COLUMBIA – National Signing Day at South Carolina was just as much about who did not sign as who did.
Twenty-six faxes came into the football office during the course of the morning and afternoon Wednesday, but Jadeveon Clowney’s letter of intent did not. Nor was it expected.
Clowney, the Rock Hill native and nation’s No. 1 recruit, confirmed that he will wait until Feb. 14 — his 18th birthday — to choose between USC, Alabama and Clemson. Clowney is expected to pick the Gamecocks, but nothing is guaranteed until his letter is in hand.
Until then, South Carolina also has to remain publicly mum on Clowney.
“We can’t talk about that one guy. It’s against the rules to talk about him,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said during a late afternoon news conference. “We’re all just waiting it out, like some other schools are at this time.”
Spurrier said it’s “not a big deal” to wait for a player like the 6-7 defensive end who could be every bit the defensive game-changer that Marcus Lattimore was in 2010 for the Gamecocks offense.
“The person we’re talking about is a pretty good player,” USC recruiting coordinator Shane Beamer said.
Signing day usually has a quality of finality to it, allowing a team to move forward. But Clowney’s looming decision will continue to demand a lot of attention for the better part of two weeks.
“You wish it was done and everybody could get their final rankings and move on and all that stuff,” Beamer said, “but it’s not and we’re not the first school that’s dealt with it. It’s a good problem to have if you’re chasing after great players.”
Speaking Wednesday afternoon on ESPNU, Clowney said a recent official visit to Clemson was one reason he held off on his decision. He said the visit vaulted the Tigers into his final three, along with USC and Alabama. Clowney said he did not know where he was going to school and would not decide until a couple of days before his birthday.
South Carolina’s proximity — it’s about an hour south of Rock Hill — is something he continued to mention. He also talked about the fact that former South Pointe teammates Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman are Gamecocks.
Clowney held himself back from saying too much about USC, or any other school.
Once Clowney makes a decision, the waiting still may not be over. Several sources said Wednesday that he needs a “really strong” semester to qualify by the NCAA’s standards. He is one of several at-risk Gamecocks signees and targets, but his status as the country’s top recruit clearly sets him apart.
Clowney has plenty of time to get his academic standing in order, the sources said.
To save a spot for Clowney and sign Atlanta-area linebacker Cedrick Cooper on Wednesday, the Gamecocks were forced to ask two recruits to wait to sign letters of intent. Atlanta-area defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin and Florida linebacker Jordan Montgomery have both been asked to hold off until the summer, when spots will likely become open because of prep school placements.
But Mauldin and Montgomery each have their own academic issues, a source said. Additionally, Montgomery has a knee injury that needs an MRI exam. The players were told all along that in-state players would be treated preferentially, so as to maintain good relationships with those schools.
Beamer said the staff tried to communicate throughout the process that the numbers were tight and made increasingly tighter by the new cap of 28 February signees.
“We tried to be completely honest with them and let them know we’re not dropping anybody,” Beamer said. “We’re just in a situation right now where those guys have some factors we had to look at it. We want those players. We think they’re really, really good and can help South Carolina’s football program.”
Clowney notwithstanding, the Gamecocks’ class ranked between 13th and 24th, according to various services.
“We’re happy with the players that came with us,” Spurrier said. “We feel like we’ve got a chance to continue doing some big things, and hopefully some bigger things, in the next three to four years.”
Though it would certainly get better with Clowney, there’s some thought that this might be Spurrier’s best close in seven classes at USC. The Gamecocks added this week Cooper, Scott’s Branch tight end Jerell Adams and Manning defensive tackle Phillip Dukes. Adams and Dukes picked USC over Clemson.
“We got our last three guys,” Spurrier said, “so that’s good.”
Adams and Dukes, as well as Goose Creek offensive tackle Brandon Shell, highlight another strong in-state class. Spurrier said the 6-7, 290-pound Shell should have a chance to play immediately at left tackle. “Brandon is a big-time recruit. He could have gone about anywhere in the country, as we know,” Spurrier said. “It’s neat to see the best in-state players stay in our state now.”
SOUTH CAROLINA SIGNINGS
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. School
Jerell Adams TE 6-5 220 Scott’s Branch
Rory Anderson TE 6-4 200 Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern
K.J. Brent WR 6-4 180 Waxhaw (N.C.) Marvin Ridge
Kaleb Broome OL 6-6 315 Georgia Military College
*Damiere Byrd WR 5-9 165 Sicklerville (N.J.) Timber Creek
Shon Carson RB 5-9 185 Lake City
Ahmad Christian CB 5-10 190 Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian
Gerald Dixon DE 6-2 260 Rock Hill South Pointe
Gerald Dixon Jr. DT 6-2 280 Rock Hill Northwestern
Phillip Dukes DT 6-2 280 Manning
Deon Green DT 6-3 270 Orlando (Fla.) Olympia
Kyle Harris OL 6-3 260 Lindale (Ga.) Pepperell
Mason Harris LB 6-3 210 Rossville (Ga.) Ridgeland
Shamier Jeffery WR 6-2 195 St. Matthews Calhoun County
Kadetrix Marcus DB 6-0 182 Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson
Ronnie Martin DB 5-11 175 Spartanburg
Martay Mattox ATH 6-1 185 Athens (Ga.) Clarke County
Mike Matulis OL 6-6 275 Lake Worth (Fla.) Park Vista
Tanner McEvoy QB 6-5 200 Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic
Quincy McKinney OL 6-4 295 Columbus (Ga.) Carver
Edward Muldrow LB 6-3 190 Snellville (Ga.) South Gwinnett
Drew Owens TE 6-5 227 Charlotte Kell
Kelcy Quarles DT 6-4 265 Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy
Marcquis Roberts LB 6-1 205 Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern
Sheldon Royster DB 6-0 185 Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep
Brandon Shell OL 6-7 290 Goose Creek
Will Sport OL 6-6 275 Pace (Fla.)
Angelo Watley LB 6-3 230 Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge
Brandon Wilds RB 6-0 217 Blythewood
Brison Williams DB 5-10 199 Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy