Adrian Baker and Richard Yeargin III are enjoying their “homecoming week.”
Each became high school football stars only a few miles from Sun Life Stadium and spent one season as teammates at Chaminade-Madonna in Hollywood.
“This is a great experience and just to play in a game of this magnitude with everyone watching is a blessing,” Baker said. “We could have gone to Dallas, but playing in Miami makes this even more special because my family and friends are here to watch me.
“I grew up watching the University of Miami play and watching Sean Taylor as a little kid. This isn’t the Orange Bowl [stadium], but playing in the Orange Bowl game itself is going to be a great experience.”
The former Broward County standouts have each given glimpses all season of their potential to be a major part of Clemson’s defense in the near future.
For the unbeaten Tigers, who overcame the loss of their entire starting front seven entering this season, Baker and Yeargin are trying to make the most of every opportunity — especially if it comes in Thursday’s Capital One Orange Bowl playoff semifinal against Oklahoma.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience and what you dream about as a kid,” Yeargin III said. “It’s definitely been a journey coming in as a highly rated recruit and then having to redshirt and learn from the older guys. I feel like the future is bright for me, as long as I keep the faith and keep grinding.”
Yeargin, a 6-3, 255-pound redshirt freshman defensive end, played his junior season of high school with Baker, a 6-0, 180-pound redshirt sophomore cornerback, when Baker was a senior at Chaminade.
Yeargin later transferred to nearby University School of Nova Southeastern University for his senior season.
Being from the local area, Baker and Yeargin have developed a stronger bond in college.
Each had to wait their turn even with the large defensive personnel turnover before this season. Each redshirted their first seasons at Clemson.
“It’s cool because I’m from here and I know what it takes to get out of here and make it at a big school like Clemson so I’m cherishing this and not taking anything for granted.”
Yeargin has used the time to improve his grades in school and learn from the team’s top lineman, including Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd.
Yeargin has appeared in seven games this season and has seven tackles. His highlight came at Sun Life Stadium coincidentally as he recorded a sack during the Tigers’ 58-0 blowout win over the University of Miami.
“Richard did a great job in school and went over a 3.0 GPA so I’m real proud of his hard work on and off the field,” Clemson defensive ends coach Marion Hobby said. “He has a great work ethic. This upcoming spring will be huge for him as he continues to get repetitions. It’s going to be interesting to see how much he can develop because he does a lot of natural things and has a knack for finding the quarterback.”
Baker is on the cusp of becoming one of the team’s top defensive backs as he’s earned noticeable playing time in 11 games this season totaling 12 tackles, and two interceptions.
“This year as a sophomore, I’ve made plays in big games,” Baker said. “I feel like I’m not too talkative of a leader so that’s something I need to improve and take on more of a leadership role next season.”
Baker is one of three Tigers with multiple interceptions this season.
“Adrian’s got natural range and good speed as he’s developed we’ve seen a difference in him,” Hobby said. “He’s a physical solid sized corner with range and good ball skills. The sky’s the limit for both Adrian and Richard.”