Safety, 2019 Commit
Phenix City, AL
The Kraken: High 3-Stars
Rivals: 3-Stars, 247: High 3-Stars, ESPN: High 3-Stars
Recruited by N/A
2/14/19 – I’m checking back in on Thornton post-senior season in high school. Thornton is reportedly enrolled and ready for spring drills with the Tigers. I agree with everything is my assessment below.
No exceptions this time. I like what I wrote last year. He is a Clemson fan with a high football IQ, great instincts, and great range because of those instincts. He is the kind of guy that, if we didn’t have our entire 2-deep returning, could step in and help out as a freshman. I think he avoids a redshirt next year because we need to get three safeties ready for the spots opening up in 2020. I think the 3 safeties that enrolled early will get a shot to compete for spots in the two deep. He should find a special teams role and either he, Zanders, or both, should land the garbage-time reps at SS next season.
7/6/18 – Ray Thornton is a safety prospect from Phenix, AL, which is right on the Georgia/Alabama border in close proximity to Fort Benning. He attends the same high school that 2018 commit, Justyn Ross (WR), attended. Clemson was Thronton’s dream school and Alabama.com reported that he wears Clemson clothing regularly at school. He received the offer from Coach Swinney on June 21st and committed on June 22nd. Thornton also had offers from Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss, Duke, and Georgia Tech. By most accounts, he is smart, driven, and takes his education seriously.
Thornton’s top end speed is good and his height looks accurate. He’s probably about 10 pounds lighter than his listed weight. Most of the time he runs under control which makes him appear slower than he actually is. I would not call him a burner, but when he has the ball in his hands, you can see that he can be very fast when he wants to be.
As a safety, he has experience playing C1, C1 Robber (he’ll play the deep safety and the robber), C2, C3, and some man. On one play in man, the offense ran a double pass to the backside TE, which was his guy. He didn’t take the bait, did his job, and ended up step for step with him on a deep post.
Fundamentally, he is ready for the college level. Kudos to his DB coach. His backpedal weave is excellent. He can really get over the top of receivers, see the field, and avoid being beaten deep. Moving laterally, he is comfortable crossing his feet and flipping his hips. He’s really good at changing direction at almost any angle. Because of this, he has great range. There are a couple times where his footwork is so good he almost overruns the play coming from the other side of the field.
Against the run, he shows that he can run the alley and take good angles to get there. He is not a thumper or a big hitter. He’s a solid, sure tackler. While there don’t appear to be any toughness issues, he does give ground on his tackles. Also, when he’s coming up on run support, he doesn’t have the quick one-step change that Garry Peters and Ryan Carter had. It may just be because he likes to be under control and wary of giving up a big play on a missed tackle. Still, he is a good edge defender because of his instincts and feet. He’s just not going to blow up bubble screens 2 yards deep with the way he plays. His HS team did face a wishbone offense as well, and he looked fairly comfortable playing in the box, just not as aggressive.
I assume the staff must’ve had an elite option they were waiting on, and that’s why he didn’t get a committable offer until late June. Thornton has been quoted as saying that the staff told him he needed to work on some things and come back. So, I expected to see a high-upside athlete that needed polishing and not a strong technical player that also has good size and athleticism. This is a testament to the Clemson brand that a guy like this will recruit himself to the staff.
I think Thornton is too good fundamentally and stylistically to not use as the last line of defense, or SS, in our system. That’s what he does best and where he gets the most of his reps in HS. If this is the SS compliment to Joseph Charleston’s WS, I’m pretty happy with that. These are two guys that can do what the job requires very well. Mario Goodrich will have a head start on both of them, but honestly, he needs it. Goodrich is a slightly better athlete than Thornton, but Thornton has many more translatable skills. I have to say that this signing raises the percentage that Goodrich will end up at BCB down the road. I agree with the high 3-Star ranking and I look forward to seeing him after next season.