Geography is always the biggest factor in recruiting.
It was the reason behind South Carolina losing one of its Class of 2011 commitments Monday. First Coast (Fla.) safety Jared Henry decommitted from USC and announced a pledge to Central Florida.
He had been committed to the Gamecocks since last summer but the distance from Jacksonville, Fla., to Columbia seemed to get a little farther with each passing day. He visited UCF earlier this month.
“He loved everything about South Carolina, but eventually he just wanted to stay a little closer to home,” said Juan Henry, Jared’s father.
Henry’s decision had nothing to do with the commitments of several other safeties – Brison Williams, Kadetrix Marcus and Sheldon Royster have played mostly safety in their careers – in USC’s class, his father said.
Henry was excited about the chance to play again with former First Coast linebacker Shaq Wilson and former Jackson (Fla.) safety Corey Addison, who played two seasons of prep football with Henry. Wilson and Addison are both on the roster at USC.
“He just felt more comfortable in the setting down at UCF,” Juan Henry said. “It’s nothing more and nothing less than that. He was torn the whole time. The last three weeks have been tough for him. He really did want to be a Gamecock, but in the end he just felt more comfortable. He kind of thought about his grandparents and all of us having to travel the extra two and half hours.”
The news isn’t really bad for the Gamecocks, whose recruiting success is causing their class to balloon.
Henry’s decommitment leaves 30 players in this class – four have already enrolled – but the Gamecocks can only sign 28 between Feb. 2 and May 1, and only 25 of them can eventually go on scholarship next August.
USC may lose a player or two to academic ineligibility and may ask some others to greyshirt. Still, the math could get more difficult in the next week with several other uncommitted players, including consensus top recruit Jadeveon Clowney, believed to be leaning toward the Gamecocks.