Defensive tackle Rick Sandidge was ready to be done with his recruitment.
He opened his announcement ceremony Wednesday, national signing day, with three hats before him: South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina. He sat down, thanked his family and those around him, said he was ready to be finished, promised he didn’t have a long story to tell.
Then he popped open a box, grabbed a Gamecocks hat and declared he was bound for Columbia.
The whole thing took just longer than 30 seconds.
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“I feel at home,” he said of the Gamecocks. “They’ve got a plan for me.”
The 6-foot-5, 288-pound lineman announced his choice for the Gamecocks at a ceremony at his school. Georgia was after him right to the end, and North Carolina was a finalist, but he chose the school that sent its whole defensive staff to his home the last weekend before signing day.
Sandidge said he was considering his choices all the way to the Monday before signing day. He said an early-morning call to Will Muschamp and his staff sealed it. His parents made sure he was the one to call coaches from the Tar Heels and Bulldogs to let them know.
His father said it meant something Muschamp personally recruited his son from the start of the process.
“South Carolina has never dropped the ball,” said Keshia Sandidge, Rick’s mother. “Coach Muschamp has recruited him personally since Day 1, and they just kept up with it. Every day he would send us a text: “Good day to be a Gamecock,’ ‘How’re you doing?’ ”
USC confirmed Sandidge as an official signee shortly after his announcement. He joins four-star offensive lineman Dylan Wonnum in signing with the Gamecocks on the second signing day.
What put the Gamecocks over the top?
“Getting to play early and having that good connection with the coaches and the players,” he said. “It was a hard decision because all three schools provided that. I was going with a gut feeling.”
He said he connected the most with USC defensive veterans D.J. Wonnum and Bryson Allen-Williams.
“An athletic big man that can run, can push the pocket,” Muschamp said, saying he enjoyed the process of recruiting the Sandidge family. “I really appreciate them being Gamecocks.”
Sandidge is rated as a four-star in the 247Sports composite ranking that factors in all networks. He’s the No. 141 player in the nation for this class and the No. 14 defensive tackle. He was also a Shrine Bowler.
He’s the ninth four-star in Muschamp’s third class at USC, though committed Dutch Fork athlete Bryce Thompson did not sign Wednesday.
As a senior, he made 83 tackles with five sacks and a pair of blocked kicks.
He will join a position group that loses two of its top three players in Taylor Stallworth and Ulric Jones. Javon Kinlaw is back, but beyond him and Kobe Smith (No. 4 tackle this season), there are no proven bodies, and there should be plenty of opportunity for early playing time.