USC, Clemson bolstering defenses with big linemen

(AP Photo/File)

South Carolina's plan to add more pass rushers to the 2015 recruiting class includes bringing in former Shrine Bowl defensive end Devante Covington.

Covington, a 6-3, 230-pounder at Georgia Military JC, hasn't been talked about much in relation to the Gamecocks' 2015 class, but his coach confirmed last week that the Gamecocks still want him and his commitment remains firm.

"All my conversations have been they want him and he's on track to graduate in May and that's where he wants to be," said Georgia Military's Bert Williams. "I don't know anything different. They were always engaged with him."

Covington first signed with USC in 2013 out of Richmond County High School in Rockingham, N.C. He played for the North Carolina Shrine Bowl team along with teammate and current Clemson offensive lineman Tyrone Crowder. Covington also had offers from Clemson, Tennessee, East Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech while in high school.

This past season, Covington had 39 tackles with 14 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. His commitment gives the Gamecocks 27 for the 2015 class, including five defensive ends.

Defensive lineman Christian Wilkins (6-5, 305) of Suffield, Conn., an Under Armour All-American and regarded as one of the top defensive tackles in the country for the 2015 class, announced a commitment to Clemson last week. Wilkins made an official visit to Clemson on Nov. 21. He also made official visits to Stanford, Penn State, Boston College and Ohio State. He gives Clemson 24 commitments in the 2015 class, including three grayshirts who joined the program this semester.

In other recruiting news:

Defensive back Toure Boyd (6-1, 193) of Chaffey (Calif.) JC, never thought he'd get the chance to return to the Southeast to play college football. That opportunity is now just a phone call away from USC. Boyd was contacted by Gamecocks secondary coach Grady Brown last week and his transcript is being vetted by USC admissions.

If all checks out, and Boyd said it should, he's expecting an offer from the Gamecocks this week.

"I'd have to consult with my family, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be a go," Boyd said. "To me, I feel like, why not? Even if there is stuff for me to look at and stuff for me to weigh out, I feel like this is an opportunity that came out of nowhere for a reason."

Boyd grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and would have attended Hoover High School had he not moved to Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., at the age of 14. He still has family in Birmingham, including his father. He will have three years to play two.

"I've always loved the SEC," Boyd said. "I've always thought it was the superior conference. I can't pass up something like that, a chance to get to the league."

Boyd has offers from Utah, Arizona, Washington State, Southern Miss, Georgia State and Texas State. This season, he had He 80 tackles with two interceptions, 10 passes broken up, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recovered fumbles and 4 blocks. He also scored a touchdown.

The Gamecocks also have made contact with defensive back Treston Decoud (6-3, 205) of Northwest Mississippi JC. He's a Louisiana native who has offers from East Carolina, Toledo, Utah State, Fresno State, Louisiana-Lafayette and Western Kentucky. He decommitted from Utah State in December.

DB Jeremiah Dinson of Hialeah, Fla., is still considering a visit to USC, but the date has not been set. Dinson remains committed to Kentucky. He will visit Florida and Auburn this month. He's choosing between USC and Louisville for his final visit Jan. 30.

DB Maurice Smitherman of Adamsville, Ala., will visit Texas Tech on Jan. 16 and USC on Jan. 30. He has been committed to Mississippi State and visited there last month. Smitherman said he's feeling more solid with his commitment to the Bulldogs but does want to take those other two official visits.

USC continues to keep up the interest in DB Rashard Causey of Fort Lauderdale despite his longstanding commitment to Florida Atlantic. Causey said Gamecocks secondary coach Grady Brown was on hand for his state championship game in December. "He's just waiting on me to make that call. They've been recruiting me since I was a sophomore, so I've built a good relationship with coach Brown and some of the South Carolina coaches and some of the players. My best friend Skai (Moore) goes there, so I get all the scoop about what's going on and what it's like there." Causey said he's aware the Gamecocks lost two of their defensive back commitments and now it's up to him to push the issue with the Gamecocks. "Nothing has changed for me for South Carolina," he said. "I've always loved them from the beginning because they were one of the first big schools to recruiting me. That's on my call to make the visit because they want me. That's my call to make on when I want to visit the school." Causey said he hopes to set an official visit with USC after talking with his parents. He said he's also considering Tennessee and Georgia.

USC commitment DB Damon Arnette of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was offered by Michigan last week and set an official visit with the Wolverines for Jan. 16. He visits USC on Jan. 23 and Ohio State on Jan. 30.

DE Arden Key of Atlanta decommitted from USC for a second time last week, but he had a message for USC fans via Twitter. "South Carolina still #1 on my board. Nobody knows my situation," Key typed. He now plans to take his scheduled official visits to LSU, Miami, USC and Auburn.

USC has jumped into the race for Wake Forest transfer OL Cory Helms (6-4 305). He was a freshman All-American center in 2013 and played guard this season. He will have two years to play at his next stop. Helms is a native of Alpharetta, Ga., and he drew interest from USC in high school but got no offer. He was offered by the Gamecocks on Sunday and will take an official visit Jan. 30. He's going to visit Texas A&M this weekend and he has Penn State set for Jan. 30.

OL Patrick Allen of Reisterstown, Md., is interested in taking an unofficial visit to USC but has not decided on a date. He's looking primarily at USC, Tennessee, Georgia, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.  He's a former Georgia commitment. Allen has taken his five official visits to Georgia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Tennessee and Arkansas. There is no favorite.

DE Quandeski Whitlow of Opelika, Ala., has seen Florida come hard after him in recent weeks but his coach said Whitlow's commitment to USC remains solid. "He's telling me he's firmly committed to South Carolina," coach Brian Blackmon said. "This is a kid that's never been out of Opelika, so he may take visits to other places. I don't know if he'll end up doing that or not, but what I'm hearing from him is he's still firmly committed to South Carolina." Blackmon said he talked with Gamecock recruiter Kirk Botkin and assured him further of Whitlow's commitment to the Gamecocks based on what Whitlow told him. "You know social media makes everybody nervous," the coach said. "They all want attention and what it does is make the people he really likes nervous." Whitlow is scheduled to visit Louisville this weekend, USC on the 23rd and Florida on the 30th. This season, Whitlow finished with 50 tackles, 17½ tackles for loss, 5½ sacks and 27 quarterback hurries. "He's a tall, long rangy kid," Blackmon said. "He has incredible speed and quickness off the ball. He's a great pass rusher."

USC OL commitment Christian Pellage of Brooksville, Fla., has picked up a Florida offer and will take his official visit to Gainesville this weekend. He will visit USC on Jan. 23.

It's clear Clemson's top choice for its remaining secondary scholarship for 2015 is Mark Fields Jr. of Cornelius, N.C., who will visit Jan. 16 and currently lists Clemson as his favorite. But the Tigers are keeping in touch with former Louisville commitment DB Kareem Orr of Chattanooga, Tenn., just in case. "I talked to coach Brooks, and Clemson is trying to get me up on a visit," Orr said.  "I feel good about Clemson. I might visit there." Orr believes Ohio State is about to offer, and that was one of his favorite programs growing up along with Texas and Florida. Also, his good friend Vonn Bell is a starting defensive back for the Buckeyes. He's also waiting to hear from Miami on a possible offer. Orr has visited Oklahoma and will visit Arizona State on Jan. 16. Orr is focusing on Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Mississippi State, Arizona State and Miami at this point.

Shrine Bowl WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside of Dorman is a Stanford commitment and is still waiting to hear from the school about being accepted. If he is accepted, he said he will no doubt go to Stanford. He is also hearing from USC, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. He talked with Steve Spurrier Jr. and Sean Elliott and was told if things don't work out at Stanford, they would be interested in talking with him more seriously. He will make his official visit to Stanford on Jan. 16 and hopes to find out then if he's going to be accepted. He has not scheduled any other official visits.

Former Clemson signee ATH Jae'lon Oglesby of Daniel may be headed to SMU, according to sources. Oglesby played at Fork Union Prep, Va., this past season. He planned to enroll at Clemson this month, but the Tigers withdrew their offer for reasons which have not been made public.

ATH Denzel Johnson of AC Flora is now drawing the interest of N.C. State. The Wolfpack have not offered, but he has set a visit to Raleigh for Jan. 30. Johnson talked with Clemson coach Dabo Swinney on New Year's Day and was told the Tigers still haven't decided if they like him for receiver or defensive back. He said he's heard nothing new from USC. Johnson has taken an official visit to Towson and is scheduled to visit Clemson on Jan. 16 and Georgia Southern on the 23rd.

WR Tavin Richardson of Byrnes is down to Central Florida, Louisville and Kentucky. Nebraska, which he has visited officially, no longer is involved. There is no favorite and all three are pushing hard, according to Richardson. He has visited Central Florida officially and will visit Louisville on Jan. 16 and Kentucky on Jan. 23.

Shrine Bowl DL Eurndraus Bryant of Fort Dorchester plans to take an official visit to Georgia. He also plans to set a visit date with East Carolina. Georgia Southern has been showing him the most interest, but Georgia has been coming on of late.  

Blythewood LB Hassan Belton will take an official visit to Missouri on Jan. 23. He was South Carolina's defensive MVP in the Shrine Bowl.

RB Joe Blue of Dillon, a former USC signee who attended Georgia Prep this fall, is deciding between S.C. State and Coastal Carolina.  

Chapin OL Stephen Haralambis has committed to Charleston Southern and will take an official visit Jan. 16. Air Force and Army are also recruiting him and pushing for visits.

Myrtle Beach LB/DE Marcus Chestnut committed to Newberry and WR Latrell Nieves of Colleton County committed to Marshall.

DE Rasool Clemons of South Aiken announced a decommitment from Virginia on Sunday. He committed to the Cavaliers in August over Tennessee and LSU.

De'riante Jenkins, the 6-6 former Lake Marion football and basketball standout who is now living in Orlando, Fla., and focusing on hoops, attended Clemson's last home game against North Carolina and right now it all looks good for Clemson with Jenkins.

"There was no commitment, but I'm very close, very close," Jenkins said. "On a scale of 10, I'd give it an eight. I've been going to Clemson since the 7th grade for summer camps and it's always felt like home. It's in the ACC and I will be playing against future pros every night. Coach Brownell's style of basketball is really cool. He sounds like a guy who is pretty hard on you and expect a lot out of you. He told me the program is needing help. They are building a new stadium and all that." Jenkins also has offers from Houston, East Carolina, South Florida and Virginia Tech. USC and N.C. State have also shown interest of late. He was at USC for the UNC Asheville game and he said the Gamecocks have been talking to his AAU coach. "I'm still waiting to see what they (USC and N.C. State) are going to do," Jenkins said. "I could have a decision in January, and if not it will be in the summer." Jenkins averaged 15 points and 5 rebounds per game last season.

USC picked up a 2016 commitment from LHP Josh Gregory (6-0 185) of Gaffney on Sunday, according to John Whittle of TheBigSpur.com. Gregory attended a USC camp Saturday and was offered Sunday. He also considered the College of Charleston. Gregory is USC's 14th commitment for 2016 and the second left-handed pitcher for the class.