Visit in Illinois turned UA’s way
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.”
Arkansas offensive lineman Shane Clenin, a freshman who enrolled early, works out in the weight room.