CLARKSTON, Ga. | Lithonia (Ga.) football standout Joe Harris is coming home to Carolina.
Harris committed to South Carolina Wednesday, becoming the 17th overall member of the Gamecocks’ 2012 recruiting class. He chose USC over Alabama and Clemson and is the seventh Georgian in the rising senior class to choose the Gamecocks.
Despite leaving the confines of the Peach State, Harris believes he is truly headed home. Though he grew fond of Georgia, it became his adoptive state after he moved from Spartanburg, his birth city, at age 4.
“It’s a good environment,” Harris said. “Me being from there, it means a lot for me to have my own state [school to give me the chance] to come back home. I would love to come back home and play for my home state.
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“It was a tough choice. It really was with a lot of schools in South Carolina recruiting me as hard as they did; Clemson being one of them. I don’t have anything against Clemson. Clemson is a wonderful school. That’s my childhood dream college, but South Carolina had a little bit more to offer.”
Harris pointed to USC’s recent success, the amount of youth on the roster and the presence of former Lithonia teammate Cedrick Cooper, a 2011 USC signee, as key reasons behind his decision. Lithonia coach Marcus Jelks said he ultimately knew where Harris would land about a month ago.
“I already knew,” Jelks said. “I was just trying to hold the water for him and let him make his decision. He knew that felt like home to him and it was where he wanted to be.
“He saw how much Cedrick was enjoying it over the summer with the workouts and everything. He wanted to be back up there playing with Cedrick. He’s also from South Carolina. That helped, too.”
Rivals rates Harris as the 16th-best player in Georgia, and Scout ranks him 12th overall among the nation’s offensive guard prospects. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder has enough athleticism to be a contributor on Lithonia’s basketball and wrestling teams.
“I think I’ll make a good guard,” Harris said. “ I was 340 but with me dropping weight and getting down to 285, it makes a big difference. I can move better. I can think a lot faster. So, with me being a guard, I think I’ll make a big improvement to the team.”
“A powerful, quick, developing player,” the coach said of Harris. “He learns very fast. He’ll probably be ready to play as soon as he gets there. Real strong, real good, athletic feet and he’s a natural leader.”
Harris had considered Mississippi State, Georgia and Clemson before cutting his finalists to USC and Alabama.
USC has won several notable recruiting battles against the Crimson Tide in recent years, inking Stephon Gilmore in 2009 and Jadeveon Clowney in 2011 and also earning a commitment from Lexington’s Shaq Roland in 2012. All of them had Alabama as a finalist.
But the commitment of Harris may be even more significant considering that he’s an out-of-state player. Nick Saban and Co. have been tough to beat for prospects in the state of Georgia that weren’t already headed to Athens to play for Mark Richt.
Joe Harris interview
Joe Harris commits
Lithonia (Ga.) offensive guard Joe Harris committed to South Carolina Wednesday.
Jelks on Harris
Lithonia (Ga.) football coach Marcus Jelks discusses the commitment of Lithonia OL Joe Harris to USC.