By Phil Kornblut
Columbia (S.C.) State
August 30, 2006
The 2007 class of football prospects in South Carolina is one of the deepest, most talented and highest-rated the Palmetto State has produced in many years. Several seniors are ranked nationally among the best at their positions.
South Carolina always has produced skilled players, but because of the relatively small population, the state often produces only 25 or so major college prospects. This year, that number could top 40.
Most of the best prospects wasted no time in making decisions. Thirteen of our top 20 players already have made college commitments, and several more are on the verge of making the call.
Duncan Byrnes quarterback Willy Korn heads the list of the state's top performers. Not only does he lead the way in South Carolina, he is regarded as one of the top three quarterbacks in the country.
Korn will be seeking a third straight state championship this season, and he likely will take a number of state career records with him to Clemson, where he committed last August. A year ago, Korn passed for 4,164 yards and 53 touchdowns and rushed for 763 yards and 10 TDs. That followed a sophomore season of 2,977 yards and 31 scores.
Columbia Spring Valley offensive lineman Quintin Richardson is a highly rated prospect who graded out at 86 percent last season, with 78 knockdown blocks. He also can play on the defensive line, but he'll be an offensive lineman at South Carolina. He committed to the Gamecocks in April.
"It's where my heart led me," Richardson said. "It came down to me being close to home and knowing that I'm home."
Mark Barnes is a highly regarded wide receiver from Columbia Richland Northeast. He caught 25 passes for 545 yards and five touchdowns last season. He also plays safety and had more than 80 tackles and five interceptions as a junior.
"He's a great open-field tackler," Richland Northeast coach Jay Frye said.
Barnes also is a big receiver who has the size and strength to go across the middle and the speed to get down the field. In late August, he favored South Carolina and Louisville.
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap of North Charleston Fort Dorchester is a terrific pass rusher who had 103 tackles (22 for loss) and nine sacks last season. His father played basketball at South Carolina under Frank McGuire, and the Gamecocks are strong with him, along with Clemson.
"He's big and fast, with real good technique," Fort Dorchester coach Steve LaPrad said. "He's an excellent pass rusher."
Columbia Richland Northeast cornerback Gary Gray had a great spring and summer and shot up the charts nationally. He had 67 tackles with 14 passes broken up and two interceptions last season. He's also playing quarterback in a Wing-T offense. Gray committed to South Carolina in April, only to back off in July. He's still favoring the Gamecocks over Notre Dame. He plans to graduate in December and enroll at college in January.
"He's an outstanding cover corner," Frye said, "with great feet."
Cheraw High defensive end Cliff Matt-hews also stands out on the hardwood and would like to play both sports in college. He had planned to make a decision in mid-August but decided to wait a while longer and take official visits. His favorites are South Carolina, Clemson, Georgia and North Carolina. Last season, he had 75 tackles and 10 sacks.
"He becomes a monster when he steps on the field," Cheraw coach Johnny White said. "He's a good pass rusher and good against the run. He's long and rangy and can run people down."
The state's top running back is Brian Maddox of T.L. Hanna High in Anderson. He rushed for 1,340 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. Maddox committed to South Carolina over several other major offers in June.
"It's somewhere where I feel very comfortable," Maddox said. "I think I will have a big impact."
"He's a power runner with great vision," Hanna coach Scott Parker said. "He has that gear to take off."
Conway High receiver Junior Hemingway caught 52 passes for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, and he played some cornerback late in the season and had three interceptions. He played quarterback as a sophomore. The heavily recruited Hemingway had more than 20 offers before picking Michigan over South Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida and Miami in late August.
Central Daniel defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins is a big-time run stopper who had 61 tackles last season, nine for loss. He's a physical player who will stay close to home and continue his career at Clemson.
Lake City High linebacker Scotty Cooper, another Clemson commitment, also can play strong safety. He made 96 tackles (14 for loss) and three sacks last season. He announced for the Tigers in June but said he still plans to take some official visits to other schools this fall.
"I felt like this was the best thing for me to do," Cooper said. "Clemson is the best school for me."
"He's an old school-style player," Lake City coach Justin Gentry said, "who just has great instincts."
Wide receiver Xavier Dye is a prospect without a team right now. Last year at Greenwood High, he caught 37 passes for 614 yards and four touchdowns. In the spring he switched to Duncan Byrnes, but that transfer has not been approved by the South Carolina High School League, so Dye remains in limbo. His case could go to court, and Dye has said he will sit out the 2006-07 season if he has to, rather than return to Greenwood. His future is secure anyway, because he committed to Clemson last December.
"It's close to home (whether in Greenwood or Duncan), and I enjoy the environment up there," Dye said. "I think it will fit me well to go to Clemson."
Overshadowed by his team's offense, Duncan Byrnes linebacker Stanley Hunter is a one-man wrecking crew. He had 160 tackles last season, with 38 for loss, 16 sacks and 32 quarterback hurries. He committed to Clemson in June.
"He's a ballhawk," Byrnes coach Bobby Bentley said. "He gets to the ball and is a hitter."
A huge performance in the state track and field championships last May raised the stock of Spartanburg Broome receiver and defensive back Markish Jones. At that event, he won the 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters and long jump, becoming the first athlete since 1988 to win four championships. On the football field last season, Jones had 35 catches for 550 yards and seven touchdowns, along with 38 tackles and three interceptions. He has offers for both receiver and defensive back and claims no favorite. He's also a basketball standout.
Bennettsville Marlboro County athlete Lindell Stevenson can play running back, quarterback, receiver or linebacker. He missed half of his junior season with a high ankle sprain. Many major colleges are interested, but Stevenson first will need some time at a junior college to work on his academics.
"He's fast, big and has good moves," Marlboro County coach Dean Boyd said. "He can dominate and doesn't realize it all the time that he can."
Columbia Spring Valley has a huge offensive line, with three Division I-A pros-pects. The most versatile is Mason Cloy, who can play all of the spots up front, as well as tight end. Cloy will be a center in college. He's headed to Clemson, where he committed in July over several other major offers.
"They have everything I'm looking for," Cloy said, "in a university and a football program."
One of the great unknowns in the state was defensive tackle William Brimfield of Hunter-Kinard-Tyler High in Neeses. Playing for a small Class 1A program, this wide-bodied manchild flew under the radar as a junior. Then, at a summer camp at North Carolina, he blew away the UNC coaches. They offered a scholarship, and he accepted. Brimfield had 72 tackles with 10.5 sacks last fall.
Offensive lineman David Smith of Greenville High ended his recruiting before it ever got rolling, committing to Clemson last February. His coach said Smith has a good package of skills for a lineman.
"I feel I can bring everything to them," Smith said, "and I'm ready to go to that next level."
"He has good feet and he moves well," Greenville coach Jimmy Sosebee said, "and he gets better every day."
Sumter High offensive lineman Kyle Nunn committed in July to Virginia Tech, but he hasn't completely closed the door on his recruiting. Later in the summer, he picked up an offer from South Carolina, and now he is giving the Gamecocks some thought. Nunn graded out at 85 percent last season, with 20 knockdown blocks.
"He has great feet, long arms and has a little nasty streak that makes him special," Sumter coach Paul Sorrells said. "He's very athletic and flexible, with great hips. He loves to knock someone down."
Blythewood High linebacker Charles White played as a junior at Columbia Ridge View, where he totaled 94 tackles (seven for loss) and five sacks. He transferred to Blythewood, a new school, in the spring and immediately became the program's top senior prospect. This summer, White attended a camp at Georgia. The Bulldogs liked what they saw so much that they called and offered him on the ride back to Columbia, and he committed.
Wide receiver Dontrelle Inman of Batesburg-Leesville High looked as if he would make a commitment somewhere this summer, but he recently decided to slow down the process. He's been favoring South Carolina. Last season, Inman had 31 catches for 400 yards and four touchdowns. He also plays safety and had 69 tackles and five interceptions.
"He's just one of those playmakers," Batesburg-Leesville coach Courtney McInnis said. "He will find the ball. He will get the ball at its highest point. He has real good hands and runs good routes."
SOUTH CAROLINA'S TOP 30
|No. Name||Pos.||Ht./Wt.||High School||College Favorites|
|1. Willy Korn||QB||6-2/200||Duncan Byrnes||CLEMSON|
|2. Quintin Richardson||OL||6-5/275||Columbia Spring Valley||SOUTH CAROLINA|
|3. Mark Barnes||WR||6-3/195||Columbia Richland Northeast||USC, Louis., VT*|
|4. Carlos Dunlap||DE||6-6/245||N. Charleston Ft. Dorchester||Clem., USC, Fla., Tenn.*|
|5. Gary Gray||DB||5-10/165||Columbia Richland Northeast||USC, ND|
|6. Cliff Matthews||DE||6-5/225||Cheraw High||USC, Clem., Ga.|
|7. Brian Maddox||RB||6-2/215||Anderson Hanna||SOUTH CAROLINA|
|8. Junior Hemingway||WR||6-2/205||Conway High||MICHIGAN|
|9. Jarvis Jenkins||DT||6-4/285||Central Daniel||CLEMSON|
|10. Scotty Cooper||LB||6-0/205||Lake City High||CLEMSON|
|11. Xavier Dye||WR||6-4/180||Duncan Byrnes||CLEMSON|
|12. Stanley Hunter||LB||6-0/205||Duncan Byrnes||CLEMSON|
|13. Markish Jones||WR/DB||6-1/185||Spartanburg Broome||Clem., FSU, UNC, LSU*|
|14. Lindell Stevenson||QB||6-2/225||Bennettsville Marlboro County||Junior College|
|15. Mason Cloy||OL||6-3/265||Columbia Spring Valley||CLEMSON|
|16. William Brimfield||DT||6-4/290||Neeses Hunter-Kinard-Tyler||NORTH CAROLINA|
|17. David Smith||OL||6-5/280||Greenville High||CLEMSON|
|18. Kyle Nunn||OL||6-5/265||Sumter High||VIRGINIA TECH|
|19. Charles White||LB||6-1/210||Blythewood High||GEORGIA|
|20. Dontrelle Inman||WR||6-3/185||Batesburg-Leesville||USC, Aub., UVa, GT, Md.*|
|21. Kyle Fischer||OL||6-6/300||Columbia Spring Valley||NCSU, UNC, Md., Vandy*|
|22. Jansen Hamilton||DT||6-5/280||Bluffton High||USC, Clem., WF*|
|23. Marcus Coleman||DB||6-1/180||Chester High||USC, Ky., Marsh., ECU*|
|24. Stephen St. John||OL||6-5/270||Irmo Dutch Fork||MARYLAND|
|25. Wilson Norris||OL||6-4/315||Pickens High||CLEMSON|
|26. Andrew Lanier||TE||6-4/225||Spartanburg Dorman||VIRGINIA TECH|
|27. Antwane Glenn||DE||6-4/245||Spartanburg Broome||Clem., USC, ECU, Marsh.*|
|28. Ty Wright||WR/DB||6-0/195||Columbia Richland Northeast||Ga., MTSU, I-AA*|
|29. Chad Diehl||LB||6-1/225||Duncan Byrnes||Clem., VT, Duke, WF*|
|30. Chris Gray||OL||6-4/250||Landrum High||NORTH CAROLINA|
NOTE: Preseason player rankings by the ACC Sports Journal.
* also considering other schools