Everything we said last week when we focused on Jordan Domineck about the places the defense most needs to improve apply to this look at a potential breakout player as well. We noted how the Georgia Tech Defense made modest improvements in 2019 (jumping from 100th to 71st in SP+), but the defensive line remained the weakest unit. The defense struggled on third and short because of a tendency to get pushed off the line and struggled on third and long because of an inability to get a pass rush. In disrupting the run and creating pressure on passing downs, Georgia Tech found itself near the bottom of the ACC last year. For the defense to take the strides forward that many hope to see this season, the defensive line will make the biggest difference.
Antonneous Clayton represents a beacon of hope on the defensive line this year.
Because of the NCAA’s draconian decision not to grant Clayton’s waiver for immediate eligibility, he will only have this year to contribute to the Georgia Tech Football team. From all accounts, he was an excellent teammate last year, challenging the starting offensive line in practice despite the frustrating circumstances, and this year, we get to see what he can do on the field.
Most know about his recruiting accolades. He was rated by Rivals as the #27 player in the country and the #4 player in Georgia in 2016, and he will be the first five star player on the Georgia Tech roster since Calvin Johnson.
His production from his time at Florida doesn’t match those recruiting accolades. He appeared in five games as a true freshman in 2016, nine games as a sophomore in 2017, and three games in 2018 before taking a redshirt. He recorded a total of eleven tackles in those seventeen games, including one sack.
So, here’s a top thirty prospect coming out of high school who barely touched the field over three years at UF and hasn’t played a meaningful snap since November of 2018. Normally, I would tell you not to get your hopes up. Instead, I am identifying him as a potential breakout player in 2020.
He is strong, and he will bring a power to the defensive edge that Georgia Tech has sorely lacked. During one of his best performances while on the Florida roster, Clayton shows a glimpse of what his power can bring with an impressive bull rush here:
When asked what an opposing offensive lineman needed to know to stop his pass rush, Clayton warns, “You better be strong, have that dawg in you.”
Antonneous is right. To keep him out of the quarterback’s lap or to keep him from creating stuffs in short yardage situations, you better be strong. I can’t wait to see the impact Clayton makes on some of the metrics we noted above that are in need of improvement.
The second reason I’m excited about his potential to break out this year is because of the way he compliments the other edge players, guys like Jordan Domineck, Justice Dingle, and Jaquan Henderson who bring more speed than power to the position.
Why is he excited about the Georgia Tech defensive line this year? “We can run. We run after the ball. Every single play somebody is back there.”
Listen for yourself:
Antonneous urged the defense to grow last year even when he couldn’t play a snap. He is excited about parlaying his growth last year to on the field improvement this year. “I got stronger and I got more comfortable with the play book,” Clayton said. “I learned the coaches’ schemes and what they were trying to do…I’m excited. It’s my last year.”
Why will we see Antonneous Clayton breakout this year? He brings a power to the pass rush that we haven’t had since Jeremiah Attaochu in 2013. He loves his edge rushing unit and wants to take them as far as he can in 2020. I’m excited to see Antonneo us Clayton break out this fall.