As National Signing Day approaches, we're cranking up our football recruiting coverage. We're going through the ACC's six key states (for this year at least, we still consider Maryland to be one of those six) checking in on how the league's schools are faring in the race to bring in top talent.
We start today with South Carolina, where Paul Strelow checks in on the recruiting situation in the Palmetto State.
NOTE: Obviously some of this is - particularly the On The Table section - subject to change over the next few days.
After fielding no more than a dozen prospects legitimately coveted by multiple high-majors in 2013, the state of South Carolina recovered to yield a more attractive recruiting crop with its 2014 class.
While it remains far from the caliber of classes churned out at the turn of the decade, the class is expected to produce 30 signees next week among the colleges within the five power conferences.
Perhaps reflective of its five-game win streak in the state rivalry series, South Carolina has again trumped Clemson to net a higher percentage of the state’s top-end recruits.
Here’s a look at the hits, misses and targets still on the ACC board in the Palmetto State:
MAJOR ACC GETS
1. Jae’lon Oglesby, RB/WR (5-11, 175), Daniel – Clemson loaded up in volume, as nine of its 22 pledges are from in-state. But the vast majority are lesser-regarded prospects. The exception is Oglesby, a lithe but quick playmaker in the mold of 2012 signee Germone Hopper or 2013 UNC running back signee T.J. Logan. Daniel, located a meager few miles from Clemson’s campus, has fed the Tigers a pipeline of talent in recent years, most notably 2013 NFL first-rounder Nuk Hopkins. Oglesby fits a mold in the Chad Morris offense as a capable perimeter runner who can double as a slot receiving threat.
2. Zeek Rodney, DT (6-0, 265), South Pointe – Rodney could wind up being one of the jewels of Dave Clawson’s makeshift recruiting class if he qualifies. A combination of stature and academic concerns scared off most schools, as Rodney picked up late offers from Wake Forest and Boston College after mainly hearing from Syracuse, Charlotte and Marshall. But he’s quick and strong and will invariably draw initial comparisons to Demon Deacons standout Nikita Whitlock.
3. Zykiesis Cannon, DB (5-11, 180), Carolina Academy – Louisville beat out Georgia Tech, Boston College and ECU for Cannon, who projects as a slightly undersized free safety. Cannon took his official visit last weekend, so it appears he will be retained by new coach Bobby Petrino. There aren’t many bona fide sleepers in this state’s class, but Cannon has enough talent and proven production to be one of the few candidates.
4. Quaven Ferguson, DT (6-2, 290), Easley – Clemson took his more acclaimed teammate, running back C.J. Fuller, early. But Duke arguably got the superior prospect in Ferguson, a classic bad body/good player type. Furman was his lone other offer.
5. Michael Preddy, OT (6-5, 250), Porter Gaud – Preddy is tagged a defensive end by most recruiting networks, but he’s more of a jumbo athlete without a position. Georgia Tech, which beat out Louisville and Wake Forest, intends to grow him into an offensive lineman.
MAJOR ACC MISSES
1. Mason Rudolph, QB (6-4, 220), Northwestern – Rudolph put up big numbers as a junior, too, but many pegged him as a system quarterback until his ranking and stocked soared with the playoffs and Shrine Bowl. The son of former UNC linebacker Brett Rudolph, the Tar Heels showed interest but elected to not pursue. Then Virginia Tech thought it had him before Rudolph surprised folks by choosing Oklahoma State, whose system is similar to what he excelled in during high school.
2, Donell Stanley, OG (6-4, 320), Latta – Clemson was the first to offer and had some built-in advantages. Stanley, meanwhile, hailed from the hometown of former UNC point guard Raymond Felton and grew up a Tar Heels basketball fan. Both gave him a run, but South Carolina’s proximity and local connections established with nearby powerhouse Dillon the previous two classes were too much to overcome.
3. Poona Ford, DL (6-0, 290), Hilton Head – Louisville had trumped South Carolina for Ford’s commitment before Charlie Strong’s departure gave him the out to look around. South Carolina was blacklisted the second time around, and Ford appears to be favoring Texas over Purdue and Missouri heading down the stretch.
4. Jacob Park, QB (6-4, 210), Stratford – Before Rudolph, Virginia Tech was considered a done deal with Park, who had established a strong rapport with offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler when Loeffler was at Auburn. Likewise, UNC felt it had him during a stretch, too. But Park kept holding out to see if he could score a major SEC offer, and when Alabama gave him a placeholder offer to buy the Tide some time, the ACC’s ship sailed. Georgia swooped in, and the rest was history.
5. K.C. Crosby, TE (6-0, 240), Bamberg-Ehrhardt – Clemson has a pipeline to this school, tracing to defensive ends Ricky Sapp, Da’Quan Bowers and, most recently, Martin Aiken. The consensus in recruiting circles has Crosby’s upside at inside linebacker. But Crosby had his heart set on playing tight end, and South Carolina expressed the more serious intent to give him that chance. So Crosby picked the Gamecocks last summer.
STILL ON THE TABLE
Dexter Wideman, DE (6-3, 275), Saluda – Wideman will rank toward the top of one of theabove categories when all is said and done. He shocked plenty by committing to FSU shortly after a visit there in July. But sentiment has held that he figures to flip to favorite South Carolina, and it’s more a matter of when, not if. The Seminoles, though, have the chance to make the final sales pitch this weekend when Wideman takes his official visit days before National Signing Day.
AND THE WINNER IS …
By default, Clemson on volume alone.
But the real story is how few of the state’s desirable targets are matriculating to the ACC.
If Wideman bolts, only one of the state’s 10 best recruits could reach the league (Oglesby). Regardless, both are in the conversation to be prep school placements.
The number of spurned second-tier targets is what catches the eye. Byrnes receiver Shae Meadors chose Appalachian State over late Wake Forest pursuit. Rudolph should have been in the ACC’s wheelhouse. Chapman receiver Tyshun Samuel was overlooked until he got a late South Carolina offer that inexplicably finally opened others’ eyes. Georgia Tech failed to hold onto Goose Creek running back Caleb Kinlaw (Wisconsin) despite the fact Kinlaw’s cousin, former Yellow Jackets star quarterback Joe Hamilton, is on staff.
There are reasons to believe the ACC could improve its Palmetto foothold in the next class. Clemson is in strong position for several of the state’s best. N.C. State, via area recruiter Des Kitchings, has the Wolfpack under legit consideration with a handful of prospects and is the early leader for four-star Wren quarterback Kelly Bryant.