Elijah Daniel makes UA Game roster

A single player does not make a great team, but when the best player is the hardest-working it sure goes a long way.

That is the case with Avon (Ind.) lineman Elijah Daniel, the nation's sixth-best defensive end and No. 82 overall in the ESPN 150. Daniel's high school coach, Mark Bless, says his star defensive end is talented and dedicated.

"He's busting his butt in the weight room and on the field. He's leading by example," Bless said of the soft-spoken Daniel. "My thoughts are if you're best player is working extremely hard, the rest of the team will follow."

The work Daniel has put in helped lead him to where he was Friday night -- standing on the field during his senior night accepting his 2013 Under Armour All-America Game jersey as part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour.

The Under Armour Game has been a goal for the 6-foot-3, 249-pound Daniel since he was in seventh grade. He said it is the only national high school all-star game he watches, and he was hooked on it from the first time he saw a game.

That has a lot to do with an Under Armour Game alumnus who comes from Alabama -- Daniel's home state.

"I always paid attention to this [game] -- probably the reason is because of Julio Jones [in 2008]," Daniel said. "I followed the top players and watched college football a lot. Just really those dudes made me thinking about wanting to do it one day."

The No. 2 player in Indiana is healthy again after a troublesome knee bothered him up until the summer months. He has around 50 tackles and six sacks entering this weekend and both he and Bless said they believe he is back to 100 percent.

Now at full strength, Daniel wants to see how he compares to some of the other top players in the country at his position, including No. 1 overall player Robert Nkemdiche.

Daniel might even be sighted at outside linebacker for some snaps during the UA Game. Bless has experimented with Daniel as a rush linebacker this season, and the results have been positive.

"We thought we could stand him up at linebacker and get him to the other side of the formation. He's done very well," Bless said. "... A lot of colleges that came through said they were interested in seeing him play on his feet instead of hand on the ground, and this gives room to see that he's capable of both."

If Daniel were to move to linebacker full time in college, it might not be the only reason he won't eventually line up on the opposite side of Nkemdiche. While both are committed to Clemson, Daniel is looking around quite a bit.

When he committed to Clemson in June -- a move that surprised many -- Daniel said he would likely take official visits to other schools. He has taken one to Marshall and rescheduled a trip to Florida that was originally supposed to take place for the LSU game until after the season. He will likely take a few more, possibly to Ole Miss, Tennessee and some other SEC programs, as Daniel has several family members in the Southeast.

Daniel said he has not talked much with the Clemson staff lately, although Bless said the Tigers are still as high on Daniel as they have ever been.

"They've been in and been to a game," Bless said. "They've been in as much as what they can do. They've done a good job with it.

"Elijah is like a lot of teenagers. He was happy with what he saw and heard at Clemson and now it's been a while [since his commitment]. I think some teenagers keep searching and whether or not he'll wind up Clemson, who knows? Time will tell."