Zeek Rodney signed a national letter of intent Wednesday to play football at Wake Forest University.
The school jumped into Rodney’s recruitment late but made a meaningful impression on the South Pointe defensive line standout.
“You know I didn’t have any offers around this time last year, so when I got this offer when I was at the Shrine Bowl, I was really excited,” he said.
Wake Forest hired former Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson in early December, and Clawson hit the ground running with regards to recruiting. Rodney was one of the school’s initial targets.
“At times, it got delirious; we woke up in hotel rooms and had no idea what city we were in,” Clawson said Wednesday during a Signing Day news conference at the Winston-Salem, N.C., school. “The work ethic allowed us to make up ground and sign a very strong staff.”
In recruiting Rodney, Wake had a key advantage. Syracuse, his other top choice, and Wake Forest both boast excellent academic reputations, and both play at the luxury end of Division I football, the ACC. But Wake had proximity to Rock Hill.
“Obviously, they’re close to home, and once I looked them up, I saw they were one of the best schools in the country academic-wise, top 25 in the country,” said Rodney, who looked sharp in a gold-colored sweater and black dress slacks.
Both Wake Forest and Syracuse had vacancies along their defensive fronts that Rodney, who produced 40 sacks his last two seasons, could fill. At Wake, the hole came in the shape of tackle Nikita Whitlock, a highly disruptive three-time All-ACC noseguard for the Demon Deacons who is headed to the NFL. Plus, the new coaching staff switched Wake’s defensive scheme to a 4-3, meaning more defensive linemen on the field and possibly more playing time for younger players like Rodney.
With recruiting finished, Rodney can focus on finishing high school and Clawson can turn his attention to current Deacons. He told the Winston-Salem Journal on Monday that he was looking forward to getting to know returning players, adding, “I feel like I know the recruits more than our own team.”
Formerly a recruit, Rodney officially joined the team Wednesday. As Syracuse dug out of another snowstorm, the Stallion defensive tackle was glad his new team is just up the road from home.
“I thought I was gonna have to go up to the Northeast and play and wouldn’t ever be able to come home,” he said. “So, when I got this offer, I was really excited.”
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T