If Lorenzo Mauldin realizes his vast potential, his story could become a popular one among media members and fans alike.
The Jackson (Ga.) defensive end committed to South Carolina in July just as his recruitment began to pick up. However, his coach said he found a fit and felt like he wanted to be part of the Gamecocks family.
Family is important to Mauldin, Jackson coach Eric Williams said. That’s mainly because he hasn’t had one for many years. Mauldin is a ward of the state, has bounced around the foster care system for eight years and currently lives in a group home.
“That’s against all olds right there,” said Williams, pointing the number of youth in the Atlanta metro area that fail successfully emerge from similar situations.
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“I think he’s going to fit in really well over there. When he committed there this summer, I felt it was a great place for him. There will be a great support group around him, and they’ll provide him with everything he needs.”
Williams believes that Mauldin has the focus and drive necessary to overcome the odds. The 6-foot-4, 235-pounder certainly has the size and athleticism to become a contributor for Ellis Johnson’s defense.
He filled a multitude of roles for Jackson this season, starting at defensive end and punter. Late in the season, he also took snaps at middle and outside linebacker as Williams tried to free him of consistent double and triple teams.
However, there doesn’t seem to be any doubt about the position he’ll play in Columbia.
“I think he likes putting his hand in the dirt a little more than everything else,” said Williams, who believes the Gamecocks are also eyeing him as a potential defensive end.
“I think once acclimated to the college game, he’s going to a really good player for coach [Steve] Spurrier and those guys.”
The full acclimation may take several years. Mauldin is a raw prospect who hasn’t played much football. Though he played recreation ball as a youth, he was away from the sport for several years until picking it up again as a sophomore.
Mauldin chose the Gamecocks over offers from Kentucky, Troy, Mississippi, Southern Mississippi and Marshall. Other schools were interested in his services but wanted to see how he performed during his senior season. He ranked second on the team with 70 tackles and recorded eight sacks this season.
Though he posted standout numbers on a team that struggled, Williams said Mauldin remains firmly committed to the Gamecocks. He believes that once his standout senior, who has been invited to participate in the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association, adds bulk, he could eventually remind USC fans of a player currently on the roster.
“He kind of reminds me, once he adds weight, of the guy they have playing defensive end right now, [Cliff] Matthews,” Williams said.
“His strength is his power. Even at 6-4, 235, he’s a strong kid. One person can’t block him. When teams would start game planning, especially in passing situations, they would leave a back in or a tight end in to make sure they had at least two people to block him. A lot of times they would run away from him. This year he had to run a lot of plays down from the backside, which he is very good at as well.”