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Clemson lands July 4 commitment; fireworks aplenty in Gamecocks recruiting

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Three of Clemson’s top publicly uncommitted targets are scheduled to reveal their choices this week.

On the Fourth of July, Dabo Swinney and company lit the fuse to what they hope will be a star-spangled week with a commitment from huge OT Zechariah Owens (6-7, 355) of McDonough, Ga.

Owens made Clemson his lone official visit in June. Penn State made a push to get him to visit last month but that did not materialize.

He made unofficial visits during the process to USC, Penn State, Alabama, Florida State and Georgia.

Owens also drew offers from Alabama, Penn State, Michigan, Kansas, North Carolina, Colorado, Duke, Arkansas, LSU, Oregon, Pitt and others.

Owens is the third offensive lineman to commit to the Tigers, joining Ian Reed and Harris Sewell. It’s possible the Tigers could add a fourth offensive lineman to the group. They remain involved with Markee Anderson, Monroe Freeling of Oceanside Collegiate, Stanton Ramil, Connor Lew and Kamen Smith.

Owens gives Clemson 16 commitments for the 2023 class, and the Tigers are hoping to add a pair of Alabama defensive standouts to the list.

On Tuesday, DE Keldric Faulk will announce for Clemson, Alabama, Florida State or Florida. And Friday night, DT Peter Woods will reveal his decision with Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma the other finalists.

All the way to Reno

Saturday saw the Gamecocks land their 2024 quarterback.

QB Dante Reno (6-1, 215) of Fiskdale, Mass., and the Loomis Chaffee School in Connecticut, announced a commitment to the Gamecocks from his home and via CBS Sports HQ.

Reno is the Gamecocks’ first commitment for the 2024 class, and he chose them over NC State, Purdue, Kentucky, Virginia and Wake Forest. USC head coach Shane Beamer, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield and area recruiter Pete Lembo combined to recruit Reno, whose father is the head coach at Yale.

Reno made three visits to the school during the recruiting process, and those visits left him with no doubt that USC was the right place for him.

“Me and my family, we felt at home,” Reno said. “That’s probably one of the biggest reasons I chose South Carolina. The family atmosphere that we had, and the way that Coach Beamer, Coach Satterfield and Coach Lembo treated my whole family like family too. They’ve recruited me like that since the beginning.

"Throughout the whole time they’ve stuck by me. I’ve had calls to Coach Satterfield twice a week, Coach Beamer one-time a week and Coach Lembo one-time a week. They are recruiting me the hardest, but I feel like I can get developed the best there. It’s been a long time since they’ve been at the top, but when that place is rocking and that stadium is on, it’s going to be a pretty special place in the SEC.”

Reno is regarded nationally as one of the top quarterbacks in his class. Last season he passed for 27 touchdowns completed 66% of his passes. He loves the fact Satterfield has an NFL background and runs a pro-style offense. That’s exactly what he was looking for.

“My goal is to play for a long time in the NFL, and his offense can prepare me for that,” Reno said. “He’s going to prepare me with not just on the field stuff, but in the film room too. The way they treat their meetings, it’s like an NFL meeting room. He coaches everyone in the meeting. He’s not just on the starter or the backup, he’s on everyone the whole meeting. And he’s just a really good guy and really good person. He’s a great fit me for me and my family and he did a great job with me and my brothers and sisters. He’s a great guy.”

Reno understands what his position is now related to the USC program. Of course, his primary focus the next two seasons will be to be as successful as he can with his high school team. But he’s also thinking about the future and how he hopes he can help Beamer continue to build a successful program.

“Win the team over by being a good teammate first, putting all of them before myself,” Reno said. “Playing my game, distributing the ball to the playmakers, not turn the ball over and biggest thing is going out and win. That’s the SEC, you’ve got to win. I think we can do that at Carolina.

"You need a quarterback, you need a line, and you need defense, and you’re going to win some games. That’s what we’re going to do with these next two recruiting classes. There’s probably three kids, Kam Pringle, Mazeo Bennett and Josiah Thompson, those are like my three targets right now and they are all South Carolina kids. Those are my guys right now for the ’24 class. In the ’23 class, there are a bunch of studs who are going to commit but they have not announced that they are going to commit too. It’s going to be a fun time.”

Whither GG Jackson?

National basketball recruiting analyst Jamie Shaw of On3, citing multiple sources “close to the situation,” reported Sunday that 2023 6-9 standout GG Jackson of Ridge View, who committed to North Carolina in April, will graduate early and end up at USC, Oregon or in the G-League.

Shaw suggested in his story that Jackson could spend a year at USC before going into the 2023 NBA Draft. Shaw reported North Carolina is out of scholarships for the 2022 class, thus forcing Jackson to go in another direction. Jackson last week was named the MVP of the Top 100 Camp.

Also, 5-6 Milaysia Fulwiley of Keenan took an unofficial visit to the USC women's team last Thursday.

On the line for Tigers

After pulling in lineman Harris Sewell (6-4, 290) out of Texas last week, Clemson appears to be in excellent shape to add a third huge offensive lineman to the class.

Zechariah Owens (6-7, 355) of McDonough, Ga., is due to announce early in the week. Clemson was his only official visit of June and is widely expected to be the choice.

Clemson has two other targets scheduled for announcements this week.

DE Keldric Faulk of Highland Home, Ala., will reveal his decision Tuesday from among Clemson, Auburn, Florida and Florida State. And DT Peter Woods of Alabaster, Ala., is set to announce Friday with Clemson, Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma the finalists.

A former Tiger target, DT Darron Reed of Columbus, GA, also will announce on July 4. He’s down to Ohio State and LSU.

Coming attractions

The next scheduled announcement for a USC target is QB Dylan Lonergan on July 12. Another Gamecock target, OT Oluwatosin Babalade, has set July 31 for his announcement.

WR Tyler Williams (6-3, 180) of Lakeland, Fla., set September 27 for his commitment announcement.

Williams has USC, Clemson, Ole Miss, Georgia and Texas A&M as his five, cutting Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame, Florida, Syracuse, Southern Cal and USF from his previous short list. The Gamecocks actually are an addition to his list as they were not on his previous short list.

One in-state prospect is set to announce early this week. Safety Thomas Williams of Powdersville made one official visit in June, and that was to Virginia Tech. He has reported offers from Penn State, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Old Dominion and UAB.

Swing and a miss

USC missed on Dorman OT DJ Geth, who committed to North Carolina over the Gamecocks; DE Jaybron Harvey (6-3, 217) of Durham, who decided to stay in-state and committed to North Carolina; and safety Braylon Johnson of Highland Springs, Va., who also is staying in the home state with a commitment to Virginia Tech.

Also heading elsewhere: WR London Humphreys of Nashville, who is staying in his hometown after committing to Vanderbilt; and DE Tyree Weathersby of Douglasville, Ga., who committed to Tennessee, though he still plans to take visits and the Gamecocks might get one in September.

Noteworthy

• USC RB target Treyaun Webb had planned to announce his commitment decision last Wednesday. But he scratched that and has not announced a new date. Webb took official visits in June to Florida, Penn State and USC.

• One-time USC target LB Semaj Bridgeman of New Jersey committed to Michigan.

• LB Justin Jefferson of Pearl River JC, who had an offer from USC among others, committed to Alabama.

• CB Sharif Denson, who had USC on his short list, committed to Florida.

• Clemson missed on RB Jeremiah Cobb of Montgomery, Ala., as he announced for Auburn over the Tigers and Tennessee.

• One-time USC and Clemson target WR Christian Hamilton of Harrisburg, N.C. committed to North Carolina.

• Former Clemson commitment WR Nathaniel Joseph committed to Miami. He took official visits to Louisville and Miami after decomitting from the Tigers.

Short lists 

USC is in the top five with DE Monteque Rhames of Sumter. The others are Georgia, Michigan, Alabama and NC State.

From his previous short list, Rhames cut Coastal Carolina, Michigan and UCF. Rhames tweeted recently that his commitment announcement was coming soon, but no date has been announced. Rhames has not taken any official visits, but he’s made multiple unofficial visits to USC this year. He’s also visited NC State and Alabama among the other schools on his list.

• LB Jaden Robinson of Lake City, Fla., named a final four of USC, Kentucky, Maryland and Michigan. This month he took official visits to USC, Kentucky and Maryland. He also visited USC unofficially in January and for the spring game in April. And he was offered by Florida on Sunday.

• One-time Clemson and USC target DE Rico Walker of Hickory, N.C., named a final five of North Carolina, Auburn, Florida, Maryland and Tennessee.

• OT Tyree Adams, who was offered by USC, is down to Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia and Florida.

• 2024 DE Kavion Henderson of Leeds, Ala., who was offered by USC in May, did not include them in his top 10 of Miami, Oklahoma, LSU, Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia, Auburn, Texas A&M, Michigan and Cincinnati.

• 2024 DT Omar White of Leesburg, Ga., has Clemson in his top 10 along with Oregon, Florida State, Michigan state, Oklahoma, Cincinnati, Alabama, Texas A&M, Georgia and Jackson State.

• 2024 DT Champ Thompson of Norcross, Ga., who has USC and Clemson offers, will name a top 10 soon.

• Clemson 2024 QB target DJ Lagway was offered by Florida.

• Former Clemson RB Demarkcus Bowman, who left the Tigers for Florida, is now headed to UCF. And another former Clemson RB, Lyn-J Dixon, who transferred to West Virginia in the offseason, is back in the NCAA transfer portal.

Dylan news 

QB Dylan Lonergan of Snellville, Ga., pushed his commitment announcement back a week to July 12.

That’s not because he needs more time, but because many of his teammates and coaches won’t be around on July 5, and he wants them there for his big day. Lonergan took the last of his three official visits June 24 to Stanford, and he feels a final decision isn’t far off.

“I’d say probably within the week I’ll know,” Lonergan said. “All the visits I’ve taken, I have a great feel for them. It’s just going to come down to where I feel home is, and where I’m going to get the best chance to develop on and off the field in both sports.”

And is there one school standing out more than the other two?

“Yeah, I think so,” Lonergan said. “Once I make the decision, probably make the two calls to the other two first, and then let the one know that I chose.”

USC and Alabama are the other two programs under consideration along with Stanford. He visited both of those earlier in June and then made the trip to Palo Alto last weekend after two weeks of travel baseball.

“I had a really good time, my third time out there,” Lonergan said. “Really just getting a feel for the campus more and getting a feel for the players and the recruits more. I’d say the baseball program is really good, been to Omaha twice in a row. The football program, they do a great job developing quarterbacks. And then obviously the academics out there is not comparable to many places.”

Lonergan also is a major baseball talent, at the level where he could be a first or second round draft pick in the summer of 2023. So, the chance exists that whoever signs Lonergan might never get him on campus.

“I’d say it’s possible, for sure,” Lonergan said. “It would take a lot and definitely getting picked very high, because I definitely want to play college football. I’d say it’s a possibility but unlikely. We’ll just see when the time comes.”

Lonergan said he will continue to take calls from the three coaching staffs this week until he makes his decision, then he will be the one making calls that will make one staff very happy.

Markee biz

Dorman OT Markee Anderson has probably visited USC more than any other schools recruiting him.

Unofficially, his official visit last weekend counted for at least his seventh visit dating back to when he was offered by the Gamecocks in September of 2020. The Gamecocks were the first to offer Anderson and hope to be the last team standing when he announces his commitment decision later this summer.

Anderson knows so much about the USC program, coaches and players, he was able to use his official weekend as a chance to just relax with the crowd and soak it all in. That’s what stood out to him the most.

“Getting back down there to hang out with some of the coaches and players,” Anderson said. "Everybody down there is very genuine, very loving and made it kind of feel like home.”

Anderson did meet up with head coach Shane Beamer and offensive line coach Greg Adkins. They see him as a guy who could provide some immediate help on the offensive line as a true freshman in 2023.

“They see me as a tackle when I’m down there, or possibly inside as an interior person as far as football wise,” Anderson said. “They said they like me and my family and they hope to get me down there.”

USC, Clemson, North Carolina and LSU were the four schools Anderson visited in June, and those are the four he will take to the decision line in August.

“This month of July, I plan on chilling and relaxing and thinking of things,” Anderson said. “In August I’ll commit. No specific date, but just sometime in August before the season. I’ll still have my top four. I’m still in contact with all the schools.”

Tree time

OT Oluwatosin “Tree” Babalade (6-5, 296) of Hyattsville, Md., wrapped up his official visits in late June with stops at Rutgers and Maryland. Earlier he made visits to USC, North Carolina and Ohio State.

Originally, his plan was to make his commitment announcement on Aug 10. Now, his plan to is to do his due diligence on the five finalists and decide and announce on July 31.

“They are equal right now,” Babalade said. I’m going to talk to my people about and brainstorm about it. I’ll just choose who is the best fit for me. That’s pretty much it.”

Babalade added that two key factors will determine which program he will choose.

“The family part, and also a place I can play,” Babalade said.

Babalade was offered by USC in March. He made his first visit to the campus in April for the spring game and returned for his official visit June 10.

All the while, head coach Shane Beamer and offensive line coach Greg Adkins have been in regular contact, and they haven’t let up.

“I talked to Sam Serbay, Greg Adkins, the whole O-line staff and the head coach too,” Babalade said. “The head coach hit me up. Basically, they were all hitting me up today.”

The Gamecocks actually led for Babalade following his official visit, but the trip to Ohio State led him to back up from that position, leaving the Gamecocks in a battle to land one of their top offensive line prospects next month.

Safety dance 

Clemson wants two safeties in the 2023 class, and has one in the fold in Kylen Webb of Sarasota, Fla. Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney and safeties coach Mickey Conn would like to fill the other spot as soon as possible.

Rob Billings (6-1, 185) of Alpharetta, Ga., is one the Tigers have been recruiting for the position. Billings is well aware of the situation with the Clemson safeties and understands if he doesn’t move soon there might not be a spot for him.

“There’s a time crunch, but you know I’ve got to play it smart,” Billing said. “If I want to go to Clemson I’ve got to commit sooner or later. But I’m going to take it slow right now. I might take a couple of visits (in July) and after that I might decide where I want to go.”

Billings made his official visit to Clemson the first weekend in June and says he continues to get a strong sales pitch from Conn.

“They are telling me they want me really bad,” Billings said. “They are showing their interest in now much they want me, but at the same time they are not rushing me to commit. They are showing me how badly they want me. Me and Coach Conn have been in contact every day."

Billings said the fact Conn and Clemson have kept up the strong interest in him since offering him earlier this year has meant a lot to him as he weighs his options.

“Just how they are recruiting me,” he said. “Since they offered me, the communication hasn’t fell off. They’ve shown the interest ever since the day they offered me. I’ve been on campus three times and every time I’ve been there it’s felt like home, like family.”

Clemson was the only official visit for Billings in June. If he can, he said he’d like to visit Florida State and Kentucky in July. He’s also been communicating with Duke, Ole Miss, Cincinnati and Missouri and could visit some of those schools if he stretches the recruiting into the season.

On the trail

• DT Elijah Williams (6-4, 290) of Alabaster, Ala., was offered by USC in May and said he spoke with defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsey earlier in the month. Williams has not yet visited USC and he said Lindsey wants to get him on campus so he can meet with him in person.

Williams was offered after being scouted in spring practice by area recruiter Jody Wright. Williams did not take any visits in June but said he’s looking at potential visits to Maryland and Missouri in late July. He said Maryland is showing the most interest in him at this point.

• USC already has one junior college offensive tackle commitment from Isaiah Jatta, and they remain in contact with another they have offered, Elijah Philippe (6-7, 300) of Lackawanna JC.

The Gamecocks offered Philippe in May after recruiter Pete Lembo went by the school and offensive line coach Greg Adkins later reviewed his film.

“We talk often,” Philippe said. “They send me stuff about the program, stuff they are doing there. Pictures of the stadium, the facilities, amazing programs they have, stuff like that. They keep me in the loop. I talked with Coach Adkins on the phone.”

Philippe said he also has offers from Virginia Tech, Florida State and Old Dominion; Syracuse has also been in touch. Philippe said he has been talking with Adkins about an official visit and they are looking at the last weekend in July for that.

“I’m feeling great towards them,” Philippe said of the Gamecocks. “They were my first offer. It’s an SEC school. I like what the coaches put out. I’d say it’s too soon to call them my favorite, but they are up there.”

Philippe, who plays left tackle at Lackawanna, is on track to graduate in December and will have three years to play two at the next level.

• WR Daidren Zipperer of Lakeland, Fla., has cut his list to a final six of USC, Pitt, UCF, USF, BYU and Arkansas State. He made official visits last month to Pitt and UCF, and he took unofficial visits to USC and BYU. More visits will come in September and a decision will be made the end of that month.

Gamecocks secondary coach Torrian Gray and receivers coach Justin Stepp are both recruiting Zipperer, and he’s been in regular contact with them.

“My latest conversation was with coach Torrian Gray, and he we just talked about my top six list, and he was telling me I’m still wanted and stuff like that,” Zipperer said. “My last conversation with Coach Stepp, we talked about my official visit and me coming up there in September. He was telling me the same thing, that I’m wanted and would be a good fit.”

Zipperer was very impressed with USC and the staff from his visit in early June. That continues to resonate with him.

“They’ve got a good chance to get me,” Zipperer said. “I feel like I can thrive there. I feel like their coaching staff shows a lot of genuine love. They don’t feed into the lies. Some coaches do lie to the kids. I feel like they keep it a hundred with me.”

Zipperer added that none of his top six is standing out more than any of the others at this point. Last season, Zipperer caught 17 passes for 260 yards and four touchdowns. His brother is a tight end at Florida.

• OT Jatavius Shivers (6-7, 270) of Villa Rica, Ga., committed to Vanderbilt after coming off an official visit with the Commodores last month, but he decommitted on Saturday.

He was one of the prospects to visit USC unofficially June 25 for their cookout. It was his third visit to USC since the spring when he landed an offer from offensive line coach Greg Adkins.

“I liked it up there. It was genuine,” Shivers said. “I felt very welcomed, and I had a good time. I went there and had a good time and met with the coaches, in particular Coach Adkins.”

Shivers was joined on the visit by his parents, and they had a chance to visit for a few minutes with head coach Shane Beamer as well.

“It went good. It was pretty short and casual,” Shivers said of the conversation. “There wasn’t really a message, just socializing.”

Prior to his commitment, Shivers had the Gamecocks in his top five along with Vanderbilt, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss. This most recent visit keeps the Gamecocks in the hunt and in line for an official visit during the season.

“They are still up there, it moved them up a little bit,” Shivers said. He has not yet scheduled any more visits for July or when the season begins.

• CB/WR Vicari Swain of Carrollton, Ga., named a top fix of USC, Vanderbilt, Maryland, Mississippi State, Duke and Georgia Tech. He made his official visit to USC June 24 and has also seen Maryland and Vanderbilt. He plans to take an official visit to Mississippi State during the season.

“It was good. I enjoyed myself,” Swain said of his USC visit. “I really liked hanging out with the players. I talked to a lot of the coaches, mostly coach (Torrian) Gray. They like me as a corner and receiver. I also talked with Coach Stepp. From what the players told me, the coaches are good at developing them.”

Swain also sat down with Beamer and came away impressed by him.

“Coach Beamer is outgoing, a passionate guy,” he said. “They connected with everybody, me and the others.”

Last season Swain had 55 catches for 855 yards and eight touchdowns and 28 tackles with six interceptions.

• DT Elijah Davis (6-5, 300) of Wagener-Salley and East Mississippi JC was back in Columbia late last month to meet up with some of the other recruits at the Carolina Cookout and to reconnect with Beamer and defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsay. Davis also took an unofficial visit to USC in late May.

“The coaches really got into how a lot of things work around there,” Davis said. “They want me for the three technique. Mostly they want me to rush and bring pressure up the middle.”

The Gamecocks first offered Davis during his junior season when Will Muschamp was still in charge. Beamer and Lindsey quickly followed up on recruiting him once they came on board. Davis said he and Beamer got the chance to talk Saturday.

“He said he really wanted me,” Davis said. “He wants me to be a Gamecock and come back to my hometown.”

Davis said the visit keeps the Gamecocks in a good place with him as they battle primarily with other SEC programs for his services.

“They are one of my top schools right now with Alabama, Tennessee, Florida State and Ole Miss,” Davis said.

He also wants to give Auburn a look if he can arrange a visit there. Davis has not taken any official visits. Those will come during his season, and he said Beamer and Lindsey talked with him about returning for the Georgia game for his visit. He won’t make his commitment call until after the season.

Clemson LB target

One of the nation’s most sought-after linebackers for the 2024 recruiting cycle was in Clemson recently and spent plenty of time getting to know defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin.

Sammy Brown (6-2, 220) of Jefferson, Ga., was the first member of the 2024 to pick up a Clemson offer, and that came while he was on campus on March 12. He then returned on April 6 to take in the Tigers’ final spring practice prior to their “Orange and White” spring game.

Brown was also on hand for head coach Dabo Swinney’s camp in early June, but he didn’t participate in workouts.

“My brother was actually doing one of the little kids’ camps, so we just kind of made a visit out of it,” Brown said. “It’s just fun to get up there and meet people and build relationships because it’s not like it’s super difficult to get up there. It’s only about 45 minutes from the house, so I really just kind of went at lunch and helped my brother move in and all that, and then met with all the coaches, talked about PAW Journey, and then just watched some camp. So, it wasn’t really anything special, but it’s just good to get up there and talk to all the coaches again.”

The Georgia native is making sure he gets to know everything he can about Clemson and its defense.

“I really like Coach Goodwin. He’s a really genuine guy. He’s not one of those up-in-your-face kinds of people that’s always yelling and screaming,” Brown noted. “He’s super laid back and I think that’s something that I really like. And he’s just a regular guy. We always talk about hunting and fishing and all that stuff that I like to do. So, it’s not like he’s all about football and recruiting. It’s kind of what I like, too.”

The rising junior boasts offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Michigan, Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio St., Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, and Southern Cal, among others. And he plans to visit a few of them before the summer is through.

“We only have one other recruit visit set up,” Brown revealed in discussing his future plans. “We’re going up to Notre Dame, Michigan, and Michigan State because they’re all within driving distance, so that’s the only thing we have planned. And anything else is really just kind of played by ear. And then this fall, Clemson is one of those places that if we can pop up, we’re free, and they have a home game we can just go to. So, this fall we definitely want to try to get back to a Clemson game because they have a really good thing going.”

So where exactly does Clemson stand at this point?

“I really like what Clemson is doing. They’ve got one of the best cultures in college football by far,” Brown said. “When you have a coaching staff that stays for over five years as Clemson does, that definitely speaks volumes of your culture and your environment you’ve got going. So, I think that Clemson’s got a great culture and they’ve got a great thing going, and I really like what they’re doing.”

Quick takes

• WR Chris Lawson Jr. of Ridge View committed to Appalachian State ... Beaufort SAF/WR Colton Phares (6-2, 185) committed to Appalachian State ... Northwestern WR Elijah Caldwell committed to West Virginia ... SAF Travon West of Wren committed to Indiana.

• Goose Creek QB Drew Moore committed to Mercer ... Camden DE Shymeik Jones was offered by Liberty ... Dutch Fork RB Jarvis Green named a top eight of James Madison, Georgia Southern, Middle Tennessee State, Wofford, Memphis, Appalachian State, Charlotte and Georgia State.

Baseball news

Three former Michigan baseball commitments are headed to Clemson to play for Erik Bakich, the coach who recruited them to Michigan.

Shortstop Nolan Nawrocki (6-2, 190) of Rockville Centre, Md.; INF Jack Crighton (6-3, 180) of Rochester Hills, Mich.; and RHP Joe Allen (6-4, 215) of Hampton Falls, N.H. announced their change of plans on Twitter.

• USC landed Vanderbilt transfer 1B Gavin Casas (6-3, 225). He spent two seasons at Vanderbilt, playing in 31 games, 22 of them last season. He had a career batting average of .279 with 1 homer and 15 RBIs and committed one error in 91 chances. His brother was the 2018 first-round pick of Boston.

• Former Clemson commitment INF Brent Gibbs of Spring Valley has committed to the College of Charleston.