May 7, 2007

S.C. turning out more elite prospects in 2008

South Carolina top 10 prospects | Best of the rest| Sleepers | Vote: Your pick for S.C.'s top prospect

A small state with just more than 4 million people (the same size as metro Atlanta), the state of South Carolina continues to produce high-end college football prospects.

This year's NFL draft again showed that the Palmetto State produces more of its share of players with long-term football potential as nine South Carolina products were drafted, including Greenwood's Gaines Adams and Florence's Lawrence Timmons, both of whom were among the top 15 players selected.

The Class of 2007 saw the state produce a bevy of talent. There were five South Carolina prospects (defensive ends Carlos Dunlap of North Charleston Fort Dorchester (Florida) and Cliff Matthews of Cheraw (South Carolina), cornerback Gary Gray (Notre Dame) of Columbia Richland Northeast, offensive lineman Quintin Richardson of Columbia Spring Valley (South Carolina) and quarterback Willy Korn of Duncan Byrnes (Clemson), ranked in the Rivals100. That was a first for the Palmetto State.

Unlike other Southeastern states like Alabama and Louisiana, a good number of prospects in the Palmetto State have shown a willingness to leave home for college even with offers from the two major in-state programs, Clemson and South Carolina. It's not as if those two programs don't sign any in-state talent, but it's not as high of a percentage as say Auburn and Alabama in Alabama or LSU in Louisiana.

During the past two decades, top-level prospects have headed to some of college football's top programs. Here are some examples.

-Tennessee signed current NFL defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth (Hartsville) and Shaun Ellis (Anderson Westside) out of the Palmetto State and have current South Carolina prospects Jonathan Hefney (safety, Rock Hill), Eric Young (offensive lineman, Union) and Robert Ayers (defensive lineman, Marlboro County) on its roster. If you go back a few years, the Vols signed former NFL receiver Stanley Morgan out of Easley (S.C.) High.

-Florida State has made a living in the Palmetto State over the years. From signing quarterback Chip Ferguson out of Spartanburg High School in the late 1980s to running back Greg Jones of Beaufort, defensive end Jamal Reynolds of Aiken, offensive lineman Alex Barron of Orangeburg, to Timmons and current South Carolinians Jamie Robinson (cornerback from Rock Hill Northwestern) and Dekoda Watson (linebacker from Aiken), the 'Noles have had much success mining the Palmetto State for talent.

-Perhaps the best player Georgia came across the border and plucked was defensive lineman Richard Seymour of Columbia Lower Richland. Seymour was lightly-regarded by the in-state schools, went to UGA and became an All-SEC player. Current Bulldogs C.J. Byrd (defensive back, North Augusta), Prince Miller (defensive back, Duncan Byrnes) and Marcus Howard (defensive end, Hanahan), hail from the Palmetto State.

NFL Talent

Here is a look at the players from the state of South Carolina selected in the 2007 NFL Draft:

Gaines Adams


Greenwood Cornwell Academy

Lawrence Timmons


Florence Wilson

Sidney Rice



Justin Durant


Florence Wilson

Anthony Waters


Lake View

Dustin Fry



David Jones



Brandon Frye


Myrtle Beach

Tyler Thigpen


Winnsboro Fairfield Central

-Former No. 1 pick Courtney Brown signed with Penn State out of tiny Macedonia, S.C. (the same town that produced former standout Georgia Tech quarterback Joe Hamilton). Joe Paterno and crew also signed current NFL receiver Bobby Engram out of Camden and former standout quarterback Wally Richardson out of Sumter.

-Woodruff (S.C.) quarterback Tony Rice signed with Notre Dame and led the Fighting Irish to the 1988 National Championship. Other noteworthy South Carolinas to head to South Bend include cornerback Jeff Burris of Rock Hill Northwestern and defensive tackle Lance Legree of Saint Stephens. Gray enrolled early at Notre Dame this year.

-Spartanburg (S.C.) running back Stephen Davis, the National Player of the Year as a high school senior, signed with Auburn and led the Tigers to an unbeaten season (11-0) in 1993. Rusty Williams of Moncks Corner was another S.C. running back that headed to the Plains from the Lowcountry of South Carolina shortly thereafter. The Tigers also were able to properly evaluate linebacker Travis Williams out of Columbia Spring Valley, who earned All-SEC honors as a senior in 2005 (the in-state schools didn't offer him) and signed Leon Hart from Spring Valley in the Class of 2003.

There are others. Derek Ross of Rock Hill had an excellent career at Ohio State as did linebacker Rocky McIntosh of Gaffney at Miami (Fla.). Michigan has swooped in and signed Rivals100 defensive lineman Adam Patterson of Columbia Richland Northeast and receiver Junior Hemingway of Conway) during its past two classes and current NFL back Maurice Morris of Chester went to Oregon after having a solid junior college career.

Perhaps the most amazing story comes from current NFL standout Mike Anderson of the Baltimore Ravens. Anderson attended Winnsboro Fairfield Central, but did not participate in sports. He then joined the marines, got out and went to junior college. While at Mount San Jacinto Community College, he became a standout football player, transferred to the University of Utah where he led the WAC in rushing and has had a more than solid NFL career.

There should be more talent heading out-of-state in the Class of 2008 as wide receiver A.J. Green (Georgia) and Bruce Taylor (Virginia Tech) already have made commitments to out-of-state programs while several more prospects have high interest in leaving home.

For these reasons, it's never a bad idea to recruit the Palmetto State of you are an out-of-state program. There isn't the type of quality depth that you are going to find in other areas, but there are potentially great players there and it's not terribly difficult to convince them to leave home.

Here's a look at the top 10 prospects in South Carolina for the Class of 2008.

South Carolina top 10

DaQuan Bowers

6-4, 267, DT, Bamberg-Ehrhardt

Bowers in action

Bowers is a powerful, athletic defensive line prospect and will rival former No. 1 overall pick Courtney Brown as the best prospect at his position to come out of the Palmetto State. He's got the advanced athleticism needed to play strongside defensive end in the ACC, but also has huge long-term upside as a three technique defensive tackle.

Recruiting update: Bowers was an early commit to Clemson University.

Andre Ellington

5-10, 170, APB, Moncks Corner Berkeley

Ellington in action

Ellington is lighting-quick and has tremendous vision. His size makes him a candidate to see time at a number of positions in college, including running back, slot receiver and kick returner. His versatility is evident in his stats as he rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns and caught 20 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns during his junior season for Berkeley High, which competes in South Carolina's largest classification. Ellington also is a track standout with a 10.7-second 100-meter dash time.

Recruiting update: It's a two-team race between Clemson and South Carolina and the Tigers have the edge.

Dalton Freeman

6-6, 270, OG, Pelion

Freeman in action

With more than two-dozen scholarship offers to his name, word clearly has gotten out about Freeman as a prospect. Freeman has the size and footwork to be an excellent offensive lineman at the next level and coaches started to realize that last summer when he impressed on the summer camp circuit as a rising junior. The son of Pelion head coach Ben Freeman (who played at Wake Forest), Freeman brings an advanced understanding of the game to playing offensive line.

Recruiting update: Clemson has a clear lead and will be nearly impossible to beat.

A.J. Green

6-4, 184, WR, Summerville

Green in action

Green has been the top high school wide receiver in South Carolina since his freshman season. He's the complete package in terms of on-field performance. He has size, hands, speed and big-play ability. Green also is tough, which is shown with the way he plays defense. He plays for the nation's most winning high school coach, John McKissick, at Summerville High in South Carolina's largest classification and led the Green Wave to the state finals as a sophomore.

Recruiting update: Green has committed to the University of Georgia.

Marquan Jones

6-0, 170, WR, Blythewood

Jackson in action

A smooth wide receiver with excellent hands and speed that helped his team win the state championship last season, Jones would be the top prospect at his position in any other year. Jones had more than 500 receiving yards during his junior season and has been a Division I-A prospect since he was a rising junior and impressed many during the summer camp circuit. Jones also was one of the best receivers at the recently-completed Athens NIKE Camp.

Recruiting update: Jones is committed to Clemson University.

Kenneth Page

6-4, 290, OT, Columbia A.C. Flora

Page in action

Page holds more than three dozen scholarship offers and has been on the recruiting radar since a stellar showing at the Clemson NIKE Camp in May, 2006. He's got good size and flexibility and is strong at the point of attack. He's also a good student and has extremely high character. While his best long-term position is guard, Page has the athletic ability to play tackle given the right set of circumstances in college.

Recruiting update: Page remains wide-open among all of his choices.

Robert Quinn

6-5, 245, DE, North Charleston Fort Dorchester

Quinn in action

Quinn, who is from the same school as Class of 2007 five-star defensive end Carlos Dunlap (Florida) and Class of 2006 four-star defensive back Byron Maxwell (Clemson), is quick off the edge and has excellent speed and athleticism. While he does not have the upside of Dunlap, it is a fair argument that Quinn is actually a more productive high school player. Quinn had 80 tackles and nine sacks last season as Fort Dorchester went to the state playoffs.

Recruiting update: Quinn has offers from most of the major programs in the Southeast. Tennessee, Auburn, Florida and South Carolina are the primary teams in the mix right now.

Bruce Taylor

6-3, 230, LB, Myrtle Beach

Slaughter in action

Taylor is a middle linebacker prospect who could grow into a defensive end. He has long arms, a big frame and is quick and athletic. He also has excellent instincts at the linebacker position, is quick with his hands and moves well laterally. Taylor also is an excellent tackler. He had 150 total during his junior season and preceded that with a stunning 205 the year before.

Recruiting update: Taylor has been firmly committed to Virginia Tech since before his junior year and reiterated that at the NIKE Camp in Athens, Ga., last weekend where he was there watching his teammates work out.

Charles Whitlock

5-11, 172, CB, Chester

Whitlock in action

Whitlock is an explosive athlete with legitimate shut-down skills at cornerback. He does a lot of different things at Chester High School, where he is the team's primary offensive weapon, but you can see that the skill level, the speed and the football instincts are very advanced. Schools have known about Whitlock since the summer camp circuit prior to his junior year. His head coach, Victor Floyd, compares him to Buffalo Bills first round draft pick Dante Whitner who played at Ohio State.

Recruiting update: Likely heading out-of-state (South Carolina leads in-state) with Georgia and North Carolina both mentioned as possible destinations. If Miami offered, the Canes could become a major factor.

Jonathan Willard

6-2, 207, LB, Loris

Willard in action

Willard is an athletic outside linebacker prospect who had an excellent day at the Athens NIKE Camp competing in a pretty solid group at his position. The 6-foot-2, 207-pound Willard had 130 total tackles (14 for loss) during his junior season and also showed off his skills on offense, totaling 667 rushing yards for his high school team.

Recruiting update: Clemson is the leader (he has strong ties to the Tigers program) with South Carolina somewhat in the mix as well.

Best of the rest

Charleston/Lowcountry: David Behr, PK, Summerville; Devin Taylor, DE, Beaufort; Brandon Ford, WR, Hanahan.

Metrolina: Dion Foster, DE, Lewisville; Terrell Springs, DB, Chester

Midlands/Aiken: Justin Conaway, DE, Ridge Spring-Monetta; Kenny Davis, DT, Newberry; James Fullwood, DE, Sumter; Aramis Hillary, QB, Johnston Strom Thurmond; Donte Rumph, DE, Saint Matthews Calhoun County; Marcus Thurmond, WR, North Augusta; Chaz Washington, LB, Columbia Richland Northeast

Pee Dee/Grand Strand: Ingram Bell, ATH, Murrells Inlet Saint James; Spencer Benton, PK, Myrtle Beach; Jaron Brown, ATH, Cheraw; Anthony Fonville, RB, South Florence; T.J. Johnson, OL, Aynor; Justin Lewis, OL, Johnsonville; Simpson Miller, RB, Chesterfield

Upstate: Arterio Arnold, DT, Greenville; Tyler Brennan, QB, Anderson T.L. Hanna; Marquise Duncan, WR, Woodruff; J.T. Floyd, ATH, Greenville J.L. Mann; Everette Dawkins, DE/DT, Duncan Byrnes; Sam Hammond, DT, Union; Randall Hawkins, WR, Duncan Byrnes;Cartier Rice, DB, Duncan Byrnes; J.B. Shippy, LB, Gaffney; Jay Spearman, ATH, Greenwood.

Five sleepers to watch

Jordan Gary, ATH, Greenwood: This 6-foot-3, 240-pounder could play tight end, defensive end or middle linebacker at the next level and moves well for a prospect his size. Could be the type of prospect that emerges late in the process and develops into a good player at the next level.

Yari King, CB, Irmo: While he's not the biggest prospect out there, King has good speed, quickness and ball skills and will make some school happy they took a chance on him. Has a documented 4.56-second 40-yard dash on slow terrain in January and has a sub four-second shuttle.

Reid McCollum, QB, Summerville: McCollum was named the top overall quarterback prospect at the Athens NIKE Camp by the coaches there. He's tall (6-3), has excellent footwork and a quick release. Should be receiving his first scholarship offers in the near future.

Larry Patterson, OL, Columbia A.C. Flora: Patterson is raw, but has good athleticism and huge upside. He will need to add bulk to his lean frame, but once he does there's potential there. Grades could be an issue, but would be an excellent sign and place or steal for a program that can take partial qualifiers.

Chris Pressley, ATH, Bamberg-Erhardt: Plays quarterback for his high school, but his size (6-4, 175), speed (4.47 in the 40), athleticism and intelligence makes him a candidate to switch to receiver at the next level. Pressley could get major offers once teams evaluate him in summer camp.

South Carolina top 10 prospects | Best of the rest| Sleepers | Vote: Your pick for S.C.'s top prospect

JC Shurburtt can be reached at[rl]

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