South Carolina's use of defensive backs may be giving the Gamecocks an advantage in recruiting.
Though many teams are playing a large percentage of downs in nickel packages to help combat spread offenses, USC almost always has five defensive backs on the field at once.
When coaches are recruiting, one of their biggest pitches is playing time. That might often be lip service, but when USC’s defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, who oversees the team’s secondary, discusses playing time with defensive back targets, he has an extra starting position to use as bait.
That is what helped land Stephenson (Ga.) safety Kadetrix Marcus.
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“It’s a lot of defensive backs on the field,” Marcus said last week during practices for the NUC All-World Gridiron Classic in Charleston. “They like to blitz the defensive backs, cover man and things like that, so it’s a very diverse defense. You get to pretty much roam and things like that, so it’s a great fit.”
Stephenson, a Georgia power located in the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain, produces a bevy of college talent every year. The Class of 2011 is no different, with nine players currently committed to FBS schools.
Marcus, who stands 6-foot-1, 185-pounds, played in arguably one of the best secondaries in the nation. Fellow defensive backs Jared Boyd (Duke) and David Stephenson (UConn), who also earned invites to the all-star game, are also bound for FBS programs.
With that kind of talent in the fold, Stephenson was able to build a scheme that allowed its secondary players to fill versatile roles. Marcus learned how to play man and zone coverage, was allowed to play to centerfield as a deep safety and also blitzed the quarterback at times.
It was those skills, he said, that drew the interest of South Carolina, which has similar versatility among its defensive backs. Marcus could end up playing either of the safety positions and potentially even the “Spur” position – he doesn’t shy away from contact as an extra defender in the box – if he adds size and strength.
“South Carolina was the greatest fit for me,” Marcus said. “Pretty much I fit in the scheme. .... I can play most positions.
“I can move around. I’m a very diverse player and I [know] the speed of the game. So, at South Carolina that will be very good, because a lot of their DBs play different positions.”
Marcus believes his physicality, ability to play man coverage and football IQ are his biggest strengths.
He showed early in the week during all-star practices that he has the quickness to read and react on plays in the passing game. He was able to transition from his back peddle and become a downhill defender with ease, a trait that should help him contribute in Columbia.
Marcus chose the Gamecocks over a bevy of FBS offers, including Auburn, Ole Miss, Virginia, Maryland, N.C. State, Purdue, Stanford and Vanderbilt.
He grew up a Clemson fan, but an offer from the Tigers did not materialize until after many of the other schools had already started their recruiting efforts, putting Dabo Swinney and Co. at a disadvantage.
A good student in the classroom as well, Marcus is planning to major in business at USC, a factor that he said played a significant role in his decision.