South Carolina State football coach Buddy Pough has always felt like the Lowcountry was a fertile recruiting ground for the Bulldogs.
Of the 29 players S.C. State signed on Wednesday, three were from the Lowcountry — Fort Dorchester running back Datron James, James Island running back Buss Hamilton and Cross offensive lineman Malcolm Garrett — and Pough is convinced that all three will be impact players for the Bulldogs.
“We just seem to get three or four really good players every year from down that way,” Pough said. “I’ve always believed it’s a natural fit for kids from around Charleston to play up here. It’s close enough so they can go home when they want and far enough away so they can get out on their own. We feel like we got three good ones from Charleston this year.”
This was an important recruiting class for Pough, who will have to replace 17 seniors. Pough said the class addressed vital needs on the offensive and defensive lines with the departure of All-American Javon Hargrave. The Bulldogs also were looking for help at tight end and running back.
“We think we addressed our needs with this signing class,” Pough said. “Every recruiting season is hard, but this might have been the hardest for us. We always try and emphasize in-state talent and we signed 17 from the Palmetto State. When it’s all said and done, we’re hoping to keep about 25 kids from this class that will actually make it.”
One of the players that Pough is hoping will be able to step right in and play immediately is James, who rushed for 1,771 yards and scored 33 touchdowns while helping lead Fort Dorchester to a state title.
“Datron is a big, versatile running back that can do a lot of things,” Pough said. “He’s a guy that can run over you or make you miss. He can catch the ball, too. We’re hoping he’ll be able to come in and make something happen right away.”
James finished his career with more than 2,700 rushing yards.
“Buddy Pough is a great coach and it was a real home feeling for me when I visited there,” James said. “I feel like everything was a great fit for me in terms of football and academics. I am really looking forward to continuing my playing career and my education there.”
The 5-11, 215-pound Hamilton, an All-Lowcountry pick, is another big, bruising back that has the ability to catch the ball.
“Coach Pough has talked about playing me at running back, fullback and H-back,” Hamilton said. “I’m just looking forward to starting another chapter in my life. Athletically and academically, South Carolina State was a great fit for me.”
Garrett, a 6-3, 290-pound two-way lineman, could end up on the defensive side of the ball, but Pough thinks his immediate future is on the offensive line.
“He’s big and athletic,” Pough said. “Malcolm has good feet and thinks he’s a defensive lineman, but we think he projects as an offensive tackle. We’ll see how he looks when he gets here.”