When LeBron James announced his intent to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers on national television last summer, his talents weren’t the only thing that headed south.
Twenty-four percent of the general population thought of the NBA superstar positively 13 months ago, one of the highest scores of all time. But after ESPN televised “The Decision” last July, his approval rating plummeted to just 14 percent nationwide.
Many have said their opinions changed not because James left Cleveland but because of the manner in which he did it. That begs one question: Will Jadeveon Clowney’s decision-making plans have a similar impact on his public image?
The South Pointe defensive end has become the target of message board critics who believe the decision to delay his college selection beyond National Signing Day is a stunt to cash in even more on his already-growing celebrity. He will choose between South Carolina, Clemson and Alabama at 10:15 a.m. Monday, his 18th birthday.
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Clowney has stated multiple times that he simply needed more time to make a choice since he hasn’t had many chances over the last two months to focus solely on his future. But does the public believe him? Will his Q-rating take a hit?
“The waiting turns a lot of people off because they think he’s doing it for attention,” Rivals recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. “Knowing the little I do about him, I know he doesn’t like the attention. I know he’s a guy that avoids the media at all costs and doesn’t like talking to people. I don’t think it’s an attention grab.”
Farrell believes the circumstances surrounding Clowney’s decision to wait – he didn’t take a visit last weekend and it doesn’t appear that he will this weekend either – might make it appear more self-serving, but he doesn’t think Clowney’s image will take a hit anymore than it already would have.
Remember, USC, Clemson or Alabama fans are likely going to turn on him anyway if he ends up signing with another school. If he picks the Gamecocks or Tigers, he’ll immediately become public enemy No. 1 for a large portion of the state’s population.
Scout recruiting analyst Miller Safrit agrees with Farrell’s assessment.
“Just as long as there isn’t an hour-long show it will be alright,” Safrit said, referring to James’ announcement. “I believe there is more push for the No. 1 player to wait. This is now the fourth year in a row, I think, that the No. 1 player has waiting until after National Signing Day to announce. The thing that people have to realize is that National Signing Day is just the first day of the signing period.”
Rivals.com was so impressed with South Carolina’s recruiting efforts in the state of New Jersey that it named USC assistant coach G.A. Mangus one of the nation’s top-25 recruiters in the Class of 2011.
Mangus was responsible for helping the Gamecocks land two four-star, Garden State prospects, receiver Damiere Byrd and safety Sheldon Royster, and intriguing three-star quarterback Tanner McEvoy, who could become a dynamic receiver/tight end if he doesn’t pan out under center.
How amazing was this haul? USC hadn’t signed a single player from New Jersey since 2003 (Cory Boyd). But Farrell believes USC could start making significant recruiting waves in the state.
“Once you get a couple you can do that,” he said. “You have to establish a recruiting base. You have to get one to get two to get three. I think that’s something they can do if they want to. It will be an area they’ll spot recruit. You can’t focus a ton of time on that area, especially now that more schools will focus on that area.
“Once you get one or two – or in this case, three – you can certainly go back there. Kids talk to kids. All of those [USC signees] have teammates who are Division I prospects next year.”
USC has already offered Byrd’s former teammate at Timber Creek, linebacker Quanzell Lambert. The high schools of Royster (St. Peter’s Prep) and McEvoy (Bergen Catholic) produce loads of prospects on a yearly basis.
Farrell believes New Jersey, which churns out a slightly smaller amount of FBS prospects each year than South Carolina, could become an ever bigger battleground with new coaches at Miami (Al Golden) and UConn (Paul Pasqualoni). Both of them have ties to the state. Rutgers and Penn State are also two schools that recruit heavily in the region.