South Carolina landed its quarterback for the 2014 recruiting class this week when Michael Scarnecchia of Fleming Island High in Florida picked the Gamecocks.
The 6-foot-4, 192-pound Scarnecchia is a two-year starter for the Jacksonville-area school. He worked out at a camp this summer at South Carolina and was offered a scholarship personally by head coach Steve Spurrier last week.
GoGamecocks talked with Fleming Island coach Frank Hall about Scarnecchia's contributions for the Golden Eagles, his recruitment and the decision to commit to the Gamecocks.
Scarnecchia has played varsity for Fleming Island for three years, serving as the starting quarterback the last two seasons.
"As a sophomore he was a backup, probably should have been our starter," Hall said. "We had a senior quarterback that Mike came in and would spell here and there. Sometimes in big situations Mike would come in and did real well. We kind of knew back then that he had a chance to be pretty good. He took over last year as a junior as a full-time starter and has done great things for us."
Scarnecchia has been a leader on and off the field, his coach said.
"One of the things that he's done over the years is work really hard in the offseason, in the weight room, out on the field during summer workouts, just trying to fine-tune and perfect his throwing technique and his footwork," Hall said. "Especially this offseason, it's showed well for our entire offense. It's kind of sparked a flame with our offensive line. We've got a senior-laden offensive line, and they've picked up right where Michael has and worked their tails off for him."
2. BY THE NUMBERS
Scarnecchia is 14-3 as the Golden Eagles' starting quarterback. The team this season is undefeated (7-0) and ranked No. 1 in the Florida Times-Union newspaper's coverage area. Scarnecchia is near the top of those rankings in touchdown passes and touchdown-to-interception ratio.
He is 63-of-111 passing for 1,005 yards, 18 touchdowns and one interception. As a junior he was 112-of-175 for 1,517 yards, 19 scores and three interceptions.
"We're about a 50-50 run pass team," Hall said. "There's no doubt that if we committed ourselves totally to the pass game, Mike would lead the area in yardage. He's really protected the football, done great things with it."
One of Scarnecchia's greatest strengths is his decision-making, Hall said.
"This year he's thrown for 18 touchdown passes and one pick," he said. "He protects the ball. We give Mike the opportunity to check us in and out of plays. He has the ability to get us out of a bad play and into a good one."
3. SKILL SET
For starters, he's tall. At 6-foot-4, he's taller than all of South Carolina's scholarship quarterbacks (Connor Mitch and Dylan Thompson are 6-foot-3).
"Mike's just got that really good tall gene to be 6-4 and extremely athletic," his coach said.
Considered a pro-style quarterback, Scarnecchia is regarded for his arm strength.
"He's got a cannon for an arm," Hall said. "He's working on his pocket presence. When Mike squares his shoulders, he's as accurate and as good a passer as I've seen in a long time."
His coach has seen the most improvement in his accuracy over the last three seasons.
"He's extremely accurate on the deep ball," Hall said. "A few years ago Mike would just kind throw it up. He's kind of perfected that. We've done a lot of work in the offseason with timing. He's got three senior receivers that have been with him for a few years. The chemistry that they've had, they've built of his work ethic and he's build off their work ethic. It has been really good for our football team."
Scarnecchia was originally committed to UAB and was drawing interest from Syracuse, Indiana, Iowa and some Ivy League schools. He's a three-star prospect, according to 247Sports' composite ranking, which factors in all networks.
"I think he's been on everybody's radar since midway through last year," Hall said. "I think what hurt him in the beginning is that he wasn't that three-year starter like a lot of the bigger-time quarterbacks have been. Mike threw 19 touchdowns last year with three picks. It was surprising that nobody early had jumped on him."
His coaches advised him to stay patient with the process and that recruiting would pick up.
"Quarterback recruitment, of course, is a little different than everything else," Hall said. "Schools are going to take one or two guys, and usually it's one guy. The schools that Mike for himself was targeting, a lot of them had already taken that one quarterback. What we got back from a lot of the schools was, 'If this guy decommits or we take a second quarterback, we're going to take Mike.' "
After a strong spring, Scarnecchia hit the camp circuit with his parents, which is where Hall said interest in the quarterback took off.
"Once he threw live for these coaches, they kind of said, 'Wow, this kid is a 6-4, 195-pound kid who can sling it.' He jumped on everybody's radar," Hall said. "Mike's been to Syracuse, Iowa, Indiana, of course to South Carolina. I think with what he's done early in the season for us, now he's on everybody's radar."
Scarnecchia made his way into South Carolina's picture this summer during a camp.
"Physically he looks the part and of course he plays the part," Hall said. "At the camp is where he opened up Coach Spurrier's eyes. The guy has got a rifle. The ball flies out of his hands. You can just tell the sense of competitiveness that he's got in him. Out on the field when he was doing drill work with them, that really caught their eye."
Hall said he got a call from Steve Spurrier Jr., who regularly recruits the Jacksonville area for the Gamecocks and said he was coming down to Florida to meet Scarnecchia and recruit him heavier.
Scarnecchia then visited Columbia again for the Kentucky game, and an offer came the week after USC's game at Arkansas.
"I knew he was excited about the campus and excited about the academics and very excited about playing for Coach Spurrier, being a quarterback and with Coach Spurrier being one of the all-time gurus at the quarterback coach position," Hall said. "I could sense the excitement when he got back. I think he did the right thing. He sat down with his family. They talked about it for about a week. When he told me he was changing his commitment, I kind of had a feeling."
Scarnecchia officially committed to the Gamecocks on Sunday night, and Hall believes the quarterback will be a perfect fit for South Carolina and the SEC.
"He's your typical quarterback that has a cannon, and he's a smart kid," Hall said. "He's going to work hard at his craft, very coachable. They saw the body of work that he put in during the season and what he's done. It proves not only can he go to a camp and perform, he can perform on a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon."