South Carolina State's back-to-back MEAC championships and appearances in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs have not gone unnoticed by recruits.
The Bulldogs landed a class of 22 players Wednesday, highlighted by a dozen instate players.
"We're getting a different kind of reception from people in general, both instate and in neighboring states," S.C. State coach Buddy Pough said.
C.J. Wilson, a Shrine Bowl offensive tackle from Richland Northeast High, was more than happy to sign with the Bulldogs.
"I was looking for the best school that fit me," the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Wilson said. "I've been to Orangeburg, and there's something about that place that kept me coming back."
A large part of the appeal was consecutive 10-win seasons, which both ended with tough first-round losses to perennial FCS power Appalachian State on the road, as well as a black college national championship this past season.
Curtis Hill, a 6-1, 287-pound defensive tackle from Blythewood High, wants to take the Bulldogs even higher.
"I would love to go there and play Appalachian State again, beat them and possibly go to the (FCS) national championship game," said Hill, who had an offer from Big 10 power Wisconsin earlier in the process.
Coach Buddy Pough was thrilled to get both players.
"Both these guys are upper-level kids for us," Pough said.
His strong ties to the Columbia area paid off, as the former head coach at Keenan and Fairfield Central and assistant at USC pulled in key signees that included a potential sleeper in Keenan's 6-3, 190-pound wide receiver Dennis Rowe, who caught 42 passes for 1,123 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
"This guy is really going to be a good player," Pough said.
Pough, who has compiled a 67-26 record in eight seasons with the Bulldogs, displays a personable, upbeat attitude in selling his program.
"He's a very, genuine, straight-forward guy, and that's what I need in a coach," Wilson said. "He has a great rapport with his coaches and his team. At my in-home visit, I felt like I'd known him all my life."
Hill, who had 58 tackles, 25 for loss, with eight sacks last season for the Bengals, came away with the same feeling.
"The school had a nice environment when I went down there. I liked it," said Hill, whose grandmother used to teach with Pough. "Coach Pough is a friend of the family. I felt good being around him."
RNE coach Jay Frye, whose former offensive lineman Raymond Harrison anchored S.C. State's offensive line for four seasons ending with an All-America year in 2008, likes the number of quality programs across the state at the FCS level.
"S.C. State is as good of a program as there is," Frye said. "They've played extremely well under Buddy Pough. We excited for C.J. Hopefully, he can follow in Raymond's footsteps."
Pough would love for that to be the case.
"Raymond Harrison was a great football player and human being. I'm hoping C.J. is cut from that same cloth," he said.
Other top signees include defensive backs Xavier McFadden, a Shrine Bowler from Rock Hill High, and Darius Drummond of Asheville, N.C. That was a strong need position for the Bulldogs along with wide receiver and defensive line.
"I'm ecstatic," Pough said. "You want to get better players each time you go out there. This year's class might be as good as we've gotten. I don't think it could have worked out any better."
Antuawn Blue, WR, 5-10, 175, Dillon
AJ Brown, DL, 6-5, 380, Rockmart, Ga.
Charles Brown, RB, 5-11, 200, Capitol Hgts, Md.
Darius Drummond, DB, 6-0, 170, Asheville, N.C.
Santez Emory, ATH, 6-1, 175, Franklin, Ga.
Terrell Fitts, LB, 6-1, 230, Augusta
Dtwane Fulmer, WR, 6-2, 200, Springfield
Kendrick Frazier, DL 6-3, 250, Denmark
Curtis Hill, DL, 6-2, 275, Columbia
Matt Jackson, DL, 6-2, 240, Kingsland, Ga.
Schawn Jamison, WR, 6-1, 175, Salley
Tyler McDonald, WR, 6-1, 185, Fork Union, Summerville
Xavier McFadden, DB, 5-11, 165 Rock Hill
Denzel Myers, DB, 5-11, 180, North Charleston
Brandon Miller, ATH, 6-0, 170, Manning
Steven Murphy, DB, 6-1, 180, St. Mary's, Ga.
Marquis Parks, DL, 6-3, 260, Lincolnton, Ga.
Dennis Rowe, WR, 6-3, 190, Columbia
Jarrad Quarles, OL, 6-1, 330, Augusta
TeDarrius Wiley, QB, 6-2, 185, Rockingham, N.C.
Cephas "CJ" Wilson, OL, 6-3, 275, Columbia
Domanic Wilson, OL, 6-3, 260, Scranton
Reach White at (803) 771-8643.