There's been plenty of hype surrounding the nation's top prospect, South Pointe (Rock Hill, S.C.) five-star DE Jadeveon Clowney, but what exactly did South Carolina add to its program when Clowney went public on national TV with his plans to be a Gamecock?
A Ton of National Exposure
Clowney isn't just the best prospect in the country this year, but many have said he's the best prospect in years and certainly one of the best prospects to ever come out of the state of South Carolina. While the recruitment of five-star class of 2010 running back Marcus Lattimore gained plenty of national interest, the Palmetto State has never seen the national spotlight shined on its high school football like it did for Clowney.
Not only was Clowney interviewed on ESPNU on National Signing Day, but his recruitment has been followed every step of the way for the last two weeks, including his picture being featured on the front page of ESPN The Magazine, before he ultimately chose the Gamecocks over Clemson and Alabama on Sportscenter Monday.
Don't look for the exposure gained from Clowney's recruitment to die anytime soon. The pursuit of the signing class of 2012 is already well underway and make no mistake those prospects took notice of where Clowney is signing. 2011 signee Cedrick Cooper commented that one of the things that stood out about his official visit to Carolina was getting to meet Clowney. The Gamecocks already have one outstanding student-athlete recruiter on campus in Lattimore and they'll have another in Clowney.
A Ready-made Starter at Defensive End
South Carolina lost an all-time fan favorite at defensive end when Cliff Matthews exhausted his eligibility. All-SEC defensive end Devin Taylor will remain a starter on one side and Clowney will likely step right in as Matthews' replacement opposite Taylor.
While Clowney will certainly have to gain some weight and will develop his technique under the tutelage of his position coach Brad Lawing, he has too much natural ability to not see the field and start making an immediate impact as a freshman.
The presence of Clowney as a starter will give Carolina excellent depth at the position with full-time ends Chaz Sutton, who many expect to come on strong this year, and senior Byron McKnight in back-up roles. It will also give the staff full freedom to use Melvin Ingram both inside and outside depending on the situation.
Another No. 1 in State
South Carolina signed the state's only five-star prospect in Stephon Gilmore in 2009. In 2010 the Gamecocks again signed the only five-star in Lattimore. With the edition of Clowney, South Carolina again adds the state's top prospect and two of the state's three five-stars for the class of 2011. That's a major step in the right direction when considering that the Gamecocks missed out on the state's top prospect according to the Scout rankings in each of Steve Spurrier's first four classes in Columbia. Also, take into account that in the past the state's top talent was known for leaving the state and popping up on all-conference lists at schools like Florida State, Tennessee, Florida and Penn State.
With the addition of Clowney, the Gamecocks landed three of the state's top five prospects in the 2011 class according to the Scout rankings.
The trend may not stop there as the state's consensus top player, Lexington (S.C.) four-star WR/S Shaq Roland has the Gamecocks out in front for his services and looked likely to make an early commitment.
A Big Recruiting Victory
While there's no doubt that the proximity of South Carolina to Rock Hill played a big factor in Clowney's recruitment, it can't be overlooked the job Ellis Johnson, Brad Lawing, Lorenzo Ward and Steve Spurrier did in recruiting Clowney. He literally could have picked any university in the country but the Carolina staff was able to fend off every opponent in ultimately landing the top prospect.
Very early on in his recruitment, Florida was thought to be a team to watch. At one point, North Carolina was named a leader. Then there was of course Alabama -- the most consistent threat to the Gamecocks' chances with Clowney. And then finally a late push from Clemson. But in the end, while dodging several sticky situations along the way, Johnson and crew were able to outlast the competition for the best prospect some have seen in decades. Make no mistake, others take notice of the Gamecocks keeping a prospect of Clowney's caliber in state.
The Nation's Top Prospect
In the end, through all the hype, talk and analysis, the Gamecocks are getting the consensus top player in the country. South Carolina fans saw the impact that a player the caliber of a Marcus Lattimore could have on a team in 2010. With the addition of Clowney, the Gamecocks now potentially have their Lattimore for the other side of the ball.
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