In January, linebacker Chandler Wooten nearly committed to Clemson. Now, the Tigers are nowhere to be found on his short list. But South Carolina is there.
Wooten (6-foot-2, 227 pounds), from Kennesaw, Ga., said he currently favors Auburn but also likes USC, Tennessee and Florida in his top four.
Three months ago, though, Wooten was on the fast track to becoming another highly regarded commitment for Dabo Swinney and company.
"I was close but I'm starting to push it back just a little while, but it's coming soon," Wooten said of his decision. "At first I was close to Clemson in January but I backed off that. "Right now Auburn is my leader but right now I'm interested in Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and any other school that decides it wants to recruit me hard. I'm still pretty open right now. I just decided to back off (from Clemson) and re-evaluate my options. I felt it could be a little rushed. It felt like it wasn't the right fit for me at the time. Once I backed off, prayed about it and sat down with my parents and talked about it, now I'm in a different direction at the moment."
Wooten has visited USC, Florida, Tennessee and Auburn twice, and he's going back to Tennessee and Auburn the first week in April, and he's going to try to get back to USC and Florida as well. Wooten said the Gamecocks are making a strong pitch for him.
"They love me, I'm the number one linebacker on the board as of right now," he said. "At the moment they really want me, they really need me. They like how I can play on the line and also drop back in coverage and be able to play inside and outside and play on the line as well. They like how versatile I am and like the way I play so I think they definitely could use me at South Carolina."
Wooten was on the phone Monday night with USC recruiter Coleman Hutzler. From the things he's seen and been told by the Gamecock staff, he feels success isn't far off.
"I love the direction they are headed in," he said. "Coach Muschamp and (Travaris Robinson), Coach Hutzler and Coach Thompson are going to come in and do a great job. Coach Peterson, you know he's been where I want to be. As far as coaching linebackers, he's somebody I definitely could see myself playing for. I'm really attracted to South Carolina right now."
Wooten plans to graduate early and he hopes to make a decision before his season.
"Of course everybody wants to go in and play early but at the same time it's where you fit in the best, wherever you feel the most comfortable," Wooten said. "Education plays a big part for me. I want the best staff, whoever I feel like can develop me the best. All those things play a big part in my decision."
Last season Wooten 75 tackles with two sacks and an interception.
Two of South Carolina's top quarterback targets, Jake Bentley of Opelika, Ala., and Braxton Burmeister of La Jolla, Calif., are scheduled to be at Tuesday's practice. Bentley has USC, LSU, Alabama and Miami as his favorites. Burmeister is a former Arizona commitment. He's also going to take visits to Utah, Indiana and Washington while on his spring break.
USC defensive end target MJ Webb of Madison, Ga., was offered Monday by Nebraska and Georgia Southern.
Wide receiver Or'Tre Smith of Wando told Ryan Bartow of 247Sports that USC, Georgia, North Carolina and Wake Forest have been recruiting him the hardest. Wando coach Jimmy Noonan told Bartow USC and Georgia are the top two and he plans to visit each for a spring practice soon. He's already visited both. He also plans to visit North Carolina April 9th and also plans a return visit to Wake Forest.
USC running back target Chase Hayden of Collierville, Tenn., was offered Monday by Illinois.