The last time South Carolina signed a talented two-way player from the state of New Jersey, Cory Boyd went on to have a successful career in Columbia.
The former USC tailback accounted for more than 3,000 total yards as a running back from 2003 to 2007. Hoping to duplicate that kind of production with a similar player, the Gamecocks are again zeroing into on a prospect in the New York City suburbs.
St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.) standout Sheldon Royster is similar to Boyd in many ways. Both had stellar prep careers, doubling as both safeties and tailbacks. Both Boyd (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) and Royster (6-foot, 195) had similar frames as prep seniors.
However, there is one big difference between the two. Many projected Boyd would become a college safety before he went on to a successful offensive college career. Most believe that Royster will play in a college secondary.
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That could happen for the Gamecocks. The Jersey City, N.J., native has narrowed his choices to USC, Rutgers and North Carolina. After visiting UNC this weekend, he is planning to announce a decision Monday.
Rutgers and USC are believed to be his leaders. His decision could be impacted by the choices of St. Peter’s teammates Keith Lumpkin, an offensive tackle who has committed to Rutgers, and Savon Huggins, one of the nation’s top tailbacks who is considered a Scarlet Knights lean.
If Royster does end up with USC, the Gamecocks would be gaining the services of a versatile athlete capable of playing either safety position. He was riddled with injuries in 2010, but he still had more than 20 tackles and two interceptions as a senior.
In 2009, Royster finished with 64 tackles, three interceptions, 393 rushing yards, 252 receiving yards and 221 kick return yards, including a 95-yard score.
“I think the world of Sheldon Royster,” Madison Square Garden network reporter Mike Quick told The Jersey Journal after naming Royster to the inaugural MSG Varsity All-Metro Team last month. “If he keeps it up, he’s an NFL football player.”
St. Peter’s coach Rich Hansen speaks highly of his standout senior as well.
“He can do a multitude of things on the field,” he said. “He does so many different things well. He catches the ball, he returns kicks and was a running back and safety by trade. He’s probably one of the best athletes we’ve had.
“He’s got great speed, a good football IQ, he plays centerfield at free safety and if you stick him in the box he will stick his face in there and make some great hits. I don’t think anybody recruiting him can make a mistake because he can fit into so many different spots.”
Royster played both safety positions in Hansen’s 3-4 defense.
Hansen wavered when asked how he would use Royster at the collegiate level. On one hand, the coach believes Royster could be lethal offensively at slot receiver, where he could be an over-the-middle target and take the occasional handoff. On the other, he believes Royster could be a dynamic safety.
“I think he’s very serious about what gets done at South Carolina,” Hansen said. “He’s excited about it. He thinks he fits to some degree. [His] style of athleticism is certainly something that I’ve seen on film from South Carolina, so I think that’s a good fit as well.”
If USC lands Royster, he would become at least the fifth defensive back in this class. Two other players, Jordan Montgomery and Edward Muldrow, could open their careers as hybrid safeties/outside linebackers.