keep me grounded. My teammates are also very supportive. But, time's tickin', and I have to start kicking out schools that I know I don't want to play for, all the while having fun and enjoying the process.
Do you speak with any other recruits in the 2014 class or discuss the idea of playing together in college?
I speak to guys like Drew Barker and others every once in a while. I'd love to play with a bunch of guys as a part of a really talented recruiting class because I want to win championships in college.
Did you get a chance to watch the Buckeyes this past season? Which players did you like watching the best?
Oh yeah, I think I watched about every game. I focused on watching Ryan Shazier because I always watch the linebackers when watching football. That man slides around and hits people hard; it kind of reminds me of myself.
Will Ohio State be one of your official visits next fall?
I'm really not sure. I think I may use my official visits for places a little farther away like some California schools or some schools down south. I have already been to Ohio State five times and know what to expect there.
Role Models: My parents. Also, Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman. It isn't just about football, but other things as well. Patrick Willis really has an amazing story behind his success. Those guys really motivate me.
Best Subject in School: I'd say English. I have a 101% in English right now, so that's probably my best.
Hobbies: Hanging with friends and going to bonfires. My favorite part of the year is football season, and after the games we all go to bonfires.
Movies: Act of Valor. I could watch that over and over again.
TV Shows: Family Guy and Workaholics.
Favorite Sports Teams: San Francisco 49ers, I've been a fan my whole life.
Watch what Clifton would bring to the Buckeyes below:
Thanks again to Clifton for a great interview and taking the time to give Buckeye Nation a chance to get to know you. Good luck in the recruiting process and your senior season.