USC recruiting well in Georgia
COLUMBIA -- The state of Georgia has long been kind to South Carolina's football team. In 1983, a dirt poor kid from Glennville came to USC and ended up leaving as the best wide receiver in school history.
Before Sterling Sharpe, there was George Rogers. The running back from Duluth won the Heisman Trophy as a senior in 1980.
Another Georgia receiver, Kenny McKinley, left USC 25 years after Sharpe arrived -- and took Sharpe's records with him. More recently, the Gamecocks got their current quarterback, Connor Shaw, from the Peach State. Two of the offensive linemen who protected Shaw last season -- left tackle Rokevious Watkins and right guard Terrence Campbell -- also came from there.
But never in coach Steve Spurrier's seven seasons at USC have the Gamecocks enjoyed as much recruiting success in Georgia as they did with the Class of 2012, whose members will sign letters of intent today.
Of USC's 25 recruits in this class, 12 are from Georgia. Eleven of them were rated by Rivals.com among the state's 75 best prospects, including four in the top 25. USC's top-rated recruit in this class is from Georgia: Mike Davis, who Rivals ranks as the No. 4 player in the state, the nation's No. 7 running back and the No. 63 overall recruit.
It seems safe to assume that the Gamecocks will continue to owe much of their success to players from Georgia.
In the Class of 2011, South Carolina got nine of Georgia's top 75 recruits, compared to four in the Class of 2010 and one in 2009. USC's 2011 and 2012 performances in Georgia are its best since coach Steve Spurrier's first full recruiting class, 2006, in which the Gamecocks landed four of the state's top 50 players, including eventual All-America defensive end Eric Norwood.
There are several reasons for the Gamecocks' success this year in Georgia, one of the most talent-rich football states in the country. Not the least of them is USC having its best back-to-back seasons in school history -- 9-5 in 2010, 11-2 in 2011 -- while still chasing greater accomplishments.
"Kids want to be a part of a winning program," said Marquis Slaton, who coaches at Atlanta's Banneker High School, home of safety Chaz Elder, USC's third-highest rated recruit from Georgia this year. "But a lot of kids don't want to go into a situation where there's already a dynasty there."
Slaton, a former Georgia high school football player who has coached in the state since 1998, said there is appeal for recruits to attend a school that is "just a play away or a player or two away, and just being able to go in and be that difference maker."
Knowing players already on the team also sways recruits and helps a program build recruiting momentum in a state. That was a significant factor for Lithonia High offensive guard Joe Harris, USC's second-highest rated Georgia recruit this year, said his coach, Marcus Jelks. Last year, USC landed linebacker Cedrick Cooper from Lithonia.
"It's almost like it's a safety valve," Jelks said. "The more kids (recruits know) that are there, they see it working."
High school coaches like dealing with recruiters they can trust. USC defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, who just finished his third season in Columbia, has a long history of recruiting in Georgia, dating to his days at Virginia Tech, where he coached from 1999-2005. According to Rivals' database, Ward signed three top 75 players from Georgia in the Class of 2011 and nine this year, including USC's top three, all of whom had scholarship offers from Georgia.
Ward grew up in tiny Greensboro, Ala., and you can still hear it in his voice, which doesn't sound foreign to lots of kids from rural Georgia.
"It kind of helps that he's from here," Jelks said.
Of course, lots of college coaches recruit hard in this state, especially Georgia's. The Bulldogs continue to do quite well at home. They landed the Nos. 3, 5 and 12 players in this year's class and remain in the mix for Nos. 1, 7, 11 and 22.
But Cairo High's Tom Fallaw, who has coached in the state for 16 years and will send cornerback T.J. Gurley to USC, said more kids are now open to going out of state.
"A lot of it is because of TV," Fallaw said. "They see more teams. I'm not so sure kids have a lot of loyalties to in-state schools. Their loyalties are where they can go and have the best fit."
Jerell Adams, TE, 6-5, 220 pounds, Scott's Branch HS
Mike Davis, RB, 5-10, 200, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Jordan Diggs, S, 6-0, 191, Cape Coral, Fla.
Chaz Elder, S, 6-2, 180, College Park, Ga.
Darius English, DE, 6-6, 210, Powder Springs, Ga.
Kyle Fleetwood, S, 5-11, 200, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Jody Fuller, WR, 6-0, 200, Monroe, N.C.
T.J. Gurley, CB, 5-10, 180, Cairo, Ga.
Joe Harris, OG, 6-4, 320, Lithonia, Ga.
T.J. Holloman, OLB, 6-2, 215, Atlanta
Carlos Hood, DT, 6-4, 275, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Kaiwan Lewis, OLB, 6-2, 227, Hammonton, N.J.
Rico McWilliams, CB, 6-0, 170, Hampton, Ga.
Chris Moody, ATH, 6-0, 197, McDonough, Ga.
Brendan Nosovitch, QB, 6-2, 200, Allentown, Pa.
*Kelvin Rainey, TE, 6-3, 218,Yulee, Fla.
Shaq Roland, WR, 6-1, 170, Lexington HS
Kendric Salley, RB, 5-10, 210, Williston-Elko HS
Kwinton Smith, WR, 6-4, 206, Dillon HS
*Brock Stadnik, OT, 6-5, 285, Greensboro, N.C.
*Clayton Stadnik, C, 6-2, 255, Greensboro, N.C.
Nick St. Germain, K, 5-11, 170, Powder Springs, Ga.
Jhaustin Thomas, DE, 6-5, 230, Decatur, Ga.
Cody Waldrop, OG, 6-3, 285, Seffner, Fla.
Mason Zandi, OT, 6-7, 260, Chapin HS