One member of that team was a recent recruit in his own right.
Aaron Sterling was a three-star prospect out of Atlanta-area powerhouse Tucker High School. He also played alongside Wonnum and Vann on a state finalist team in 2016.
So you can bet Sterling extended some influence to sway his former teammates.
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“Pretty good influence, because we’ve got a bond,” Sterling said. “We’re all close. We played together, been playing together since the beginning of high school.”
The trio represent a bit of a pipeline to one of Georgia’s better programs. The Tigers have four state title game trips and two championships since 2008. They’ve got multiple NFL alums, including former Georgia starting running back Thomas Brown.
And there’s something about that program, now led by Bryan Lamar, that South Carolina’s coaches identified and spoke highly of.
“They come from a high school team where the high school coach, he gets on them and those guys know how to practice,” offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon said. “They’re going to be on a team, they’re team-first guys. That has all to do with the program they come out of.”
Last season, Sterling translated his high school experience into early playing time, earning a role in USC’s defensive end rotation that grew as the season went along.
Part of that was his Tucker experience.
“It’s very professional,” Sterling said. “Coming from Tucker, all they teach is compete. Never lose your edge. Compete all the time.”
But Sterling didn’t have too much direct competition with Wonnum. Logically, they’d match up in practice, but Sterling said he worked against scout teams often and there weren’t too many one-on-ones.
He also joked that when Wonnum arrives on campus, Sterling will be obligated to root for a Tucker guy over his brother, Gamecocks star defensive end D.J. Wonnum who went to Stephenson and is a defensive teammate.
For now, Sterling is fighting to earn his 2018 spot, which could well mean top defensive end work when Keir Thomas bumps inside to tackle. Soon enough he’ll have a little more Tucker influence on USC’s roster.
“Looking forward to it,” Sterling said. “Waiting on my guys to come up here. Waiting on them.”