Perhaps the commitment of offensive lineman Quincy McKinney will help South Carolina forge a long-term relationship with one of the foremost producers of talent in all of Georgia.
Carver High School in Columbus, Ga., routinely churns out Football Bowl Subdivision prospects. Last year, the Class AA powerhouse had 14 current or former players (post-junior college) sign with colleges, sending four to ACC schools, one to Alabama and one to Southern Mississippi.
McKinney, who committed to the Gamecocks in August, is a member of another stellar senior class at Carver this season. Tailback Isaiah Crowell is among the nation's best players, defensive tackle Gabe Wright is also a top-100 talent and corner Riyahd Jones is a top-50 player in the state of Georgia. Rivals.com recently ranked them as the nation's seventh-best group of prep prospects that play on the same team.
But there isn't a pipeline out of Carver, located in southwest Georgia, to any specific school these days. Crowell is likely bound for Georgia or Alabama, Wright is leaning toward Auburn and Jones has committed to Kentucky. So, there could be room for the Gamecocks to make some inroads at Carver.
Coach Dell McGee, who played at Auburn before a professional career in the NFL, XFL and AFL, made news last year when he banned Georgia from recruiting on Carver's campus. The dispute stemmed from Georgia pulling a scholarship offer for Carver quarterback Devin Burns, who traveled to Athens and had planned to commit in person only to find out the offer was no longer any good.
McGee and Georgia coach Mark Richt later reached an understanding on the issue, but it didn't help relations between the Bulldogs and one of the state's power programs. Carver defensive end Corey Crawford had planned to commit with Burns last year, but he ultimately signed with Clemson along with teammate David Beasley.
"You see a lot of the kids around there wearing Georgia T-shirts and sweatshirts," said Chris White with the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer. "But it doesn't seem like there is a specific pipeline to anywhere."
More to come
The recruitment of South Pointe defensive ends Jadeveon Clowney and Gerald Dixon has helped many of the team's younger players get plentiful opportunities to prove their worth to college coaches.
A bevy of colleges sent coaches to South Pointe last spring. Obviously, most of them were interested in Clowney, the nation's No. 1 prospect, Dixon and kicker Landon Ard, who could also end up playing in the Football Bowl Subdivision. However, coach Bobby Carroll was quick to mention his juniors when he had the chance.
"It's done that for a lot of our kids," Carroll said. "The way Clowney got discovered — he would have been anyway — was with DeVonte Holloman and Stephon Gilmore. We had a ton of coaches come through here recruiting those guys. In 2006 when we started varsity football, we might have had a handful of Division I [coaches] come through here. Last spring, there were 91 in the month of May alone.
"It's great for our program. I think our young players play harder because they know somebody is watching."
College coaches routinely drop by South Pointe for games and practices. Sure, they get a look at Clowney and Co., but they also get to see what the Stallions have coming through the pipeline next. The team's junior class could produce as many as five FBS players.
South Pointe quarterback/defensive back Tay Hicklin, who leads the team's flexbone offense, leads the group. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder projects as a defensive back in college.
Tyrell Neely (5-8, 160), Montay Crockett (6-1, 175), Jaryan Jennings (5-9, 170) and Devin Pearson (5-9, 165) are all similar athletes in the same mold as Hicklin. They could all play corner or safety in college, lending even more credence to Rock Hill's claim to being the place where defensive backs are born and bred.