Gamecocks' recruiting outlook: Offensive line a priority for 2015

dmclemore@thestate.comApril 29, 2014 

Zack Bailey

C MICHAEL BERGEN — mbergen@thestate.com

South Carolina is at least a third of the way toward filling its 2015 recruiting class with National Signing Day more than nine months away.

The Gamecocks have eight commitments in a class that is expected to total 20 to 22 - but could be as large as 25.

Here is a position-by-position look at this year's recruiting class and outlook. (Star ratings are from 247Sports' Composite index, which factors in all networks, unless otherwise noted.)

QUARTERBACK

...Signing: 1

...Committed: None

...Targets: Four-star, dual-threat quarterback Lorenzo Nunez of Kennesaw, Ga., has emerged as the Gamecocks' top target. He also is considering N.C. State, Ohio State, Tennessee and Miami. A decision is expected in the coming weeks. He passed for 1,148 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 786 yards and seven touchdowns last season. ... New Jersey four-star standout Brandon Wimbush remains a target but is looking less likely to head south for college.

...Outlook: One is typically the magic number when it comes to QB signings. Three-star Daniel David of Hoschton, Ga., has publicly declared USC his leader but doesn't have an offer yet. It's unlikely - but not impossible - that USC would take more than one quarterback.

RUNNING BACK

...Signing: 1-2

...Commitments: None

...Top targets: Four-star Ty’Son Williams of Sumter and three-star A.J. Turner of Clifton, Va., are among those highest on USC's tailback board. Williams is the top instate back for this class. Turner continues to see his recruitment rise. He just visited USC and called that trip "amazing."

...Outlook: South Carolina would like to sign as many as two backs in this class with three juniors on the roster (Mike Davis, Brandon Wilds, Shon Carson). The Gamecocks did not add a running back last year, while one of its 2013 signees (Jamari Smith) moved to defense and 2012 signee Kendric Salley transferred.

WIDE RECEIVER

...Signing: 3-4

...Commitments: USC is in good shape here with a trio of three-star pledges: Dexter "D.J." Neal, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Michael Bowman, Havelock, NC; and Jerad Washington, Jacksonville, Fla.

...Top targets: Jalen Christian (four stars) of Damascus, Md., is high on the Gamecocks and the home-state Terrapins. ... Three-star Auden Tate (Tampa, Fla.) is someone with ties to the Columbia area. ... Orlando receiver Nyqwan Murray (three stars) says USC is his favorite.

...Outlook: South Carolina is likely to add at least one more receiver, but there is no major push to do so yet with three already in the fold.

TIGHT END

...Signing: 1-2

...Commitments: None

...Top targets: Three-star target Connor Redmond of Lawrenceville, Ga., recently visited USC. While he declared the Gamecocks his favorite, he said he's not close to committing. ... Four-star Chris Clark of Avon, Conn., has the Gamecocks among his top 10 schools but has yet to visit.

...Outlook: Don't be surprised if USC signs two tight ends this class with Rory Anderson a senior and Jerell Adams draft-eligible.

OFFENSIVE LINE

...Signing: 5-6

...Commitments: USC has two pledges already. Scranton, Pa., junior college lineman Paris Palmer (four stars) is originally from North Carolina. Shane Lemieux (three stars) calls Yakima, Wash., home but has S.C. ties with his father living in Lancaster.

...Top targets: It looks like an instate battle for Summerville's Zack Bailey (four stars), the top instate lineman in this class. ... Tommy Hatton (three stars) of Montvale, N.J., considers USC among his leaders and plans a summer announcement. ... Zach Giella (three stars) of Augusta, Ga., has Columbia connections but continues to add major offers, including LSU. ... The Gamecocks are in the final six for Emanuel McGirt (three stars) of Durham, N.C. ... Austin Clark (four stars) of Lexington, Va., has the Gamecocks in his final seven ... Three-star Brandon Sandifer of Warner Robins, Ga., has visited Columbia already. ... Shaq Crouch (three stars) of Johnsonville says USC is his favorite but does not have a Gamecocks offer.

...Outlook: Offensive line might be the biggest priority in this class. J.P. Vonashek left the program, and fellow Class of 2013 signee Bryce King will transfer. Meanwhile, starters A.J. Cann and Corey Robinson are seniors, and Brandon Shell and Mike Matulis are draft-eligible.

DEFENSIVE LINE

...Signing: 4-6

...Commitments: The lone current commitment is a huge one. Shameik Blackshear of Bluffton picked the Gamecocks before his junior season began and is the top prospect inside the state for this class. Rivals and 247Sports consider him a five-star talent.

...Top targets: USC is trying to add the No. 2 instate prospect in defensive tackle Albert Huggins (four stars) of Orangeburg. ... Former USC defensive end commitment Arden Key (four stars) of Atlanta was teammate of 2014 signee Wesley Green and remains highly recruited. ... Defensive end Marquavius Lewis (four stars) is a former Greenwood High standout who is at junior college now in Kansas and likes the Gamecocks. ... Four-star defensive tackle D.J. Jones is the junior college teammate of 2014 signee Dante Sawyer and played high school ball at Wren High. ... Class of 2013 signee Devante Covington (three stars) from Rockingham, N.C., is at Georgia Military and could be on track to rejoin the Gamecocks for 2015.

...Outlook: Defensive line is an annual priority regardless of current and future depth charts. Blackshear will be the centerpiece of this unit and the class as a whole.

LINEBACKER

...Signing: 2-3

...Commitments: Four-star Sherrod Pittman of Jacksonville, Fla., picked USC before his junior season and remains strong on the Gamecocks, even as he plans to take other visits.

...Top targets: Da'von Durant (four stars) played high school football at Greenwood High and is now at junior college in El Dorado, Kansas. He likes USC and was thought to be close to a commitment recently before deciding to wait. ... Amonte Caban (three stars) of Smiths Station, Ala., likes the Gamecocks and visited for junior day in March.

...Outlook: USC could sign up to three linebackers this go-round after having one in its 2014 class.

DEFENSIVE BACK

...Signing: 2-4

...Commitments: USC landed a major secondary target when four-star Mark Fields of Cornelius, N.C., committed in March.

...Top targets: Octavis Johnson (four stars) of Homerville, Ga., and Desmond Cain (three stars) of Delray Beach, Fla., say the Gamecocks are their favorite ... Three-star prospect Damon Arnette, a teammate of signee Al Harris Jr., also is high on the Gamecocks.

...Outlook: This isn't the dire need it was in 2014 when USC signed five cornerbacks. Still, two to four again in this class looks realistic.

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