Lowcountry's top players leaving state as South Carolina, Clemson become more selective in recruiting

Stratford quarterback Jacob Park chose Georgia over Alabama. Grace Beahm/Staff Buy this photo



South Carolina's and Clemson's winning ways on the football field could prove to be recruiting losses for local players who want to play major college football and remain in the Palmetto State.

The Lowcountry has six major college football recruits. Four of them will head out-of-state:

Name, HS, Position College

*Nolan Kelleher, Wando, OL Florida

Caleb Kinlaw, Goose Creek, RB Wisconsin

*Jacob Park, Stratford, QB Georgia

Michael Preddy, Porter-Gaud, DE Georgia Tech

Kalan Ritchie, Goose Creek, DE South Carolina

Darin Smalls, Summerville, DB South Carolina

* - Already enrolled



Heading out-of-state

The Gamecocks, who went 11-2 for the third straight year and finished the season ranked fourth in the country, and the Tigers, also 11-2 after winning the Orange Bowl, were very selective in recruiting area players.

Six local players were major college recruits and only two - Summerville defensive back Darin Smalls and Goose Creek tight end Kalan Ritchie - will stay in state. Both players will sign with the Gamecocks on Wednesday.

South Carolina and Clemson passed on Stratford quarterback Jacob Park, who was the state's Mr. Football and the Gatorade state player of the year. He was one of the top recruits in the Southeast and enrolled at the University of Georgia in January. He chose the Bulldogs over Alabama.

Goose Creek running back Caleb Kinlaw also was not pursued by the Gamecocks or Tigers. Kinlaw, who has 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, will sign with Wisconsin after originally committing to Georgia Tech.

Porter-Gaud defensive end Michael Preddy wasn't on Clemson's or South Carolina's wish list. He will sign with Georgia Tech.

Nolan Kelleher, an offensive lineman from Wando, was offered by USC and Clemson, but opted for the University of Florida. He enrolled at Florida in January.

"It's a great opportunity," said Ritchie, who is projected to play defensive end at South Carolina. "I'm excited. It seems like it's getting harder and harder to get a scholarship offer from USC."

USC had 17 commitments on the eve of National Signing Day, and eight were from the Palmetto State. The Gamecocks are in the running for four other players, one of them from South Carolina.

Clemson had commitments from 19 players, with seven from the state. The Tigers have recruited Georgia hard and it has paid dividends. At least five football players from the Peach State are expected to sign with Clemson.

Two years ago, South Carolina had only five players from South Carolina in its recruiting class. Head coach Steve Spurrier said the Gamecocks had tapped into the Peach State pipeline, noting that metro Atlanta had a larger population than the state of South Carolina.

"There's a bunch of ballplayers in Georgia, and in the Atlanta area," Spurrier told reporters. "Obviously, they can't all go to Georgia. We're just a two-and-a-half or three-hour drive. Perfect distance to go to college, I think. It's a pretty good little pipeline."

Stratford coach Ray Stackley, who has sent scores of players to college, acknowledged the sizable difference in the number of high schools and players in the state.

"I coached in the Shrine Bowl and the South Carolina team had 196 schools to draw from. North Carolina had something like 370 schools. And then you have places like Florida. Somebody told me there were more 4-A schools in Miami than the entire state of South Carolina."

Stackley raved about South Carolina's reputation as one of the nation's best states for football recruits despite its size. This year, Stackley's quarterback, Bo Park, is considered one of the top prospects in the nation.

Park chose Georgia, marking the second straight year South Carolina's Mr. Football opted for Athens. Tramel Terry of Goose Creek won the award in 2012 and signed with Georgia.

"That's South Carolina's preference," Park said when he received the Mr. Football award. "They got the guy they wanted, and I got my place. I get to play in the SEC. I've got a good place I can call home and the coaches and players are outstanding. I can't ask for anything more than that."

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