Closer to home: Geography puts Gamecocks over the top with Blake McClain

Special to GoGamecocksFebruary 7, 2014 

Blake McClain from Jacksonville, a South Carolina Class of 2014 signee.

DAVID ROSENBLUM — Special to GoGamecocks

— Blake McClain contemplated until the last minute where he was going to play college football.

The 6-foot-4, 280-pound defensive end from Sandalwood High was committed to Nebraska before making a last-minute switch to sign with South Carolina on National Signing Day on Wednesday.

The move was a surprise to both schools, one that thought it had the three-star defensive end locked in, and the other that thought it might be about to miss out on filling a need on defense.

“I was really feeling Nebraska,” McClain said after officially signing to play for the Gamecocks. “I figured South Carolina was a lot closer to come. This way my family can come there and support me.”

McClain, who was recruited by USC as an underclassman, originally committed to Florida State, only to back out when asked to grayshirt, a term used when a player delays enrollment until the second semester so eligibility doesn’t start until the following season.

When McClain committed to the Seminoles, the Gamecocks backed down on recruiting him. It was after McClain opted out of his Florida State pledge that South Carolina came pushing back.

Sandalwood head coach Adam Geis made a phone call to inform Steve Spurrier Jr. that his defensive end was available again. Spurrier Jr., who recruits the Jacksonville area, jumped in his car and headed to Florida to meet with McClain and make his recruiting move.

“His family wanted him close by,” Spurrier Jr. said. “An opportunity to play in the SEC, an opportunity to play at South Carolina and a chance to play for Steve Spurrier really hit home with him and his family. At the end that was really the deciding factor. He’s excited to be with us and we’re excited to have him.”

McClain scheduled trips to Nebraska and South Carolina, but committed to the Cornhuskers before making an official visit to Columbia.

It wasn’t until the last few days that McClain changed his mind. Now that National Signing Day has come and gone, he can breathe a little easier.

“It feels good,” McClain said. “It feels like the weight’s been lifted off my shoulders. I’m really comfortable with this decision. I think it’s going to work out just fine.”

McClain, who capped his final high school season with 15 tackles for loss and 11 sacks, has yet to see the South Carolina campus. But an opportunity to play early on and the relative distance from home made for an easier decision in the end.

McClain plans to hit the ground running once he arrives at USC.

“From the start, I just plan on working hard and hopefully go for the starting position,” McClain said. “I’m not necessarily looking to start right away, but if that’s what it comes to, it’s a blessing.”

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