Because he did not project to qualify academically, Opelika, Ala. defensive lineman Jacquez McKissic was not highly rated coming out of high school last February. But despite his two-star rating at the time, he still managed to bag offers from Auburn, Clemson, Illinois, N.C. State, Mississippi State, Memphis, Louisville and UAB.
“Auburn, I always felt was too close. It’s less than 10 minutes from my house, and that’s just too close for me. I wanted to get away from home, and Clemson was on me pretty hard for a long time, so I stuck it out with them,” said McKissic late Tuesday night. “Coach (Dabo) Swinney was behind me the whole way. He believed in me when no one else did. He wasn’t just concerned about me, but he had interest in my family, too.”
The 282-pounder has been working to make it academically ever since he signed on the morning of February 19th. On Sunday, he received word that he had finally made a qualifying test score.
“I didn’t check the mail on Saturday, but I did Sunday, and I got a letter from the clearinghouse that said I had made it. I couldn’t believe it. I called Coach Swinney to tell him, and he wanted to be sure, so he went to Ms. (Becky) Bowman’s office and he told me she got on the Internet to pull up my ACT scores. He came back to me and said I had made it. You should have heard him on the phone. Man, he was going wild. I thought he was about to lose it. He kept saying, ‘You made it, you made it.’ It made my mother very happy, too. I think she got more excited about it than I did. She has been praying for me to make it for a long time.”
McKissic took the ACT last fall, but came up short. He again fell short last spring, but retook the test in September, coming up just one point shy on his (composite) score. He took it once more on October 23rd, and it was that day where he managed to get the final point he needed in order to become a full-qualifer.
“I’ve been working on a lot of things this year. Ever since I signed with Clemson, I have been lifting weights and getting myself into the best physical condition possible. I have a part-time job, too. I work at the Michelin plant as an inspector. I inspect tires. It’s not a bad job. I enjoy it,” said McKissic. “I’ve been to a few Clemson games this year, too. I went to the Wake Forest game, the Georgia Tech game, and the Utah State game. The atmosphere is unbelievable. I can’t wait to be on the field with the rest of them. I feel that I will fit in to what they’re doing. Just to be a part of the family means a lot. And now I feel like I’m a part of the Clemson family.”
Last weekend while watching Clemson upset No. 10 Miami in the Orange Bowl, McKissic spent time with friend and former teammate, current Clemson true freshman defensive back Adrian Kindred.
“He came home Friday and we talked for awhile. We talked about plans for later on this year when I would be up there. I told him that if I qualified, I would try to be up there a couple of weeks before Christmas. They (the coaching staff) have told me I will be eligible to practice with the team for the bowl if they make it, and it looks like they’re going to make it. That’s what I have been hoping for. I want to practice in the spring, but to go with the team on the bowl trip and get a bowl ring and be one of the boys is something I’ve thought about a good bit. It’s like a goal I’ve been trying to reach.”
As for where the staff plans to use the talented lineman, the likely destination is tackle, since naturally, he projects to tack on another 15-25 pounds over the next two years.
“I don’t really care where they put me, to be honest with you. As long as I get in the game, that’s all I care about. I just want to play.”
McKissic is one of five current holdover commitments (from the 2004 class). The staff also has verbal commitments from four-star rated offensive tackle Corey Lambert of Greenville, two-star rated defensive tackle Elsmore Gabriel of Brooklyn, NY, three-star rated defensive end Phillip Merling of Memphis, TN, and three-star rated tight end Durrell Barry of Fort Dorchester. Gabriel, Merling and Barry are working to enroll next August. All three are attending Fork Union Military (Fork Union, Va.). Lambert was not placed, but is also working to make it academically, hopeful of a January enrollment.
Lambert was recruited by linebackers coach David Blackwell, Gabriel by defensive coordinator John Lovett, Merling by offensive line coach Brad Scott, and Barry by running backs coach Burton Burns.
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