New Jersey has become a valuable recruiting source for USC in recent years. After landing a trio of prospects from New Jersey a year ago, the Gamecocks hope that Elijah Shumate will be the next to come out of the Garden State pipeline.
Shumate, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound safety from Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) has emerged as one of the top defensive back recruits in the country, attracting 20-plus scholarship offers so far.
"It's been a great process," said Shumate. "It hasn't been overwhelming. I'm just enjoying it, learning a lot about the schools, meeting a lot of new people, a lot of new coaches and learning about the programs and their traditions. It's a good process and I'm looking forward to going out and visiting the schools, seeing the campuses."
Among the schools Shumate is looking to visit this summer, South Carolina is near the top of his list. Thus far he has visited Connecticut, Colorado and Rutgers. In addition to South Carolina, he has North Carolina, Virginia, Notre Dame, Georgia and Michigan on his travel itinerary.
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Shumate said he doesn't intend on making his decision until after the season during the Army All-American Game, as he wants to see how these schools perform this upcoming season. While a final decision looks far from imminent, two schools have separated themselves from the pack -- the Gamecocks and his in-state school of Rutgers.
"Rutgers and South Carolina are my number 1s right now," said Shumate about his current top five. "(Followed by) Notre Dame, Michigan and Georgia."
One possible advantage in the Gamecocks' favor is incoming recruit Sheldon Royster (St. Peter's Prep in Jersey City). The two have been close friends since they were 11, and Shumate knows he can rely on Royster as a guide about the school.
"It's really good I have a person who can tell me the inside scoop on the school and be honest with me," Shumate said. "We have a real close relationship. I know he wouldn't lie to me or sugarcoat anything about it, just tell me why he chose it, what he liked about the school, why he felt comfortable there and what he thinks of the coaching, everything. That really does play a part in how I'll treat the decision."
Royster is hardly the only source of support Shumate can go to during this process. Shumate, who is currently ranked as the No. 112 prospect in the country by Rivals.com is one of four members of the Don Bosco Prep team on the current Rivals 250 for the Class of 2012.
"It helps a lot," Shumate said. "We talk a lot, let each other know how we're feeling about schools. We try to get out to a lot of schools together. We tell each other our input on a lot of things. Having a 5-star recruit and other all-americans on your team is special.
"Don Bosco is pretty much like a college program. It prepares you really well because when you get to college. It will help prepare me to play with great players at the next level."
Exclusively a safety for Don Bosco Prep, Shumate could become the primary ball carrier for the Ironmen after the graduation of Paul Canevari (Rutgers). Shumate has been a running back for a lot of his career, but he knows his football future lies at safety.
Regardless of where he ends up, Shumate believes he has the talent and work ethic to make an impact.
"They're going to get a hard working kid. I'm going to get in there and give 110 percent everyday. I'm going to be busting my butt in the weight room. I'm going to push everyone else. I'm a hard hitter, sure tackler, I'm always around the ball. I'm an aggressive player on that side of the ball who's going to make plays."