College gives teenagers the opportunity to strike out on their own. The separation from family and friends forces them to adapt and overcome.
Yet, high school football teammates frequently choose the comfort of going off to college together. Who could blame them considering the enormity of the transition from prep to college football? Many of them just want a familiar face to help push them through the adversity.
That was the allure for McEachern (Ga.) teammates Marcquis Roberts and Rory Anderson, according to Indians coach Kyle Hockman. The duo committed to South Carolina last week and could become the third set of prep teammates to sign with USC in the last three years.
“I think it will be a good situation,” Hockman said. “They’re good buddies. I think they both compete really hard and will be able to feed off each other.
“Sometimes you are concerned with wanting kids to go strike out on their own and become their own man, but they still will. They’re individuals enough that they’ll still be able to down their own thing.”
Roberts and Anderson played key roles for an Atlanta-area program that won 21 games over the past two seasons and churns out FBS players on an annual basis. They are also contributors on the school’s basketball team, which advanced to the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals last season.
Of the two, Roberts, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound outside linebacker, is probably the most-game ready, though he still needs to develop and will likely redshirt. USC has discussed utilizing him in its hybrid outside linebacker-safety role on defense.
“He’d be covering slot receivers and blitzing off the edge,” Hockman said. “He’s a really intense player who loves to compete. He has a great desire and will. He just wills himself to make plays. I think he’ll compete at a really high level. Obviously he’ll have to learn to compete against SEC players, but he’s got a lot of desire to do that.
“He’s a pretty instinctive, natural and smart player. I think he’ll fit in with what they do defensively.”
McEachern used Roberts in a multitude of roles. He mostly played outside linebacker, though he would also line up at strong safety or inside linebacker, where his speed allowed him to be an A-gap blitzer. Hockman believes he’s equally good at defending the pass as he is the run.
Anderson, a 6-5, 215-pounder, will certainly need to put some weight before he could develop into a traditional tight end. He was used in a variety of ways at McEachern, catching 38 passes for six touchdowns in 2010.
He’s a smooth, gifted pass catcher with good speed. The Gamecocks could use him as an H-back or slot receiver until he develops the all-around skills of an SEC tight end.
“They’re going to split him out and they’re going to put him in the slot where they can motion him,” Hockman said. “They may also put him down some in a true tight end set. He did a lot of those things for us. He probably had his hand 60 percent of the time, but the other 40 percent he was motioning or split out.
“He creates some mismatches. If you put a DB on him, he’s just too big. If you put a linebacker on him, he can just run and get over the top of them. But he’s also an effective and dominant blocker for a lean guy. He dominated the line of scrimmage at our level.”
Roberts and Anderson are both consensus three-star prospects. ESPN recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg thinks USC is getting a solid tandem.
“They are good players,” he said. “ Rory is a little bit undersized at tight end right now, but he’s got good receiving skills. He could really grow into that frame and be exactly what [Steve] Spurrier looks for in those types of players.
“Roberts is another undersized guy that runs well. He should fit into their scheme. Obviously in the SEC defensively it’s all about speed. You want to be fast at every position. I think he’s a guy that at 6-1, 210 could do well there.”