Once South Carolina’s 2012 recruiting class began to rapidly fill in June, the commitments occurred in successive groupings.
First, Kelvin Rainey and Mason Zandi committed on back-to-back days, and soon thereafter, every USC commitment typically signaled that another was coming. One of the forgotten prospects in the class is Cairo (Ga.) defensive back T.J. Gurley, whose pledge in late July reopened the floodgates and helped the Gamecocks add three commitments in five days.
Gurley is a 5-foot-10, 185-pound safety for the Syrupmakers, who finished 12-1 last season. The all-region performer finished with 77 tackles and an interception last season.
With electronic-timed 4.5 speed, solid cover skills and the physicality of a much bigger player, he has the ability to help the Gamecocks in several different capacities. He could end up playing safety or corner in Columbia.
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Cairo coach Tom Fallaw joined GoGamecocks.com to discuss Gurley and his commitment:
Question: What are his strengths as a player?
Answer: Work ethic. That says it all. If you’ve got a strong work ethic, it kind of carries into everything else. If you drove through the city of Cairo, you could find him on any given day out in the yard doing extra drills. It’s not uncommon for me to drive by his house and see him out there doing agility drills. The kid loves football and loves to work at it.
Q: What do college coaches really like about his game?
A: He’s physical. The way we roll our coverages, our free safety is our alley player. We run an eight-man scheme with a lot of Cover 3 Robber. So, essentially he’s a guy that gets up in the box a bunch.
Q: You’ve had lots of team success in recent years. What role has T.J. played in that?
A: He’s been a starter since he was a sophomore. As a sophomore, he started at corner and last year at free safety. We’ve had two good runs to the quarterfinals both of those years. He’s led a defense that has been very stingy.
Q: What did he like about USC?
A: I think he and the guy that was recruiting him (John Butler) built a pretty good relationship. T.J. was one that wanted to go ahead and commit early when he felt good about somebody so he could concentrate on his senior year. I think South Carolina was definitely one he felt good with.
Q: What kind of expectations do you have for his senior season?
A: It’s tough to say. He had a slight meniscus repair he had to do back in July. Right now we have him shut down. He’s that important to us, and we want him in the end. So, we’re really going to bring him along slowly, even though he’s been cleared for about two weeks. We’ve still limited what he can do. In terms of expectations, he’s the quarterback of our defense. He makes sure we’re in the right coverages. On offense, he’s a guy that can come over and make plays for us (at receiver).