Shameik Blackshear is lifting 235 pounds in the power clean when line coach David Poinsett walks in.
“Defensive backs at South Carolina lift that!” he yells mockingly from across the room, drawing laughter from Blackshear’s Bluffton High School football teammates.
The defensive end simply looks back and smiles.
“Dont worry,” he says. “I’m just warming up.”
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Blackshear, a 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end who is a rising junior, steps off and takes a short breath. He calls over a teammate, whom he enlists to help add more weights to the bar. Blackshear steps back up, his teammates looking on. He gets to work.
“Manhandle it!” coach Ken Cribb screams. “Push it!”
This was a rare scene in the Bluffton High weight room. Blackshear normally finds himself here without much of an audience — he has a block set out during the school day that allows him to use the room without many others present — but on this day, he didn’t seem to mind.
“It makes me feel good,” he said, the sweat from this latest workout still pouring from his brow. “It shows me they want me to work harder for my team, myself and my future.”
That future will be at South Carolina. Blackshear on Tuesday announced his commitment to USC, becoming the Gamecocks’ second member of the Class of 2015.
He also had offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Clemson, among others. He has been called by some the next great in-state defensive end in what has become a long line.
On Wednesday Blackshear was awarded five stars by 247Sports and ranked No. 14 nationally in the initial Top247 for 2015.
“I really feel like he’s going to be the next big thing in South Carolina,” says recruiting analyst Jim Baxter.
Baxter said Blackshear will need to excel in the weight room in order to maximize his potential and live up to those who are already comparing him to current Gamecock All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Clowney was a “scary” 235 pounds at the prep level, Baxter said, and Blackshear isn’t there yet.
“He’s a young man that has the frame and the skill to become one of the best players at his position in the country,” he said. “But you’ve got to have the entire package. Part of that is strength.”
Blackshear met Clowney on an unofficial visit to South Carolina’s football game against Missouri this past season.
The two exchanged pleasantries, talkingd of Clowney’s latest game and the college standout’s car.
Comparisons between the two defensive ends are anything but short.
Entering his junior year, Blackshear’s 6-foot-4, 235-pound frame is the same as Clowney’s at that age. Clowney ran a 4.4 40-yard dash, while Blackshear was last clocked at 4.6 last summer.
Clowney could bench 300 pounds his senior year, former coach Bobby Carroll said, and power cleaned 335. Blackshear has goals of benching 360 as a junior, squating 500 and pushing 325 in the power clean by next season.
“The biggest similarity you’re going to see from Clowney in high school and Blackshear in high school is their physical presence,” Baxter said. “They’re both very gifted in that area. Blackshear is a lot like Clowney in that, at the same point after their sophomore year, they were both light for their position.”
Blackshear, who will don the same No. 7 as Clowney next season for Bluffton, has heard the comparisons. New USC defensive line coach Deke Adams was the latest to broach the subject at the school’s junior day earlier this year as the two talked over lunch.
“He said, ‘After (Clowney’s) gone, it’s you,’ “ Blackshear recalled. “He said they need me there because I’m a person that’s just like him. We play the same and all that. He said they need me to come fill his shoes when he leaves.”
Few will ever compare to Clowney. Baxter and Carroll called Clowney the best they’ve seen in over three decades. But that isn’t slowing Blackshear down from emulating his idol.
“It’s a coincidence, because I always wanted to be the kind of player he was,” Blackshear said. “I always wanted to be like him and do what he does on the field. For me to be the same size as him at the same time, the same age in the same year, that means I can maybe be as great as he is.”
But potential is just that to coach Cribb. He wants his pupil to start showing legitimate progress.
“He was born with the size, but you have to enhance it,” Cribb said. “That’s what he’s doing. He understands that. You can’t just rely on your talent. There’s a lot of that out there.”
The average high school athlete makes the most progress from their sophomore to junior year, Cribb and Carroll agree. That then raises the bar for Blackshear, who is looking to improve on a sophomore season that saw him record 97 tackles, 17 for loss, five sacks, 19 quarterback hurries and a game-winning blocked field goal against Fort Dorchester.
He said he wants to push his totals to 140 tackles, 15 sacks and 20 to 25 tackles for loss in 2013.
“If that young man wants to rock and roll, he needs to really have a great junior year,” Carroll said. “He’s in the rankings and all that stuff but you have to make the plays consistently against caliber-type players.”
Blackshear understands what lies ahead. The rising junior, who will turn 16 this summer, now has expectations to meet.