Work still left to do for USC: Five recruiting storylines to watch

dmclemore@thestate.comJanuary 12, 2014 

Wesley Green

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

South Carolina enters the stretch run toward National Signing Day with the 2014 recruiting class still a work in progress.

Here are five things to watch as Feb. 5 draws near. Star ratings listed are according to the 247Composite index, which factors in all networks’ rankings.

NUMBERS game

This year’s group is almost complete with 16 prospects committed. The Gamecocks, however, still are recruiting more than a dozen players for the final spots. The class could end up with 20 or more, but it won’t go higher than 22. With five seniors, four early NFL entrants and four transfers announced, the team has 13 scholarships available.

The next commitment could come Monday night, as the Gamecocks are the favorite to land four-star Marietta (Ga.) cornerback D.J. Smith.

CORNERBACK CRUNCH

South Carolina is in need of defensive backs — corners in particular — as badly as it needed linebackers for last year’s class. That’s the case for several reasons:

•  Projected starter Ahmad Christian opted to transfer.

•  Starter Victor Hampton, a junior, declared for the NFL draft.

•  Starter Jimmy Legree was a senior, and Rico McWilliams is the only player on the roster with meaningful game experience.

•  Current commitments Darin Smalls (ACL) and Al Harris Jr. (hamstring) are recovering from injuries.

Add that up, and USC could take two to three more DBs in the coming weeks.

SEC BATTLES

USC is battling a pair of SEC foes for top prospects. Havelock (N.C.) running back Derrell Scott has favored the Gamecocks but recently told 247Sports that Tennessee is his favorite. The four-star tailback is a former teammate of current Gamecocks receiver Pharoh Cooper and Volunteers defensive lineman Kendal Vickers. Scott also will visit Florida.

Meanwhile, four-star Lithonia (Ga.) cornerback Wesley Green is deciding between USC and Georgia, with official visits upcoming to both schools. The one-time Gamecocks pledge has no favorite, his coach said. Both Scott and Green are expected to announce before signing day.

CHANGING THEIR MINDS?

USC is hoping any “flips” will work in its favor as committed prospects take other visits.

•  Defensive tackles Dexter Wideman of Saluda High could change his commitment from Florida State to the Gamecocks — but not before he visits both schools.

•  Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) cornerback Chris Lammons recently decommitted from Florida. The four-star prospect will give the Gamecocks a serious look in the coming weeks.

•  USC pledge Taylor Stallworth, a defensive tackle from Mobile, Ala., is set to visit Mississippi State the weekend of Jan. 24.

•  Linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams (Ellenwood, Ga.) will take an official visit to Alabama but has said he remains 100 percent committed to USC.

THE PRINCE

South Carolina is in the mix for Maryland five-star offensive tackle Damian Prince. USC is in his final three, along with Maryland and Florida. Official visits will be important to the 6-foot-5, 295-pounder, and Prince will visit the Gamecocks this weekend (Jan. 17) and then Florida later this month.

He plans to announce his choice on signing day. Prince has built a strong relationship with recruiter G.A. Mangus, and the Gamecocks’ two line pledges for this class are projected to be guards.

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