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September 6, 2013

Recruiting battles: USC/UGA



In this feature from GamecockCentral.com, we take a look at some of the past recruiting battles between South Carolina's coaching staff and this week's upcoming opponent. This week, we focus on some of the prospects that South Carolina and Georgia have gone head-to-head for in the past several recruiting cycles.

Quarterback

Two of Georgia's signal-callers had South Carolina offers during the recruiting process. In the 2009 class, Tampa product Aaron Murray had a scholarship on the table from USC, but made an early pledge in the spring of 2008 to Georgia. Additionally, North Carolina's Christian Lemay picked up a later offer from the Gamecock staff in the 2011 cycle in the midst of a visit to campus, but opted for the Bulldogs. The Gamecocks were not in serious contention for him.

On the South Carolina side, no quarterback currently on the roster carried a Georgia offer out of high school. USC senior Connor Shaw is a Georgia native.

The two running backs making waves as true freshmen for the Bulldogs both had USC offers coming out of high school in North Carolina in the 2012 class. Tarboro's Todd Gurley, who shot up the rankings after a tremendous Shrine Bowl performance, never showed a lot of interest in the Gamecocks. Thanks to former running backs coach Jay Graham, South Carolina got Keith Marshall on campus for an official visit in November of 2011. The Gamecocks were in the final six for the four-star back.

Georgia also offered and pursued Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson's Mike Davis, who was committed to Florida for around ten months but did so later in the process. He silently committed to Lorenzo Ward shortly after decommitting to Florida in December of 2012 and then went public with his pledge while on an official visit to USC, coincidentally the same day that the aforementioned Gurley fell to Georgia.

Tight End/Wide Receiver

USC offered Valdosta's Jay Rome in the 2011 class, but never was a factor for the son of former Clemson standout Stan Rome. USC was also a major factor with Georgia tight end Jordan Davis, but with limited numbers USC was not able to push at the time that Davis wanted to make a decision. Even with the home-state push, South Carolina probably would have had an excellent shot at landing the Thomson (Ga.) athlete had USC been able to save a spot. Georgia was one of the programs to have offered Yulee (Fla.) three-star Kelvin Rainey, who picked the Gamecocks in the summer of 2011 and held off Arkansas at the end.

Georgia was an offer and received a visit for Gamecock freshman receiver Shaq Roland out of Lexington (S.C.) Roland made a visit to Athens, but in terms of out of state options they were not as high on his list as Alabama and perhaps even Florida.

On the Georgia roster, USC offered Valdosta (Ga.) product Malcolm Mitchell as well as Mitchell County's Justin Scott-Wesley. USC was not a factor for Mitchell, and the Gamecocks were frequently listed in the top five for Scott-Wesley before his pledge to UGA in May of 2010. Georgia JUCO transfer Jonathon Rumph is a Cayce native who was a sleeper out of high school and picked up numerous offers upon heading to junior college. South Carolina was one of those, but Rumph was not a prospect that USC was going to go the distance for in the process. Additionally, Rumph seemed to always have more interest in going out of state to play his college ball. Florida receiver Reggie Davis also carried a Gamecock offer out of Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln.

USC was the early big frontrunner for Palmetto State native Tramel Terry, and he appeared set to commit two summers ago to South Carolina at the annual showcase camp in July. However, he visited Georgia for Dawg Night the weekend before and made a surprise pledge to the Dawgs. After decommitting and considering USC again heavily, he again eventually committed to Georgia. Terry continued to show interest in South Carolina and Clemson, who ended up being the biggest threat. After a game visit last season to Columbia, Terry seemed to express interest in making an official visit. South Carolina eventually backed off Terry because of the way the recruiting process unfolded, not wanting him to visit campus multiple times as a Dawg commitment. Terry thought hard about Clemson down the stretch but stuck with Georgia.

Offensive Line:

One of the more prized prospects that South Carolina picked up on the recruiting trail is recent memory was Goose Creek's Brandon Shell. Georgia offered and was a co-leader with USC in the summer of 2010 for the 2011 prospect, but the Gamecocks grabbed the lead shortly after that and did not relinquish until signing day. Georgia was also among the group of scholarship offers for Seffner (Fla.) Armwood OL Cody Waldrop from the 2012 class. Camden County's J.P. Vonashek drew an impressive list of offers including Georgia before hurting his shoulder going into this senior season, causing many programs to back off. Vonashek's shoulder healed and South Carolina swooped in to land Vonashek, who has an impressive frame and on-field high school tape.

The recruitment of Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles long-snapper/offensive lineman Nathan Theus was an interesting one. South Carolina led in the spring of 2010 for him, until Georgia stepped in with an offer over the summer. Previously, both schools had already offered highly-touted younger brother John Theus.

The next month, Nathan pledged to Georgia but kept looking around because Georgia's offer was initially of the grayshirt variety. He visited South Carolina again, but after the Dawgs firmed up the offer for regular enrollment, he stuck with his pledge. Despite what he said publicly, the program that Nathan chose was always going to be the one that John would also choose in the end.

Georgia lineman Kolton Houston received an offer from South Carolina in the 2010 class and made numerous visits to see the Gamecock program. His father played for Georgia; he opted for the Dawgs.

South Carolina also offered 2011 offensive line prospects Watts Dantzler (whose late father Danny Dantzler played for Georgia in the 1970s) as well as Florida's Zach Debell (who made a visit to Columbia) and Georgia's Xzavier Ward. A trio of 2013 Peach State linemen in Josh Cardiello, Brandon Kublanow, and Aulden Bynum carried Gamecock offers out of high school.

Defensive Line

Along Georgia's defensive front, USC extended an offer in the 2011 class to Gainesville (Ga.) East Hal''s Sterling Bailey. Then-assistant Shane Beamer had recruited Bailey's older brother Korentheus when he was at Mississippi State and that helped USC early on, but the Gamecocks faded with time and Georgia eventually nabbed Bailey.

USC was not a factor in the recruitment of Garrison Smith. South Carolina got Stephenson's Mike Thornton out of the 2010 class on campus, but the staff's position weakened over time. A spring 2010 visit for former five-star Ray Drew was not enough to put the Gamecocks ever into serious contention. Tackles DeAndre Johnson and Jonathan Taylor also had USC offers.

On the Gamecocks' side, Georgia was one of the numerous programs across the country to offer and pursue the former number one prospect in the nation, Rock Hill's Jadeveon Clowney. The five-star visited Georgia early in his recruitment, but Alabama and Clemson were bigger competitors to long-time favorite USC. It was a Georgia/South Carolina battle in the 2013 cycle for Hoschton (Ga.) Mill Creek's Kelsey Griffin. The four-star tackle set up a press conference and pledged to the Dawgs (distance played a role in that initial decision) and very surprisingly Georgia's staff did not accept the commitment of one of the best defenders in the Southeast. South Carolina, who had stayed on top of the situation, was then able to land him the following month.

Linebacker

After he verbally committed to Vanderbilt, several programs including South Carolina and Georgia continued pursuing Tucker (Ga.) product Josh Dawson (2012 class). The Gamecocks nearly had Dawson on campus for an official visit after Lorenzo Ward made a strong push for USC near signing day, but it did not materialize. Dawson flipped to the Dawgs on signing day.

College Park (Ga.) North Clayton's Amarlo Herrera was an early commitment to UGA but mulled over taking a late visit to South Carolina for a game before ultimately staying in the Georgia fold. Jordan Jenkins made a visit to USC and expressed some early interest but the Gamecocks were not a major player for him. Likewise for Johnny O'Neal. South Carolina also had offers out to Davin Bellamy although USC did not make a big push, as well as Reginald Carter from the 2013 class.

South Carolina offered but was not a factor for Josh Harvey-Clemons (2012), James Deloach (2012), Leonard Floyd, and T.J. Stripling (2010). Georgia was among the offers for Charlotte (N.C.) Vance four-star Larenz Bryant and was in his top earlier in the process before giving way to others. South Carolina was the longtime favorite to land him throughout the recruiting process.

Defensive Back

Two current Gamecock defensive backs had Georgia offers out of high school. Cornerback Victor Hampton, originally out of Charlotte (N.C.) Independence, was a Florida commitment for months before parting ways with the Gators. He transferred to Darlington (S.C.) and chose the Gamecocks in January of 2010.

College Park (Ga.) Banneker's Chaz Elder picked up an offer from South Carolina later in the process, but it did not take long for USC to jump to the top of his list. Elder took an official visit to Georgia after verbally committing to USC, but USC held on to him over the Dawgs and Vanderbilt.

The Gamecocks offered Damian Swann from the 2011 cycle and Brendan Langley, Shaq Wiggins, and Reggie Wilkerson from the 2013 class.

Langley's recruitment has been well-documented. He had an on-again, off-again relationship throughout his recruitment with Georgia and committed to the Gamecocks in August of 2012. Despite him saying he was "100 percent" or that nothing had changed with his commitment, he continued entertaining overtures from UGA's staff and visiting Athens over the following months. Georgia also offered and got a commitment from his friend and teammate Quincy Mauger. Langley flipped to the Dawgs in December.

Wiggins made an early commitment to Georgia but continued looking around at South Carolina, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M. He made an official visit to USC back in January and really gave serious consideration to the Gamecocks but ultimately stuck with his original commitment to Georgia.

*It should be noted that South Carolina has 27 scholarship players from the Peach State on the roster; only Davis, Griffin, Elder, and Vonashek drew offers from Georgia at any point in the process.

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