While Westlake Village Oaks Christian was marching to the state championship in California, there were plenty of college football coaches there to admire such prospects as quarterback Jimmy Claussen (Notre Dame), running back Marc Tyler (USC) and safety Marshall Jones (USC). There was no shortage of great players on the team, but there was only one MVP.
Claussen, Tyler and Jones are all rated five stars and they all three rank in the top three in their positions nationwide in the Scout.com rankings, but the most valuable player on the team was Florida-bound defensive end Duke Lemmens.
The four-star Lemmens is a versatile defensive end that also plays center on the basketball team. He modestly said he was awarded the MVP because he plays both ways and his coach accredited him with a bunch of off the field contributions. He wouldn’t go into great detail but it is easy to see what co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Greg Mattison sees in him. Mattison was in California two days ago to visit Lemmens.
“I hope he sees that stuff in me … he was actually here today,” Lemmens said. “At the beginning of the week there was a bit of drama. Notre Dame offered me out of nowhere. I know the whole Justin Trattou thing and I know a lot of people around here wanted me to take a look since I had that fifth official visit left. I just thought it wasn’t fair to me or Notre Dame to even take that visit and waste their time. I know there is nothing that could change my mind.
“We talked some about that and the defense I am going to be in next year. Hopefully I will come in ready to play and hopefully do what I can as soon as I can.”
To say he is ready to be a Gator may be the biggest understatement of the recruiting season. Lemmens sounds like he was born and raised to live in Gainesville.
“I don’t know how to sum up being a Gator in just one thing,” he said. “It is just crazy what it means to be a part of the whole family. I committed before I knew we were going to win a national championship and that is just a big plus. Being the champions in basketball and football right now, that city is ready to explode and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Picking the Gators hasn’t exactly been easy as far as dealing with the locals in California. For the month leading up to the Gators’ National Championship, Duke was getting harassed by everyone that knew him and where he was going. He just nodded his head and took it, but he knew he would get to do his own jawing when the time was right.
“I have all kinds of Gator gear,” he said. “I was the most obnoxious kid at my school after the national championship because all week people were talking crap to me about ‘they don’t stand a chance’ and ‘they shouldn’t even be in the game.’ I just bit my tongue then, but was Gator chompin’ everyone the next day.”
He really wasn’t surprised at the veracity in which the Gators handled the slower and lifeless Big Ten Champion Ohio State Buckeyes. Lemmens saw plenty of the Gators to know the speed and intensity would overmatch the Buckeyes.
“That opened some people’s eyes, but I saw it all year in every game I watched,” he said matter of fact like. “Florida has the most athletic defensive line in the country. They have some of the best coaches to capitalize on the athleticism, now the whole country knows what I have known all along.”
Lemmens also knows that the defensive line took major hits this year. The Gators lost five prominent players on the line and now are left with a very barren depth chart. To that end, the Gators were going to have to recruit several linemen to replace the departures. Lemmens welcomes the competition and can’t wait to play with his new teammates.
“There are only two at defensive end right now,” he said. “I know one of them is (Derrick) Harvey and that is locked down, but I know how they play their defensive line, they rotate them to keep them fresh. With only two ends I know they need a big class. Some of the big names coming in some say that sucks, but I just can’t wait to make friends and compete against those kids.”
One guy that he was hoping for but not going to compete for playing time with is Cincinnati Le Salle defensive end Ben Martin. Lemmens made friends with Martin at the Friday Night Lights camp in Gainesville back in July. He was surprised when Martin chose Tennessee at the US Army All-American game.
“I am happy for him, but I didn’t see him doing that at all,” Lemmens said. “I am glad he is in the SEC so I can see him around. It will be fun competing against him in that other orange.”
From the first moment Lemmens was in Gainesville he has not stopped raving about the football fanaticism that over flows with Gator fans. He was breathless when coming out of the tunnel in The Swamp for Friday Night Lights. He also couldn’t speak with the crowd as special as it was for the South Carolina game in The Swamp. Now there is only one thing left for him to do.
“I’m not going to rest nor do anything until I get to play on that field,” Lemmens said. “I’m not going to let anyone down with my intensity, I can guarantee that. I’m not going to ever be one that is dogging it. I can’t guarantee my talent, but I think I have what it takes to play there and I am going to play my hardest every play.”
Wednesday February 7, is the day National Letter of Intents (LOI) roll into the fax machine at the football office of the University of Florida. The LOI is not allowed to be sent in before 7 a.m. local time of the origination of the fax. Lemmens will not waste any time in officially becoming a Gator.
“I will send it in as early as possible, 7:01 a.m.”