South Carolina’s first-ever recruiting pool party over the weekend made a splash with some of the Gamecocks’ major targets, with four players committing and a fifth expected to do so this week.
Defensive back Chris Smith of South Pointe was the first of the four to go public Friday afternoon. On Saturday, offensive lineman Akeem Cooperwood of Georgia Military got things rolling after visiting campus. He was followed in the pledge line by linebacker PJ Blue of Montgomery, Ala., and defensive back Marlon Character of Atlanta.
The Gamecocks offered Smith early in the process and remain his only offer from a Power 5 Conference program. Smith is a multi-position athlete who USC plans to play at cornerback but who could also be use in some offensive ways. Last season he had 71 tackles and 5 interceptions along with 600 all-purpose yards.
Cooperwood is a native of Knoxville, Tenn. USC was his first major offer. He also has offers from East Carolina, Ohio and UT Chattanooga and he drew recruiting interest from Alabama, Florida State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Louisville and Georgia.
“I had a great time in Columbia,” he said Saturday afternoon. “I loved the city, the coaches, the players. It felt like it was home to me already.”
Georgia Military coach Bert Williams has sent a number of players to the USC program and feels Cooperwood will be another one who will make an impact. “He’s a good worker,” Williams said. “He’s a long kid with good size. He’s fluid and can move his feet.”
Blue chose the Gamecocks over Alabama and Ole Miss. He also held offers from Clemson, Auburn, Louisville, Nebraska, Missouri and others. He had been favoring the Gamecocks since earlier this month as they separated themselves from Ole Miss.
Character becomes the Gamecocks’ fourth commitment of their recruiting weekend and 12th new pledge for the 2016 class. He was favoring Auburn earlier in the week after a visit there but after spending hours Saturday with recruiter Lorenzo Ward and new defensive coordinator Jon Hoke, Character left Columbia with the Gamecocks out front. He discussed things with his father on the ride back to Atlanta and then reached his decision.
“It just felt right when I went there,” Character said. “It just seemed like Coach Ward really wanted me and will do a lot of big things with me as a freshman. I have a lot of trust in him and I just want to go down there and make some big plays when I get there.”
Defensive end Jordan Smith of Lithonia, Ga., left USC Saturday morning and the Gamecocks appear likely to get a commitment from him, possibly when he announces Wednesday at 2 p.m. He also has Clemson, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee on his short list. “There’s just something that I like about South Carolina,” Smith said last week. “I like the new facilities and stuff that they have. I like Coach Ward and I like Coach Deke (Adams), and I love Coach Spurrier.”
More notes from USC’s pool party Friday:
OL John Simpson of Fort Dorchester said he had a “pretty good time” hanging out with offensive line coach Shawn Elliott and freshman offensive lineman Zack Bailey. Simpson has visited all of his favorites except for LSU and he still wants to visit there. He said it’s all even with his seven — USC, Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida.
DL Nyles Pinckney of Whale Branch remains all even with USC and Clemson along with Georgia and Georgia Tech after his visit to USC. He has set Aug. 20 for a decision date which is the day before the high school season begins. Pinckney said he enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of the event.
“Just having a casual visit and them getting to know me as a player and also seeing some of their commits and seeing they’re moving in a good direction.” Pinckney said he has no other visits planned before making his decision.
OL Marcus Tatum of Daytona Beach, Fla., said the visit went “very good. I really enjoyed sitting down with the offensive line and sitting down with them.” He also talked with line coach Shawn Elliott and got a tour of the campus. Tatum said he “really likes South Carolina” and he has the Gamecocks in his group of eight along with Tennessee, Auburn, Florida, Miami, Arkansas, Alabama and NC State. He is going to Tennessee Saturday. He plans to take official visits before making a decision.
LB Vosean Joseph of Miami came into the visit committed to Florida and remains so but he said USC is a strong No. 2 with him right now. He spent much of his time with coaches Lorenzo Ward and Kirk Botkin.
DB JJ Givens of Mechanicsville, Va., committed to USC at the Showcase camp in late June. Since then he’s picked up more offers including one from Clemson. Penn State and Ole Miss also are recent offers. But Givens was back at USC this weekend and says his commitment to the Gamecocks is as strong as when he made it calling it 100 percent.
Other notes from the weekend:
Clemson picked up a commitment from defensive end Xavier Kelly of Wichita. Kelly picked the Tigers over Georgia. He also had Kansas State, Alabama, Florida State and Michigan on his short list.
USC played host to one of the nation’s top offensive tackles in the 2017 class Saturday in Isaiah Wilson of Brooklyn. He and teammates OL Justin Morgan and LB Elias Reynolds, both Rutgers commitments, were observers at the Gamecocks’ camp. Wilson visited Clemson Thursday but only because he has an uncle in Anderson. He said the Tigers are not part of his top 10 which consists of USC, Auburn, Alabama, Nebraska, Rutgers, Ohio State, Michigan, Miami, Florida State and Maryland.
Clemson RB commitment Tavien Feaster of Spartanburg visited Tennessee Friday and Saturday and told VolQuest.com afterwards: “I most definitely have to re-evaluate everything. I’ve thought about Tennessee because when they came in the first time they recruited me they were recruiting me hard, but Clemson was selling the whole instate thing. But, now I realize they are about the same length from my house, it was like it wasn’t that far. And if I go to Tennessee I can get away from home and be myself.” Feaster later told David Hood of Tigernet.com in a text message that he is still good with his Clemson commitment.
Also, Clemson quarterback commitment Zerrick Cooper of Jonesboro, Ga., visited Florida for Friday Night Lights but said he’s still locked in with Clemson on his commitment.
USC targets OL Brett Heggie of Mount Dora, Fla., and LB Jeremiah Moon of Hoover, Ala., committed to Florida.
DB Robbie Robinson of Hampton, VA, a Clemson target, committed to Arizona State.
DE Michael Boykin of Carrollton, Ga., committed to Louisville. He had also considered Clemson.
RB Elijah Holyfield of Atlanta announced a final five of USC, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Auburn with no leader. He will make his announcement in September.
USC offered 2017 DB Xavier McKinney of Roswell, Ga. He also has a Clemson offer.
2017 WR Keyshawn Johnson Jr. of Mission Viejo, Calif., announced his top eight in no order as Clemson, Alabama, Nebraska, Arizona, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Southern Cal and UCLA.
2017 DE Yetur Matos of Fredericksburg, Va., visited Clemson last week. Matos’ current offer list includes Clemson, Penn State, Duke, Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Marshall, Old Dominion and Charlotte,
2017 DB Carlito Gonzalez of Stone Mountain, Ga., a USC target, was offered Friday by Auburn.
USC offered 2018 LB Xavier Thomas of Wilson and 2018 DB Derion Kendrick of South Pointe.
Clemson added LHP Andrew Towns of Wright State JC in Tennessee to the 2015 class, according to Tigernet.com. He also had offers from Kennesaw State, Liberty and Western Kentucky. He was 7-3 with a 3.84 ERA and 88 strikeouts last season.
The Tigers on Sunday landed a commitment from INF Brock Howard of St. Cloud, Fla.
USC filled out its 2015 baseball class with a commitment from catcher John Jones, a native of Orlando who signed with Miami out of high school but opted to attend State College of Florida last season. He will have three years of eligibility with the Gamecocks. Last season Jones batted .340 with 2 home runs and 37 RBIs. His addition gives the Gamecocks 18 in the class, seven from junior colleges.
USC also landed a commitment from highly regarded 2017 lefthander Kyle Jacobsen of Acworth, Ga. He picked the Gamecocks over Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. According to stats compiled by MaxPreps.com, in two seasons Jacobsen has a .410 batting average with 2 home runs and 34 RBIs. And on the mound last season he was 4-0 with 1 save and a 0.85 ERA.