USC Gamecocks Football

Gamecocks grew quickly on Georgia lineman J.P. Vonashek

J.P. Vonashek
J.P. Vonashek GoGamecocks

J.P. Vonashek had a number of quality scholarship offers by May 2012.

Auburn. Tennessee. Ohio State. Florida State. And the home-state Georgia Bulldogs, among others.

It turned out the final school that offered would make the best impression with the 6-foot-6, 283-pound offensive lineman from Camden County High in Kingsland, Ga.

South Carolina offered in late May of last year. Vonashek visited Columbia a week later and was sold.

"I loved it there, love the coaching staff," he said. "I went up there one time and I committed that day. I went to Georgia four times and I didn't like like I loved South Carolina. It felt like the right place to be for the next four or five years of my life."

Vonashek - the J.P. stands for James Patrick - is a four-star prospect and the nation's 28th best offensive tackle in this class, according to ESPN.

"I love hitting people," he said. "They tried to put me on defense but I don't like tackling. I like going to hit people straight up. I always go full speed. I never take a play off. I love competition."

There was no pressure to pick Georgia, even though he says more than half his high school team roots for the Bulldogs.

A number of schools offered scholarships based on film, word-of-mouth, or after one meeting with Vonashek.

It was the approach that South Carolina and recruiter Everette Sands took that stood out.

"He came down and talked to me. He was unique," Vonashek said. "All the other coaches would come in and offer me on the spot. He didn't offer me. He wanted to watch me play. I respect that."

Sands watched Vonashek practice. Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott watched him on film. The offer came soon after.

"If was a coach I would do the same thing," Vonashek said. "I would want to see if he'd fit our program and how well he's doing, how he is as a person and how he would help out our team in a special way."

Vonashek played a limited role late in Camden County's season as he recovered from torn shoulder ligaments.

His high school coach, Jeff Herron, said Vonashek has a chance to be a lot bigger and is quick for his size.

"He's got the intangibles," Herron said. "You can't play in the SEC without being big, and he is. He's got good feet. He's a smart kid. He has all the things they look for. He certainly passes the look test. He looks like he's a college offensive lineman already."

Vonashek was one of five offensive lineman in South Carolina's 2013 class. He enrolled at USC in July.

Like all linemen who choose to the Gamecocks, Vonashek made a connection with Elliott.

"He said he's going to work my tail off, but at the end of the day he's going to love me and treat me like a son. I like that," Vonashek said. "He has a lot of emotion on the field. I have a lot of emotion too. We match good on that.

"I just want to go out there and try my best. He said I could be a great player. I'm going to listen to him and do what he tells me to do and not do anything wrong and see where it takes me."

A redshirt season is most likely in order, both Vonashek and Herron said.

"It's going to take him awhile," Herron said. "He's not there yet. Very few of them are ready as freshmen. He learns well and is very coachable. He uses his hands well. He's got a chance to be pretty good pretty early."