NORTHWESTER COMMAND – As we learned in examining why so many elite prospects fail in the Post and Courier on Tuesday, as I’ve written in this e-space before, prospects fail because they lack mental makeup. They lack character, drive and #want. And coaches either miss on the intangibles or, in hubris, ignore the red flags.
I’ve suggested there needs to be a sixth star in recruiting rankings, in evaluation, that take into account intangibles.
Clemson five-star signee Mackensie Alexander, the consensus 29th overall player in the country, has this sixth star as you can learn in reading this profile from ESPN.
There are few can’t-miss prospects, but it they are can’t miss as prep seniors it’s because they are six-star prospects like Alexander.
Alexander is the anti-Robert Nkemdiche because unlike the former 5-star DE Clemson commitment he did not make a choice based upon family pressure. Alexander’s twin brother signed with Auburn on Wednesday.
“My family wanted us to play together, but I wanted to be my own man do my own thing,” Alexander said.
Alexander is the anti-Nkemdiche because he shunned the recruiting spot light, did few interviews with recruiting services, and had everyone guessing about his college choice up to the last moment when he pulled a Clemson hat out of a bag on Wednesday morning.
He’s the anti-Nkemdiche because unlike Nkemdiche, whose parents are well-to-do, Alexander comes from nothing.
Alexander hails from Immokalee, Fla., one of the poorest towns in the country, where 44 percent of the population lives in poverty. A place where football is the only way out.
His father is a Haitian immigrant. Both his mother and father understand little English. They have lived as field laborers. Alexander is driven to give them something better.
From the ESPN profile:
“They’re paying my bills right now so I can pay their bills later,” Mackensie said. “I want to take care of my parents one day. That’s why I’m so driven.”
He’s driven, all right. Ackley, the former coach, said his staff drilled Immokalee players to the point of exhaustion in offseason workouts. Hours later, Ackley said, he would drive past the school to see Mackensie on the field alone, completing a workout plan he found independent of the coaches.
“This young man has a focus,” Allen said, “has a direction, has a vision for his life, and he’s going to do everything in his power to reach that vision. He’s not going to let anything sidetrack it.”
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what the sixth star sounds and looks like.
No prospect is a sure thing, but Alexander is close. He has the makeup and he can also play. He has ball skills, speed, and is adept at defending the run (see video).
His five-star status not only lifts Clemson to a No. 14 consensus class ranking — Clemson’s third straight top 15 class – but he fills the biggest need: secondary help.
How often have we seen Clemson secondary members either be beaten in coverage or miss tackles the last several seasons?
Alexander should go a long way in fixing that and like Travis Blanks, he could very well impact as a true freshman, which is important because Clemson has a lot of pieces already in place on offense along with an improving defensive line. The class needed to be something akin to free agency in filling voids for Clemson.
ESPN’s Tom Luginbill on the signing of Alexander:
“On the physical side of it I don’t think there’s any question this is a player that should come in and have a role and be able to be put in position to make some plays just like Travis Blanks was last year for Clemson as a true freshman, a guy who can come in and be athletic enough. Again, these guys aren’t growing on trees. These teams with great corners and (defensive linemen), you have a chance on defense to separate yourself from the rest of the pack.
“We’ve seen what Clemson has shown flashes of on defense, with guys like Da’Quan Bower before, but on offense we know what Clemson is all about. To get to that next step, to win the ACC, to continually go to BCS games you have to be able to get it done on defense and this is a piece of the puzzle.”
A big piece of the puzzle, filling an area of primary need and perhaps filling it immediately. With the addition of seven other DBs in the class and the return of Martin Jenkins and Bashaud Breeland from injury, Clemson’s secondary should be much improved in 2013.
“This is an awesome day – this going to be another top-15 class, and these are guys who had a lot of options,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “It’s a dynamic group, with a big emphasis on defense, and in particular defensive backs.”
A big emphasis on the sixth star and a missing piece.