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Plainfield South's Joshua Harris (14) will play running back and safety for Plainfield South this season. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Clifton Garrett’s fall itinerary will take him to some of the best games the Southeastern Conference has to offer.
Sept. 20: official visit to Florida (vs. Tennessee); Oct. 4: official visit to Tennessee (vs. Georgia); Oct. 18: official visit to Mississippi (vs. LSU); Nov. 23: unofficial visit to LSU (vs. Texas A&M).
National recruiting services place four or five stars beside his name for a reason. The explosive Plainfield South senior is ranked among the nation’s best linebackers. He likes LSU, and also has Tennessee, Florida and Ole Miss under consideration.
“Nothing against the Big Ten, but I’ve always liked the SEC,” he said. “I feel it’s a different brand of football they play there.”
When a team features a player of that ilk, the attention he receives can destroy unity. But that’s not the case here, which is one reason the Cougars, 4-5 last season, hope to challenge in the Southwest Prairie and qualify for the playoffs for the third time in four years.
“The guys really like playing with Clifton,” South coach Ken Bublitz said.
“I don’t pay attention to four stars or five stars or any of that stuff,” Garrett said. “That’s for people outside the football world.”
The 6-foot-2, 226-pound Garrett will play tight end and fullback on offense and is among a handful of Cougars who will contribute on both sides of the ball.
Speedy Josh Harris, who can hit 4.4 in the 40, will be a running back/slotback on offense and safety on defense. Quarterback Kody Voda can play cornerback and even receiver (which he played very well last season) when Braden Lentini takes snaps. Linebacker Mason Matesevic and 305-pound lineman Rich Kelly also may play both ways at times.
“I get a real good feeling about this team,” Harris said. “We’ve played together a long time. We have the same chemistry that we’ve had, and our abilities are better.
“What can get us to the playoffs is if we stay healthy. We have speed all around, and we have guys capable of stepping up.”
Stepping up must happen off the get-go as South opens Aug. 30 at Lemont before entertaining St. Francis on Sept. 6.
Garrett said he has “linebacker speed,” in the 4.6 to 4.7 (-second) range. He will be inside and Matesevic outside in South’s 4-4 alignment.
“I’m really happy with our defense,” Garrett said. “We’re playing as a unit. Mason and Josh will be huge on defense. (J.C.) Godin is a good defensive end and (Zak) Tuzak is a tough safety.
“I love being around these guys. We always feel we have something to prove, and I see us keep getting better.”
Bublitz said there are positive signs, but staying relatively injury free is key.
“We’re a little nicked already and that puts a premium on depth,” he said. “We are heading in the right direction with consistency at practice each day. It really comes down to our playmakers making plays, and us staying healthy.”