It’s been almost four years and South Carolina offensive line coach Shawn Elliott is still reaping the benefits from a monumental victory in the 2007 season opener.
At the time Elliott was the offensive line coach and motivational sparkplug at Appalachian State, which shocked fifth-ranked Michigan in what may be the biggest upset in college football history. The legacy of Elliott’s role in that win followed him to Columbia and it continues to give him an advantage in recruiting today.
USC offensive line target Alex Kozan, of Castle Rock, Colo., didn’t know much about the Gamecocks when first wading into the recruiting process. However, he said that Elliott’s pedigree at Appalachian State, including that win at Michigan Stadium, gave the coach instant credibility.
“He’s a cool guy and a lot younger than most coaches,” said Kozan, rated the nation’s 226th-best player and 28th-best offensive tackle prospect by Rivals. “He came from Appalachian State, and he’s been all over. But he came from South Carolina and told me South Carolina is where he wants to be. He’s not looking to take another job.”
Kozan’s relationship with Elliott has helped cement his interest in the Gamecocks. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder had 21 scholarship offers before trimming the list to 14 several weeks ago. A second round of cuts will ensue in early August, eliminating another seven schools, before he makes a final decision sometime in October. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Gamecocks make his list of finalists.
Kozan actually spurred their interest. After watching USC in the SEC Championship last December, he mailed the coaching staff highlights from his junior campaign. It didn’t take Elliott long to extend an offer.
Even though it’s rare for non-quarterback prospects to choose a school that’s so far away, Kozan has maintained interest in USC throughout the process. That’s because the school and football program offer many of the characteristics that he’s looking for.
Kozan is looking for: A school with a business major, a football program where he can be competitive individually and as a team, a coaching staff that has a great on- and off-field relationship with its players, a great strength and conditioning program that will allow him to maximize his potential and a place where faith in God is “encouraged and not discouraged.”
Kozan plays left tackle for Valor Christian, a school that is just three years old but has won consecutive state championships. However, he believes that he may have to move inside to guard or center at the college level.
“That’s what most schools have told me,” he said. “Some schools have told me that I could play tackle. Really I see myself as a versatile guy who can really play any position along the line.
“To describe me, I combine physicality with intelligence. I’m a smart guy. I know all my assignments. I know where the play is going to go. I understand what the people around me are doing. And I use great technique. With that intelligence, I bring physicality. I always want to put a guy on his back by finishing the play and finishing the block.”