Visit in Illi­nois turned UA’s way

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - BOB HOLT

The 18th in a se­ries pro­fil­ing new­com­ers to the Arkansas Ra­zor­backs foot­ball team.

FAYET­TEVILLE — Shane Clenin was eat­ing a Chicago-style hot dog from a stand on the North­west­ern Univer­sity cam­pus in Evanston, Ill., when he looked at his cell­phone and saw Arkansas Ra­zor­backs of­fen­sive line coach Kurt An­der­son had sent a di­rect mes­sage to his Twit­ter ac­count.

This was in the spring of 2016, be­fore Clenin’s se­nior sea­son at Jef­fer­son High School in Fes­tus, Mo.

An­der­son in­vited Clenin to take a visit to the Univer­sity of Arkansas, Fayet­teville, said he had a schol­ar­ship of­fer and asked him to call.

Clenin, an of­fen­sive tackle, said he wanted to call An­der­son im­me­di­ately, but he fig­ured wait­ing would be a good idea con­sid­er­ing he was in the mid­dle of a re­cruit­ing visit to North­west­ern and some of the Wild­cats’ as­sis­tant coaches were nearby.

“I had watched North­west­ern prac­tice that

the Wild­cats’ as­sis­tant coaches were nearby.

“I had watched North­west­ern prac­tice that morn­ing and their coaches were show­ing me around the cam­pus,” Clenin said. “They said, ‘ Why don’t you eat a Chicago hot dog? Noth­ing like it.’

“There was a lit­tle hot dog stand right next to their sta­dium and we were eat­ing there. That’s when I checked my phone and saw the mes­sage from coach An­der­son.

“It was a pretty sweet mo­ment. It was hard not to be a lit­tle giddy, but I wanted to play it low-key with the North­west­ern coaches right there with me.”

An­der­son was amused when he found out Clenin had first seen his mes­sage on a visit to North­west­ern.

“My dad played there, and I was born in Evanston,” said An­der­son, whose fa­ther, Don, played wide re­ceiver for the Wild­cats. “I grew up around the North­west­ern pro­gram.

“I re­ally loved Shane’s tape and thought he was a heck of a player. When I di­rect-mes­saged him, I was just try­ing to find out when he could pos­si­bly get down here so we could meet him.”

Clenin said he en­joyed his visit to North­west­ern and also had a schol­ar­ship of­fer from Iowa State, but he signed with Arkansas and was an early en­rollee in Jan­uary so he could go through off­sea­son work­outs and spring prac­tice.

Af­ter call­ing An­der­son, Clenin and his par­ents can­celed a trip to Kan­sas and in­stead vis­ited Arkansas.

“Ev­ery­thing blew my mind,” Clenin said. “For the long­est time, when­ever I had re­ally got­ten se­ri­ous about play­ing col­lege foot­ball, I wanted to go to Miz­zou.

“I was a Mis­souri guy. I’d gone to a cou­ple Miz­zou camps. I liked it there. But then I came to Arkansas, an­other SEC school, and what Miz­zou had was noth­ing com­pared to this what­so­ever.

“Just the peo­ple, the at­mos­phere, the fa­cil­i­ties, noth­ing was the same. I was like, ‘This is in­sane.’ “

Clenin said Mis­souri be­gan show­ing more re­cruwit­ing in­ter­est in him late in the process, but by that time he knew he wanted to go to Arkansas.

“Once I was get­ting more at­ten­tion from other schools, Mis­souri started pick­ing it up a lit­tle bit with me,” he said. “But they never of­fered me a schol­ar­ship. I guess it kind of mo­ti­vates me a lit­tle bit.”

Clenin com­mit­ted to Arkansas in April 2016, about two weeks af­ter his visit.

Clenin, 6-6 and 305 pounds, worked at left tackle in spring prac­tice.

“Shane is ex­tremely in­tel­li­gent, and he’s very ath­letic,” An­der­son said. “He’s very coach­able in terms of his foot­work, his hand place­ment, his eye pro­gres­sion. He picks up on things very, very fast.”

An­der­son said Clenin has proven he can teach Arkansas’ block­ing tech­niques.

“I do a lit­tle ex­er­cise in my room where I put a guy on the board and have him teach us a play or a con­cept so they have to teach it as if we were all fresh­men in the room and we don’t know any­thing,” An­der­son said. “I’ve put Shane on the board a cou­ple times, and he gets up there and knocks it

“He’s very coach­able in terms of his foot­work, his hand place­ment, his eye pro­gres­sion. He picks up on things very, very fast.” Arkansas of­fen­sive line coach Kurt An­der­son on Shane Clenin

out of the park.

“He re­ally stud­ies the stuff, he can ar­tic­u­late it. He has a bright fu­ture here at Arkansas.”

Ra­zor­backs se­nior cen­ter Frank Rag­now said he can tell Clenin wants to be a great player.

“That’s one of the key tools to this whole thing, is be­ing able to come in here and know and un­der­stand quickly how you’ve got to put in the work,” Rag­now said. “Shane’s a freak ath­let­i­cally, too. Play­ing on the of­fen­sive line comes nat­u­rally for him. He looks com­fort­able.”

Along with start­ing at of­fen­sive tackle at Jef­fer­son, Clenin played on the de­fen­sive line. Jef­fer­son Coach Alex Roug­gly said Clenin av­er­aged about 120 plays per game.

“For Shane to do that, es­pe­cially with the heat and hu­mid­ity we have in the Mid­west, speaks vol­umes about his char­ac­ter and how he went about his work ethic,” Roug­gly said. “He did con­struc­tion work in the sum­mer, so he got used to the heat.

“He just worked his rear end off all the time for us.”

Clenin grad­u­ated from Jef­fer­son with a 3.9 grade-point av­er­age — he got a B in an English class — and was rated a con­sen­sus three-star player by ESPN, Ri­vals, Scout and 247Sports. He had 60 pan­cake blocks as a se­nior and made 33 tack­les.

“First and fore­most, he’s a re­ally smart young man,” Roug­gly said. “He’s also foot­ball smart.

“Then he has great feet and hands. But moreso his feet. He moves like a tight end.”

Clenin went through three bowl prac­tices with the Ra­zor­backs, and one day he worked against se­nior start­ing de­fen­sive end Deatrich Wise, a fourth- round NFL Draft pick by the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots.

“I’m not go­ing to say it was a rude awak­en­ing, but it was a good gauge for me to see where I was, be­cause I know the kind of player Deatrich was here,” Clenin said. “It’s crazy to think I was go­ing against a guy who’s in the NFL now. I think I did all right.

“Ob­vi­ously, there were sev­eral times he made me look re­ally bad, as I ex­pected. He was re­ally nice about it. If I took a wrong step, he’d coach me up a lit­tle bit. That just kind of lets you know the kind of guy he is.”

Clenin knows what he needs to work on as the sea­son ap­proaches.

“I can ob­vi­ously im­prove my foot­work,” he said. “I need to know the play­book in­side and out.

“I just need to try to be re­ally good all the time. Then we should have some­thing go­ing.”

Clenin

NWA Demo­crat-Gazette file photo

Arkansas of­fen­sive line­man Shane Clenin, a fresh­man who en­rolled early, works out in the weight room.

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