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Where are they now? Catching up with USC’s highest-rated recruiting class ever

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The 2007 recruiting class was South Carolina’s highest-rated ever

Looking back at South Carolina’s 2007 signing class, rated as high as No. 4 in the country.

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In 2007, then-South Carolina head football coach Steve Spurrier signed the No. 4 ranked recruiting class in the country. The Gamecocks have not had a recruiting class ranked nearly that high nationally since, so The State tried to track down all 31 members of that class to see what they are up to now.

“We talked about (the ranking) all the time. We still do to this day,” said running back Brian Maddox, a member of that class. “If you look back, 2010, with that being when some of us went out — I know some were redshirted — but we beat No. 1 Alabama. That was one of the things we talked about as freshmen going into our first year. ‘We want to knock some highly ranked teams out.’ And we ended up doing it my senior year by beating Alabama. Shoot, I think we’re still the last team from the SEC East — and that’s been going on 10 years now.”

Antonio Allen — The three-star defensive back from Ocala, Florida, played in 38 career games and had 198 tackles, four interceptions and 3.5 sacks in his career. He was drafted in the seventh round of 2012 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, and he went on to play five seasons in the NFL, finishing with 115 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception. He still lives in New York and is “trying to make my next dream come true. I’d rather not say what it is right now because I haven’t got there yet.”

Olufemi “Ladi” Ajiboye — The four-star lineman out of Atlanta started 47 games in Columbia. He made 145 tackles and 7 ½ sacks in his career. He went to the NFL combine and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Seattle Seahawks. He now lives in Atlanta.

Akeem Auguste — A four-star defensive back from Hollywood, Florida, Auguste spent a year at Fork Union Military Academy, where he became the 14th-best prep school prospect in the country, according to Rivals. He totaled 136 tackles and an interception over a USC career hampered by injuries. He signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2013, but was released prior to the start of the season. He earned a Super Bowl ring while a practice squad member of the Seattle Seahawks in 2013-14. He’s now an independent entrepreneur.

Eric Baker — From Jacksonville, Florida, he was the No. 41 running back in the nation, according to Rivals, Baker had 46 carries as a redshirt freshman — and totaled seven attempts his final two seasons in garnet and black. Injuries played a role in Baker ending his USC career with a year of eligibility remaining.

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South Carolina wide receiver Jason Barnes as a freshman in 2007 Brett Flashnick
Jason Barnes

Mark Barnes — A four-star athlete from Richland Northeast High in Columbia. Scored a touchdown on his first career catch. Transferred to Florida A&M after his sophomore season. He now lives in Denver, works for Amazon and is trying to get into coaching.

Michael Bowman — A three-star wide receiver from Wadesboro, North Carolina, Bowman was cleared by the NCAA but denied admission by USC, angering Spurrier. Bowman went on to play at East Carolina, where he started nine games in 2010.

Matt Clements — One of seven receivers in the class, Clements chose the Gamecocks over Ohio State, Auburn and Clemson, among others. He made just two catches for 26 yards as a Gamecock and spent some time as a DB before leaving the program in January 2010. Clements lives in Naples, Florida, according to his Facebook page.

Chris Culliver — The five-star prospect from Garner, North Carolina, was a third-round NFL Draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2011 after amassing 156 tackles and three interceptions in a four-year career with the Gamecocks. He signed a four-year contract with the Washington Redskins in 2015 but was cut after a knee injury, and he was last on an active roster with the Miami Dolphins in 2016.

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Patrick DiMarco in 2007 The Orlando Sentinel file photo

Patrick DiMarco — The lowest-rated player in the class is still in the NFL. DiMarco was a two-star recruit out of Altamonte Springs, Floirda. According to Rivals, USC was his only offer. But he carved his niche as a blocking back, helping pave the way for Marcus Lattimore’s 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2010. After going undrafted, DiMarco has been on three teams since 2012, making the Pro Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. Now a team captain in Buffalo, he signed a four-year deal with the Bills in March 2017.

Larry Freeman — The three-star wide receiver from Pearl River Community College played in 23 games in two seasons, totaling four catches for 43 yards. He now operates an oil trucking business, splitting his time between Charlotte and Texas.

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From 2006: Jefferson High School quarterback Stephen Garcia in Tampa, Florida Jason Behnken File photo
Stephen Garcia now is a private quarterbacks coach

Clifton Geathers — The four-star offensive lineman out of the famous Geathers clan in Hemingway was quickly moved to the defensive line, where he had 72 tackles and six sacks in three seasons. He went on to be a sixth-round NFL Draft pick by the Cleveland Browns. He played for eight NFL teams, totaling 24 tackles and one sack. He was most recently with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015.

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From: Palmetto High School’s Joe Hills tries on a South Carolina cap after signing a letter of intent with the Gamecocks Paul Gonzalez Videla McClatchy file photo

Joe Hills — The four-star wide receiver out of Palmetto, Florida, caught 11 passes for 87 yards and one touchdown in 2008, the only season he played for the Gamecocks. He left USC after two seasons, transferring to Tennessee State and has gone on to a decorated career in the Arena Football League, where he still plays and is one of the leading receivers in the history of the league. Hills works for Derrick Brooks Charities in Tampa, Fla., in the Arena League offseason.

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Melvin Ingram File photo
Melvin Ingram signed a four-year $66 million deal with the Chargers

Dion LeCorn — The four-star wide receiver from Ocala, Florida, played in 40 games, compiling 45 catches for 448 yards and five touchdowns. His best year was his freshman year, when he had 27 catches for 315 yards and three touchdowns. He now lives in North Charleston, according to his Facebook page.

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From 2006: T.L. Hanna running back and future Gamecock running back Brian Maddox C. Aluka Berrry The State file photo

Brian Maddox — The highest ranked of the three running backs in the class, the four-star from T.L. Hanna in Anderson never ran for more than 400 yards in a season for the Gamecocks. The end of his career was the beginning of the Marcus Lattimore era. Though, with Lattimore hurt for a 2010 game with Vanderbilt, Maddox filled in with 146 yards and a touchdown. The NFL lockout interfered with a mini-camp opportunity with the Philadelphia Eagles and Maddox turned to life outside football. He’s been with Southeastern Freight Lines ever since. He’s now the company’s service center manager in Pooler, Georgia.

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Columbia, SC 07-09-06. C. Aluka Berry - The State. Cheraw’s Cliff Matthews. C. Aluka Berry The State file photo
Cliff Matthews

Byron McKnight — One of two tight ends in the class, McKnight was high school teammates in Laurinburg, North Carolina, with fellow signee Travian Robertson. McKnight eventually moved to defensive end and recorded 13 tackles and two sacks for his career. After studying criminology, McKnight has been an officer with the USC Department of Law Enforcement and Safety since 2013.

Donte’e Nicholls — The three-star out of Pompano Beach, Florida, played only one season at South Carolina before transferring to Tennessee State. He was a multi-year starter there, and had short stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and with the Arena Football League’s Jacksonville Sharks. He was hired as a personal fitness coach at a Florida gym in September.

Kyle Nunn — The three-star offensive lineman from Sumter started 25 games in his career, including nine games at tackle in 2010 when the Gamecocks won the SEC Eastern Division title. He was most recently working in the Sumter area, according to his Facebook page.

Sam Pope — A transfer from Southwest Mississippi Community College, Pope never played for the Gamecocks and was on Hampton’s roster for the 2007 season. The safety made 41 tackles and five interceptions for the Pirates. He last played for the Spokane Shock of the Arena League in 2015.

Quintin Richardson — Among the top players in the class, he was the No. 99 player in the country out of Spring Valley High in Columbia. But his career did not go as planned with injuries and a suspension derailing things. He transferred to Hampton to finish his degree and then started in coaching young players at camps after his playing days. He moved to Denver, Colorado, to play indoor football and found his way into high school football. In 2018, he was offensive line coach at Virginia University-Lynchburg, but has since returned to Colorado. He also does contract work for the military.

Travian Robertson — A four-star defensive end from Laurinburg, North Carolina, he was the only true freshman to start for the Gamecocks in 2007. He spent five years at USC after a knee injury in 2009 led to a medical redshirt. He finished his college career with 123 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He was the last of six Gamecocks taken in the 2012 draft. A short NFL career ended with the Washington Redskins in 2012. He’s now the defensive line coach at Albany State University.

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LER-RIV11.SP.11.24.06.JTA Riverside’s Weslye Saunders celebrates his team’s 27-20 victory in Friday night’s playoff game against Leesville Rd. (News and Observer Staff Photo by Jason Arthurs) Jason Arthurs News and Observer file photo

Weslye Saunders — He was listed as a four-star defensive end recruit out of Durham, North Carolina, but ended up catching 60 passes for 718 yards in three seasons. He was on the team in 2010 but didn’t play because of an NCAA suspension. He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts from 2011 to 2014. He spent the next few years dabbling in journalism and other pursuits. This year he joined the roster of the Birmingham Iron in the Alliance of American football.

Arkee Smith — A two-star defensive back from Jacksonville, Florida, Smith was denied admittance by USC after being cleared the NCAA, upsetting Spurrier so much that he threatened to leave the school if a similar situation happened in the future.

Addison Williams — The three-star defensive back from Atlanta played in 26 games. He had 24 tackles and one interception before a back injury ended his career. He was a student assistant for the Gamecocks in 2010 and then a graduate assistant in 2011 and 2012. After two years at Tusculum, he was hired as cornerbacks coach at Furman, where he still works.

Jamire Williams — A three-star defensive back from Jacksonville, Florida, he lasted two seasons before transferring to Alabama State. He played sparingly in 2009 and 2010.

Jonathan Williams — A junior college transfer from Mississippi Delta, Williams made 20 tackles in his two seasons in Columbia. He went on to play for a range of arena league and Canadian teams, including the Arkansas Twisters, BC Lions, Spokane Shock, Toronto Argonauts, Ottawa Redblacks, Saskatchewan Roughriders. He was on the inaugural Redblacks team and last played in 2016.

Mat Williams — The three-star tight end from Fort Myers, Florida, never played for the Gamecocks.

Alonzo Winfield — A three-star outside linebacker from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he spent four years at South Carolina and spent a final year starting at Gardner-Webb. He went back to North Carolina and found his way into coaching high schools. He is currently a senior recreation supervisor for the city of Winston-Salem.

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