Clemson, USC wrap up recruiting classes, begin looking to 2017

A year ago, Fort Dorchester’s John Simpson showed off his letter of intent, signed in orange by coach Dabo Swinney, after choosing Clemson over LSU and Florida on National Signing Day of 2016. (File/Staff)

One of the busiest National Signing Days ever for Clemson and USC resulted in seven additional signees between the two programs. Each had some big hits and also one very big miss.

The Tigers landed the last of the state’s major prospects in offensive lineman John Simpson of Fort Dorchester. He picked Clemson over Florida and LSU. “I believe I made the right choice,” Simpson said.

The Tigers also bolstered their secondary with highly regarded cornerbacks Trayvon Mullen of Pompano Beach, Fla., and K’Von Wallace of Highland Springs, Va. Mullen also considered Florida State, TCU, LSU and Louisville.

“I love the program,” Mullen said. “When I first stepped on their campus I just felt love.”

Wallace picked Clemson over Ohio State, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Michigan State.

“It was definitely because of the head coach, his energy and commitment to the players and his heart for the game and his passion to win,” Wallace said. “I love the small community they have. It’s hard to get into trouble and I also can get a great education.”

The Tigers had high hopes of adding defensive lineman Rashan Gary of Paramus, N.J., to their class but the prospect considered by some as the best in the 2016 class chose to go instead to Michigan.

Clemson finished the day with 23 signees and a high national ranking of No. 5.

USC added a pair of quality receivers from the Atlanta area in Korey Banks, a former North Carolina commitment, and Randrecous Davis, who once was committed to Georgia.

Banks also had Alabama on his list. The Gamecocks started to recruit him after the new staff came on board and he liked what they showed him right away. “The coaches showed major love and came in recruiting me hard,” he said. “It all came down to relationships. I can see myself going there and focusing on academics and getting a chance to play early. I’m going in there to work and see what I can do.”

Davis also strongly considered Miami, right up to the last day, before deciding on the Gamecocks. “I literally changed my mind every single day,”

At USC, Davis will be reunited with his former Georgia recruiter Bryan McClendon who is now the Gamecocks’ receivers coach. He said knowing McClendon was part of the reason he chose USC.

The Gamecocks also addressed their defensive line needs as well with Stephon Taylor of New Orleans and Aaron Thompson of Fort Lauderdale. Taylor turned down Texas, Florida State and LSU in favor of Will Muschamp’s new program.

Thompson had been committed to Maryland but after visiting USC last weekend he decommitted and his fondness for the Gamecocks continue to grow. Thompson had 15 sacks last season.

USC missed out on defensive lineman Karamo Dioubate of Philadelphia when he opted to stay home and play for Temple.

The Gamecocks finished the day with 24 signees and an average national ranking in the mid-20s.

The Gamecocks could add another player or two a few months down the road. They plan to watch the academic progress of wide receiver Jeriko Morris of Crystal Springs, Miss., and running back Tyren Jones of Hutchinson (Kan.) JC. Morris signed with Jones JC with the understanding, according to his coach, that USC will hold a spot for him for 2016 if he qualifies by the summer or two years down the road if he successfully completes junior college work.

Jones committed to USC last month after his official visit knowing he wasn’t going to be in a position academically to sign Wednesday. But he failed to follow the plan designed by USC to get him in a position to qualify for enrollment and the Gamecocks basically washed their hands of him. The door to USC hasn’t been completely shut on Jones who could get another look later in the year if he can get academically qualified, which at this point appears to be a long shot.

Stephen Davis Jr., recruited as an athlete out of Dutch Fork, remains unsigned. His coach Tom Knotts said Davis most likely will sign with Auburn once he is qualified. USC also is in the wait and see mode for him but wouldn’t move on him unless he qualifies. Knotts said Davis is working hard in the classroom this semester and there’s been no talk of him going the junior college route.

LB Ryan Burns of Powder Springs, Ga., will be a preferred walk-on at USC and Lexington wire receiver Jayson Hopper plans to the same for Clemson.

Former USC signee DE Kalan Ritchie of Goose Creek signed with Louisiana Tech and former USC commitments WR Kelvin Harmon of Palmyra, NJ, OL Lloyd Cushenberry of Geismar, LA and DE Cecil Stallings of Atlanta signed with NC State, LSU and Louisville respectively.

One of the top prospects in the Carolinas is offensive lineman Eric Douglas (6-5, 280) of Charlotte. He is well down the road in making a decision with a top four and a plan to make his decision this spring. He currently has a top four of Clemson, USC, Florida and N.C. State. Cal is a fifth under consideration. “I’m going to the spring game of my choice,” Douglas said. “I’m not going to tell anyone which spring game I’m going to, only the coaches. I’ll tweet it (his commitment) from that spring game.”

Douglas attended Clemson’s junior last weekend. He also visited Clemson for a game last season and for a spring practice last year. He camped at USC last season and has remained a target of offensive line coach Shawn Elliott.

DB LeAnthony Williams of Roswell, Ga., plans to announce a commitment this week with a video on Twitter. Clemson appears to be favorite. He was at Clemson’s recent junior day. Some of his other offers are USC, Notre Dame, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Penn State and Virginia Tech.

WR Amari Rodgers of Knoxville, Tenn., has set a Valentine’s Day announcement and has a final five of Clemson, Alabama, Wake Forest, Florida State and Tennessee. He was at Clemson’s junior day last month. Rodgers is a former Southern Cal commitment and his father is Trojan assistant coach and former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin.

Rodgers’ close friend, WR Tee Higgins of Oak Ridge, Tenn., decommitted from Tennessee Thursday. He was at Clemson’s junior day as well. He also has a USC offer. Higgins also is a basketball prospect.

WR Ryan Jones of Charlotte committed to North Carolina Friday. Clemson is one of his offers.

QB Jake Bentley of Opelika, Ala., has not made a decision about where he will plays his senior season. His father is new USC assistant coach Bobby Bentley. He will finish the school year in Alabama. Should he move to Columbia for his senior season, there’s a good chance he’ll play at Dutch Fork. Bentley was offered by N.C. State last week.

Dutch Fork WR Austin Connor has an offer from Virginia Tech. USC is also showing some interest. He has visited Miami for track. He is expected to challenge Clemson signee Tavien Feaster in the 100 meters at the state championships this spring.

Offers by USC last week included OL Chuck Filiaga of Murrieta, Calif., LB Ayinde Eley of Olney, Md., LB Chandler Wooten of Kennesaw, Ga., OL Ben Petrula of Jersey City, N.J., DB Tre Brown of Tulsa, Okla., Cordavien Suggs of Neptune Beach, Fla., OL Brett Neilon of Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. and RB Javon Leake of Greensboro, N.C.

WR Shi Smith of Union County was offered by Alabama. He also has offers from Clemson, USC and Tennessee.

DB Davondre Robinson of Lake Marion picked up an offer from Virginia Tech.

DL Eric Crosby of Virginia Beach has a top five of Clemson, N.C. State, Alabama, Tennessee, and Virginia Tech.

WR Keyshawn Johnson Kr. Of Mission Viejo, Calif., plans a commitment next month and is down to Clemson, Nebraska, Ohio State, Southern Cal and Alabama.