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On the evening of Jan. 4, Na’Ty Rodgers was prepared to pick Maryland as his college football home.
The highly recruited offensive lineman from Pomfret, Md., had long had South Carolina on his mind, but he was playing that night in the Under Armour All-American Game, one of the top high school football showcase games in the country. The pull of his hometown Terrapins, whose most prominent booster is Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, was strong.
“He was set to choose them on TV,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. “You have to fight back from that. (The Gamecocks) were the leaders for a long time, and now all of a sudden he’s about to pick Maryland. You have to stay true and fight through it. You have to be able to roll with the punches. There are a lot of ups and downs in recruiting.”
The job of fighting through it fell to South Carolina quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus, one of the Gamecocks' top recruiting assistant coaches, whose territory includes much of the area between Maryland and New Jersey.
Rodgers did not commit to the Terrapins that night and has since pledged to South Carolina. He is set to sign a letter-of-intent on Wednesday, National Signing Day, as part of South Carolina’s 20-man class. The group is ranked No. 20 in the country by 247Sports’ composite system, which averages the opinions of the major recruiting services.
Handling situations such as Rodgers’ recruitment is one reason Mangus is one of South Carolina’s most effective recruiters. Mangus, offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward and incoming defensive line coach Deke Adams are the top recruiters on the Gamecocks’ staff, Farrell said.
They all work in concert with USC recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr.
Elliott was the lead recruiter for six players in this class, and Mangus was the lead recruiter on five, including four of the most heavily recruited — Rodgers, quarterback Connor Mitch (along with special teams coordinator Joe Robinson), defensive lineman Kelsey Griffin and running back David Williams.
Spurrier Jr. was the lead recruiter on three commitments and Robinson had a hand in three.
Everette Sands and former defensive line coach Brad Lawing were involved with two each.
Ward was the lead recruiter on two prospects this year but has a long history of success at South Carolina, particularly in the Atlanta area.
While those numbers are easy to calculate, what’s harder to quantify is what makes a good recruiter.
“You have to relate to them on their level,” Farrell said. “You have to be able to talk about stuff that isn’t in your world, PlayStation, Xbox, hip-hop music. It’s not your world, but you have to understand it.”
There’s no playbook, Elliott said.
“No one has ever taught me the ways of recruiting. I think you can either recruit or you can’t,” he said. “Having an understanding of what (the players) are going through has a lot to do with it, but then also just having a really good personality and being able to kind of open up and shoot the breeze with a prospect and talk about things other than football.”
This week will be the culmination of the South Carolina coaching staff’s work on the recruiting trail, but the process never ends, Elliott said.
“I think recruiting is an every-day process. Every single day someone is watching you, how you’re acting, how you’re coaching,” he said.
“Recruiting is going on whether we know it or not every minute of the day. Some coach is seeing you, some high school prospect is out there watching you, how you treat others. You have to really be careful. You have to do the right things and, for the most part, I think we all do.”
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