HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Permian’s Clinton shows versatility in return to familiar position

Permian football coach Jeff Ellison always knew Caysen Clinton was a smart player.

It doesn’t matter what position he was playing, whether it was at running back or holding down one of the outside linebacker spots.

Ellison said he remembers seeing Clinton go the extra yard for his team when he was a freshman.

“He was getting tackled and as he was going down, I could see him looking over at the first down marker and gave one more extra effort to get the first down,” Ellison said. “He’s a smart football player.”

Despite starting his time at Permian as a running back, Clinton has been playing outside linebacker this season alongside Jaxon Dorethy.

Through 10 games played in the regular season, Clinton recorded 37 total tackles to go with four tackles for loss.

Permian defensive coordinator Vance Washington said the coaching staff was trying to find a role Clinton this season, trying him out at positions like inside and outside linebacker.

He was only on the defensive side of the ball, but recent injuries at running back moved the junior back to his old position.

Clinton quickly showed what he could do as a running back, coming in to help the Panthers power the ball forward in their regular season finale against Midland Legacy last Friday.

He scored his first touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Rebels, punching it in from one yard out to help Permian keep things close.

“We put him over there and he’s just excelled,” Washington said. “We’re really thrilled for him that he’s found him a home and scored a touchdown the other night.

“You can’t find a tougher, harder working, good kid.”

As Permian heads in its Class 6A Division I bi-district round matchup with El Paso Franklin at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Clinton is expected to have a role at running back along with Zach Wheeler.

Ellison said Clinton is willing to do whatever he can to help the football team, adapting quickly for whatever position he might play.

Since the junior returned to his original position, Washington doesn’t know if he’ll return to playing outside linebacker but the defensive coordinator believes one of Clinton’s strongest points is playing the run.

Clinton showed consistency as the regular season moved along, recording 19 of his 37 tackles in District 2-6A play.

He has also shown some ability to get after the opposing signal caller, recording two sacks and one quarterback hurry during the 2021 campaign.

One of the things Washington wants to see Clinton improve defensively is his pass defense.

“That comes with experience,” Washington said. “He’s done a great job for us and done everything we ask him.”

Clinton thought that he was done playing the running back position after his freshman season, but now he is grateful for the opportunity to take snaps on the offensive side of the ball.

He feels like he is getting a better understanding of the fundamental aspects of playing running back.

“Getting to see the holes open up every day, just getting more of the technique down like how I used to do it, I’m falling in love with it every day now,” Clinton said.

When he was moved to outside linebacker, Clinton felt he had a slight advantage because of his previous experience.

He learned the ins and outs of playing on both sides of the ball, knowing what goes in to running with the ball and stopping an opponent with a ball in their hands.

Clinton still has another year of eligibility but is ready to help Permian in its 2021 playoff push now.

“Knowing how big this game really is and how much is at stake, hopefully we have more games to come,” Clinton said.

>> Follow Chris Amaya on Twitter at @OA_CAmaya