O-line pledge recovers from surgery, set to play

Vonashek was injured in the spring

dmclemore@thestate.comOctober 24, 2012 

J.P. Vonashek’s team at Camden County High School is 7-0 this season, yet his season opener is Friday night.

The South Carolina offensive line commitment hasn’t played a down this season for the Kingsland, Ga., school as he recovered from ligament surgery in his left shoulder during the spring. In fact, Vonashek hasn’t played a game at all for Camden County after transferring there in the middle of the 2011 school year.

“I can’t wait to play, to be a Wildcat for the first time Friday night,” Vonashek said.

The 6-foot-7, 290-pounder was cleared to join practice and hit for the first time last week. He’s expected to be in uniform when the Wildcats take on Brunswick High School on Friday. He can play either tackle position.

Joining any team with three regular season games to play is a challenge. That task is tougher at Camden County, where the Wildcats are the No. 7 in the USA Today Super 25 Football rankings.

“We’re hoping we can rotate him in some,” said Camden County coach Jeff Herron. “He’ll have to earn that. Being an offensive lineman, that group is a very cohesive, tight-knit unit on any team. He has to work his way into that unit, and that isn't going to be easy. But when you’re 6-7 and 290 pounds and can run, it helps your chances pretty good.”

The Wildcats’ success is not lost on Vonashek.

“I feel bad because they’ve been working so hard throughout the whole season already,” he said. “I’ll have to go out there and earn my spot. I'm ready to play.”

Vonashek committed to South Carolina over Georgia in June and is one of four offensive line pledges in the class of 2013. Current South Carolina wide receiver DeAngelo Smith also played at Camden County High.

ESPN rates him the 32nd best offensive tackle prospect in the country.

He’s spent the last five months running, working out and studying the playbook. The workouts became more intense about a month ago as he worked to get his arm strong again. He’s gained 35 pounds since transferring from Glynn Academy in Brunswick.

Vonashek has been a part of Camden County’s weight training all semester and was at practice every day, Herron said.

“He’s been involved as much as any kid I’ve ever been around that’s been hurt. I hope that will ease his transition. He’ll certainly be given every opportunity. It’s never easy coming back from an injury, and certainly when the team you’re trying to come back on has been successful. He’s a special talent. We hope he can do it.”

In the recruiting world, Vonashek is still being sought after by Tennessee and Ohio State. He said he might take official visits to those schools just because he can. There is no threat of a decommitment, he said.

“They ask me if I could change my mind,” he said. “I tell them I’m going to South Carolina. I’m not changing my mind.”

Herron is hoping Vonashek can help his current team and get some additional work in that helps his transition to South Carolina.

“He needs to get some playing time and experience under his belt,” Herron said. “It wouldn’t be good going into the SEC after a whole year of being out of football. Hopefully he can accomplish that in the rest of our season because he needs that experience.”

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