Rico McWilliams is one of the steals of South Carolina's 2012 signing class, analysts say.
The three-star Lovejoy High (Ga.) cornerback had a leg injury that derailed his junior season and didn't attend any schools' camps heading toward his senior season.
Teams had to offer him based on what they knew about McWilliams. South Carolina offered him in May, and he committed a month later.
"I think if he plays as a full junior year, he’s able to go out and do those camps and really market himself as a top senior," said Chad Simmons, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com. "I think he would have had many more top SEC offers like Alabama and LSU. He’s really a four-star kid potentially. If there’s anybody that South Carolina scooped up and stole, it’s him."
McWilliams (5-11, 172) played offense and defense for Lovejoy, which was 14-1 in 2011, losing in the state championship game in December at the Georgia Dome. The team was 24-2 over his last two seasons
He had 40 tackles and two interceptions his senior year. He participated in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl.
USC defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward his recruiter.
Talk about the recruiting process finally being over. For me, where I came from and for me to go to college, that's a blessing right there. That's nothing but God. I came a long way.
When you say that, what do you mean?
I'm from the state of Louisiana. Where I'm from too many kids don't really have the opportunity I have. They get caught up in other lifestyles. I've almost made it. I haven't made it yet, but I'm almost there.
Are you from Georgia or Louisiana?
If somebody asks me, I'm from Louisiana. I just live in Georgia. I take a lot of pride in Louisiana. That's where I grew up and was raised. I've been in Georgia for like six years.
Talk about your junior year and how schools treated you without attending their camps.
I hurt my leg my junior year so I didn't get to finish my season. I only played four games. I didn't do one camp. I was just working and working to get better. I was still getting offers, but not the big old schools like Alabama. They wanted me to do one camp to see how I'd do and then they'd go along with their processes. There were a whole bunch of big schools wanting me to come do a camp like Clemson and Auburn. I was just like, 'If other schools offer me, you've got to have faith in me that I'm going to come back strong.' I came back my senior year to try to prove everyone wrong that I came back even better, which I did. I came back better, faster and stronger.
How was your senior year?
We had a good season. We didn't give up a passing touchdown until the 12th game of the season. We only gave up one passing touchdown the whole 15 games. One of our DBs got hurt for a play and he came out and they scored on us with a bomb. That was the only passing touchdown we gave up my whole senior year. We had a great defense, a good front seven. We came to the championship game against a wing-T team. That's really a hard team to stop. You've got to watch a lot of film on them. We only had four days to watch film and get ready for them. Everything happens for a reason. We just came up short.
You've been to the Georgia Dome once. Ready to go back?
Yes, sir, to get back for the SEC Championship and make sure South Carolina plays in that big game.
How many interceptions this year?
Oh, man, they weren't trying me. I only had two interceptions. They probably threw like four times to my side. They caught two and I caught the other two.
Why has USC had so much success in Georgia lately?
They've got good athletes down here. A lot of people leave out of state on Georgia because I think [the University of] Georgia comes up on teams late. Most players you see from Georgia probably don't have an offer from the University of Georgia. They've got it from somewhere else or it can late, like Mike Davis. He's one of the top running backs in nation and he got an offer from Georgia like a month ago.
Talk about your relationship with Lorenzo Ward.
We've got a wonderful relationship. It's beyond him being my coach. We talk about anything. Sometimes we talk about sports. Sometimes he just wants to know how I'm doing in school. He wants to know about everything. We can talk about anything. We laugh and joke until it's time to get serious. I know it's all part of recruiting, but I understand him as a coach and he understands me as a player. I talk to him probably three times a week. He's a good recruiter.
How special will it be to play in the SEC?
It's one of the best conferences in college football. For me to get a chance to play in it, it's an honor. I'm ready to play and make things happen.
What makes you a good cornerback?
I'm physical and fast. I'm a competitor. I'll do anything to win. I won't get beat. I'm a competitor, that's all I know.
Do you think you'll have a chance to play early?
Yeah, that's all coach [Steve] Spurrier and coach Ward keep telling me, just come in with the attitude of playing. You've got to work your way up from special teams to show you're willing to do anything to get on that field. Don't come in thinking you're going to get redshirted. Come in ready to play, and I'm ready.