Signing day countdown: Five USC storylines

dmclemore@thestate.comJanuary 7, 2013 

Na'Ty Rodgers

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South Carolina coaches are in full recruiting mode with National Signing Day less than a month away.

The Gamecocks stand at 20 commitments for the class of 2013, with plans to add several more.

“There’s a full month left and we’re going to take full advantage of it,” recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. said. “You don’t know who you will get and who you won’t get.”

Here are five of the key storylines for South Carolina leading up to the Feb. 6 finish.

1. How many more commitments will USC take?

Under self-imposed sanctions, USC is limited to 22 signees (instead of the usual SEC maximum of 25). The Gamecocks could go two or three players beyond 22, with at least three players set to enroll early – quarterback Connor Mitch, offensive lineman D.J. Park and defensive back Ronnie Martin. Any of those three could “count back” to the previous class that was three short of being full.

USC is at 20 pledges now with Friday’s addition of Philadelphia running back David Williams. The team could still add an offensive lineman, linebacker, defensive tackle and wide receiver.

2. Which linebacker will fill the void left by Matt Rolin’s change of heart?

USC coaches are still in search for another linebacker prospect a month after longtime pledge Matt Rolin switched his allegiance to the Florida Gators. Linebacker is a position of need in this class, with four seniors leaving the program and little to no experience for three scholarship returnees.

At least five targets are in the mix, with four saying they’ll take official visits: Yannick Ngakoue (6-3, 240) of Washington, D.C.; Quinton Powell (6-3, 200) of Daytona Beach, Fla.; and Jonathan Walton (6-1, 235) of Mobile, Ala.

Former Auburn commitment Reuben Foster (6-2, 228), the nation’s top linebacker and a top 10 overall player by most rankings, also says an official visit to Columbia is in his plans. National observers believe Foster’s decision will come down to Auburn or Georgia, but getting him on campus for a visit can only help USC’s chances.

3. Will USC flip Shaq Wiggins ... and anyone else?

South Carolina would like to add another defensive back to this class, and current Georgia commitment Shaq Wiggins (5-9, 160) of Tyrone, Ga., is the top target. USC had an opening when Brendan Langley flipped to Georgia back in November.

A stop at USC on Jan. 11 is the first of four planned official visits for Wiggins, who will also visit Florida on Jan. 18, Ole Miss on Jan. 25 and Texas A&M on Feb. 1. USC coaches are showing the most interest, said Wiggins, the high school teammate of USC offensive line pledge Alan Knott.

Wiggins isn’t the only player coaches are trying to flip.

Linebacker Jonathan Walton is a Penn State pledge. Auburn commitment Earnest Robinson, a receiver from of Pinson Valley, Ala., plans to visit USC on Jan. 25.

Former Miami commitment Keith Bryant (6-2, 306) will visit USC on Jan. 18, the school’s big recruiting weekend. Bryant still likes the Hurricanes and will visit there, Florida State and Oklahoma.

4. Will the Gamecocks sign a receiver?

South Carolina is currently without a commitment at wide receiver, which wasn’t considered a major position of need with nine scholarship players expected to return. Those nine include starters Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders, plus the strong 2012 class of Shaq Roland, Jody Fuller and Kwinton Smith.

In addition to Auburn pledge Earnest Robinson (6-3, 200), USC also is looking at Raleigh receiver Corey Cooper (6-1, 192). Cooper, a former commitment to Louisville, used to claim the Gamecocks as his leader. An official visit is possible this month.

USC also likes local product Jordan Berry (5-11, 170) of Dutch Fork, but has not extended an offer.

Current commitments Jasper Sasser (6-2, 185) and Pharoh Cooper (5-11, 180) played wide receiver in high school but are more likely to end up as defensive backs in college.

If the Gamecocks don’t sign a receiver in this class, it will be the first time that’s happened in the Steve Spurrier era.

5. What will Na’Ty Rodgers do?

Offensive lineman Na’Ty Rodgers, believed to be a lock to commit to South Carolina, still hasn’t announced a decision. Rodgers, of Pomfret, Md., was supposed to release his choice between USC and Maryland on Friday at the Under Armour game. Now it looks like the news won’t come for a few more weeks.

The 6-foot-5, 275-pounder from Pomfret, Md., is scheduled for an official visit to Columbia the weekend of Jan. 18. He’s also added an official trip to Florida State for this weekend.

There was some buzz during Under Armour week that Rodgers was going to pick Maryland, his home state school where he has already visited.

A decision is expected before signing day. If he picks South Carolina, it will give the Gamecocks five offensive linemen in this class.

-- Phil Kornblut contributed to this report

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