Northwestern’s Logan Rudolph exploded onto the high school football scene in South Carolina last season after switching from receiver to defensive end.
His elite body type at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, speed off the ball and aggressiveness pursuing ball-carriers or quarterbacks made him a natural for the position, said first-year Trojans coach David Pierce, the team’s defensive line coach last season.
Like his older brother Mason, a quarterback at Oklahoma State, Logan Rudolph plans to graduate from high school in December. In January, he will enroll at Clemson, where he’ll play football for the Tigers.
“I feel like it’ll give me an edge so I can get in there and learn as much as I can,” he said of starting college early.
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Rudolph was recruited to play outside linebacker for the Tigers, who hired former Northwestern High coach Kyle Richardson during the offseason. Rudolph said that had no impact on his decision to pick Clemson over 39 other scholarship offers.
“It wasn’t based on him at all, but it’ll be great to have a friendly face in the door, someone who can help me out from the first day,” said Rudolph, who committed to Clemson in May. “But I just liked everything about (the school).”
Former Northwestern High assistant coach Keon Stowers and Rudolph met at the YMCA almost every Sunday during the offseason to hone the teenager’s pass-rushing craft.
Stowers - who has since moved and now works at the University of Kansas, his alma mater - would talk Rudolph through moves and different situations, often from the offensive lineman’s perspective. He called Rudolph “a sponge.”
“He wants to learn everything,” said Stowers, at former defensive lineman at Northwestern High and Kansas. “He wants to try out everything, just know how they do it in the big leagues, how they do it here, how they do it here. That’s just his personality.”
Pierce said he wants Rudolph to add to his bag of escape moves to better shed blockers. Mallard Creek’s behemoth offensive line underscored that fact in last Thursday’s scrimmage in Rock Hill: The Mavericks double-teamed Rudolph on nearly every first-team snap.
“There’s really nothing more he can do to become more physically dominant, other than putting on a little bit more weight,” said Stowers. “So I definitely wanted to bring that mental part in there.”
Last season, Rudolph had 60 tackles, 15 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and recovered three.
“(Rudolph) was definitely born to be a defensive end,” Stowers said. “It’s in his genes. He doesn’t need to be anywhere else, unless it’s standing up playing outside linebacker.”
More onus will fall on Rudolph after Northwestern’s graduation of three productive defensive linemen. But all interviewed for this story agreed speedy and underrated defensive end Alan Alford should eventually draw some of the blocking focus from Rudolph.
Still, Rudolph knows that with his commitment to Clemson, much will be expected of him.
“He’s accepted the challenge,” said Northwestern defensive coordinator James Martin. “He knows there’s high expectations for him. But we don’t go into it as ‘Logan, it’s all up to you.’ It’s a team. But he has the ability to do a lot of great things, just like he did last year.”
Stowers expects a big season from his protege for one key reason: Rudolph has focused solely on playing defensive end for the first time.
“He’s spent the whole winter, a whole summer focused on nothing but defensive end,” said Stowers. “I see him having an even better defensive season this year, barring injury.”
Observer Sweet 16: Rock Hill Northwestern Trojans
The Observer continues with previews of teams in its annual preseason Sweet 16 high school football poll. The teams will be revealed in alphabetical order. The poll, with numerical order, will be released following the previews.
Head coach: David Pierce (First season at Northwestern)
2015 record: 14-1 (6-0, Region III, 4A champion)
Key returning starters: Gage Maloney, Sr., QB (6-2, 210); Logan Rudolph, Sr., DE/TE (6-4, 225); Jerry Howard, Sr., RB (6-1, 215); Jordan Starkes, Jr., WR (5-11, 180); Ali Shockley, Sr., WR/DB (6-1, 185); Caliphe Brice, Sr., LB (6-2, 210); Jamario Holley, So., WR (5-10, 165).
Returning starters: 9
Outlook: David Pierce, a 29-year assistant coach, takes over a Trojans team ranked as high as No. 17 in maxpreps.com’s national preseason poll. The defending AAAA state champion is loaded, from senior quarterback Gage Maloney (3,969 yards passing, 47 touchdown passes last season/Ohio committ) to running back Jerry Howard (1,570 yards rushing/East Carolina commit) to defensive end Logan Rudolph (15 sacks/Clemson commit).