Never too early to look ahead in college recruiting Class of 2016 loaded with Lowcountry talent

Goose Creek defensive end Javon Kinlaw (7), a 6-7, 275-pound junior, has offers from South Carolina, Clemson, Florida, Alabama and Louisville. (Rob Gantt/Goose Creek Gazette)

In today’s world of college football recruiting, scholarship offers and verbal commitments are coming earlier and earlier in the lives of high school prospects.

It’s not uncommon for high school football players to receive college scholarship offers before they can get their driver’s license. With freshmen receiving offers, more athletes are making verbal commitments well before their senior season.

The top junior running back in South Carolina — Tavien Feaster of Spartanburg High School — is set to announce a verbal commitment on Wednesday night and it would not be unusual for many of the state’s top 10 underclassmen to commit before the start of the 2015 season.

Several of the Lowcountry’s top prospects already have received scholarship offers, including Fort Dorchester quarterback Dakerion Joyner, who just completed his freshman season and had an offer from South Carolina before he took a varsity snap this past season.

The area is likely to have more than a handful of rising seniors sign major college football scholarships next season. As the 2015 recruiting class wraps up Wednesday on National Signing Day, colleges are focusing on future prospects.

At the very least, the Lowcountry can lay claim to three of the state’s top 15 prospects for the class of 2016. Goose Creek defensive end Javon Kinlaw (6-7, 275) already has offers from South Carolina, Clemson, Florida, Alabama and Louisville. Early indications have Kinlaw, who had eight sacks last season, leaning to South Carolina.

Fort Dorchester offensive tackle John Simpson (6-4, 290) has piled up the scholarship offers in recent weeks. Patriots’ head coach Steve LaPrad says virtually every college coach that visits the school during this recruiting season is making an offer.

Among the top early offers are South Carolina, Clemson, North Carolina, Louisville, Georgia, Maryland, East Carolina and Wake Forest. Alabama visited the school recently and while no offer was made, LaPrad feels one is coming.

Fort Dorchester’s other tackle, Chris Morales (6-6, 315), also is getting a lot of early looks, according to LaPrad. And, running back Datron James (5-10, 200), who rushed for more than 1,600 yards last season, is getting a lot of attention and will likely land offers during the spring.

Hanahan has several prospects in the 2016 class, led by receiver Samuel Denmark (6-0, 170). Denmark picked up recent offers from Virginia Tech and Wake Forest, according to Hanahan head coach Charlie Patterson. Denmark also is a Division I track athlete.

“Lot of schools that come by really like him and I think more offers will come as we move through the spring and summer,” Patterson said. “He’s a great athlete and he has great hands. He makes plays.”

Hanahan linebacker Tre Smalls (6-1, 210) participated in the Army All-American junior combine in January, drawing rave reviews for his athleticism. Smalls, who had 129 tackles last season, has yet to land any official offers but Patterson says he is gaining traction with several major and mid-major programs this winter.

Defensive tackle Dominique Green (5-11, 260) may not be getting much attention from the major programs because of his height, but many mid-major schools are showing strong interest. Timberland offensive tackle Kevin McCray (6-7, 320) is garnering heavy interest this winter. Head coach Art Craig says the most interest is coming from Clemson, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Missouri and North Carolina State.

Colleton County defensive end Norman Hand (6-3, 245) has an early offer from North Carolina with more than casual interest from Penn State, South Carolina and Clemson. His father, Norman Hand Sr., played at Ole Miss, and Hand is hoping for an offer from the Rebels this spring.

The area’s top quarterback, Ashley Ridge’s Steven Duncan (6-5, 220), is on the early evaluation list of Duke, Rutgers and N.C. State.

“We expect a lot of traffic in the spring,” said Ashley Ridge head coach Kenny Walker. “He’s got a lot of tools that schools like.”

Ashley Ridge linebacker Brandon Brown (6-1, 215) also will be a Division I recruit, according to Walker.

In addition to Kinlaw, Goose Creek has two more prospects in defensive back Quintavis Davis (6-1, 180) and receiver Dijon Profit (6-1, 190).

West Ashley quarterback Justin Berry (6-0, 180) is getting strong interest from Yale, Princeton and Penn. He also rates as solid prospect in the defensive secondary and could end up on that side of the ball as a college player.

Lowcountry’s Top 10 prospects for 2016:

1. Javon Kinlaw, DE, Goose Creek (6-7, 275)

2. John Simpson, OL, Fort Dorchester (6-4, 290)

3. Norman Hand, DE, Colleton County (6-3, 235)

4. Kevin McCray, OL, Timberland (6-7, 320)

5. Sam Denmark, WR, Hanahan (6-0, 170)

6. Steven Duncan, QB, Ashley Ridge (6-5, 220)

7. Tre Smalls, LB, Hanahan (6-1, 210)

8. Chris Morales, OL, Fort Dorchester (6-6, 315)

9. Datron James, RB, Fort Dorchester (5-10, 200)

10. Dijon Profit, WR, Goose Creek (6-1, 190)