After years of winning recruiting battles in North Carolina, Clemson won the College Football Playoff National Championship. Clemson had 20 players with North Carolina hometowns, by far the most of the three CFP champions.
When Ohio State was crowned champion in Jan. 2015 it had one player, Taboro’s Tyquan Lewis, from North Carolina. Alabama had three last season, all walk-ons (Nate Staskelunas, who went to Arendell Parrott in Kinston, Charlotte’s Blaine Anderson and Wakefield grad Tre’ Dunn).
Clemson’s title team pulled players from all across the state, and many of them played key roles. Seven of them came from either Wake, Durham, Orange or Johnston County.
Wake Forest High grad Dexter Lawrence started at defensive tackle as a freshman. The ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and former two-time N&O player of the year, won a national title less than a month after his younger brother Devon helped WFHS win its first state crown.
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Hillside was represented by Trevion Thompson, a wide receiver who missed most of the season with a broken wrist, and safety Korin Wiggins.
Logan Tisch (Chapel Hill High) provided depth on the offensive line as did Sterling Johnson (Cleveland) on the defensive side. Both, along with Lawrence, are former N&O All-Metro selections. Tisch agreed to a “gray shirt,” meaning he walked-on his first year at Clemson before getting a scholarship.
Walk-ons Connor Prevost (Cardinal Gibbons) and Austin Jackson (Green Hope) each transferred in from other schools.
Jackson started his career at East Tennessee State under former UNC coach Carl Torbush. He becomes the second Green Hope player to win a national title – Cade Holliday was a walk-on on both Tim Tebow-led Florida national championship teams.
Prevost transferred in from Navy, where he wasn’t a football player, but played lacrosse for two seasons. Prevost was the N&O player of the year in lacrosse his senior year, but also a pretty good linebacker for Gibbons.
Pinecrest grad Sean Pollard, ended the year as the starting right tackle as a true freshman. Classmate Cornell Powell was a backup at wide receiver.
Starting next to Pollard was Richmond County’s Tyrone Crowder.
Senior Carlos Watkins, who started next to Lawrence at defensive tackle, is from Mooresboro and went to Chase High School.
Other North Carolina products contributed all over the field. Punter Andy Teasdall is from R.J. Reynolds High in Winston-Salem. Tanner Muse, who blocked a punt, is from Belmont (South Point High).
Charlotte had three players: Van Smith started at free safety, Mark Fields saw snaps at corner back and Kanyon Tuttle, son of 1981 national championship hero Perry Tuttle, was a walk-on wide receiver.
Greensboro’s Diondre Overton (Page High) redshirted while Chris Register (Dudley High) provided depth on the defensive line as did Leland’s Jabril Robinson (North Brunswick High). Wide receiver Sean Mac Lain, from Hope Mills, went to Jack Britt High.
N&O area-Clemson players