It's no surprise to Lexington football coach Scott Earley that his star player -- and South Carolina
's newest verbal commitment -- Shaq Roland
isn't taking any phone calls from reporters.
As the state of South Carolina's top prospect for the 2012 class, Roland has been at the center of an intense recruiting battle that the Gamecocks won Saturday night.
Roland announced his commitment to the world on Facebook and placed a call to the staff and then turned his phone off to all callers, according to Earley.
But it's that side of Roland -- and a recognition of that side from his recruiters Brad Lawing and Steve Spurrier, Jr. -- that is a big reason the nation's No. 2 wide receiver is now a Gamecock.
"One of the best recruiting jobs I've seen in my career, and I've seen a lot of them," said Earley, who got his first head coaching job at Myrtle Beach in 2000. "They did a great job with developing a personal relationship with Shaq and his mama, and understanding what was important to them and following those guidelines and not crossing the line anywhere. And there's something to be said [for that] in these days in recruiting."
While some prospects may love the spotlight that having five stars by their names on recruiting sites will bring, Roland is not one of those prospects.
He never really enjoyed the process much, according to Early.
So the South Carolina staff developed a strategy that probably wouldn't work with many high-profile prospects.
"To leave him alone," Earley said. "I told everybody when this thing first started that the tortoise would win this race, not the hare. And they kind of left him alone, and Shaq is not one to enjoy the recruiting process, and I think South Carolina just stayed out of it, [and] said 'we're here when you need us.' They just really held it with a lot of class and did it the right way."
Roland, who had offers from much of the country, chose the Gamecocks over three finalists: Alabama
The Crimson Tide made one last major push in an attempt to land the Wildcats' do-it-all star.
"As hard as anybody's ever pushed, and it came from the top," said Earley of Alabama's late attempt. "That was (Nick) Saban's No. 1 guy. And he went after him, and he understands if it wasn't for Columbia being 25 minutes away, he could have been playing at Alabama."
But that wasn't to be.
"Shaq's a mama's boy -- he loves his mama, his family -- loves the town he lives in," Earley said. "He's 25 minutes down the road, and with what South Carolina's got going on here, it ain't no different than going to the other three [finalists]."
All of the factors involved made it a no-brainer for the 6-foot-1, 180-pound prospect.
"The logistics of the school is what was the final straw. He loved Alabama, Georgia and Florida, but South Carolina's almost there now and they're only 25 minutes away, and he feels like he can be the piece to put them over the top.
"I think the bottom line is the last four years, the University of South Carolina has gotten the top player in the state all four years. If you go back to (Stephon Gilmore), Marcus (Lattimore) and you got (Jadeveon) Clowney, obviously South Carolina is doing a good job of recruiting, now Shaq's right in their back yard and that's where he wants to play."
Earley is happy he'll have one more season of Roland in a Lexington jersey before trading it in for the garnet and black.
"He'll be everywhere," Earley said. "The only time he'll be at quarterback will be in our 'Rhino' package, which is our short-yardage offense. But he'll be all over the field on both sides of the ball, he'll return kicks and then he'll have basketball. He just wanted to get this over with and enjoy his senior year."
And Earley won't be surprised if Roland makes an immediate impact at South Carolina.
"Shaq's just a phenomenal athlete that has a great competitive spirit," he says.
"A.J. Green, Julio Jones-type player -- he'll be that type player. He's got that type of speed, that type of leaping ability. He's going to mature and get a lot more muscular. We've had him now for a year and a half since we came in and took the program over, and he's going to be 100 times better this year on the field. I know that's hard to believe but we've seen it. Shaq's one of those people that's going to work hard enough to progress and he's going to do whatever it takes to walk in there and start, and he'll be an impact player immediately in my opinion."
Lexington head football coach Scott Earley has seen many recruitments of his players up close in his years coaching football. But none may have been better than the way South Carolina handled five-star WR Shaq Roland, Earley says.
Lexington head coach Scott Earley discusses the recruitment of five-star WR Shaq Roland.