Bryan McClendon had been at South Carolina more than a year and a half by the time wide receiver Tyquan Johnson committed to USC.
But the former Georgia Bulldog had been after him much longer than that.
Johnson’s coach at Screven County, Ron Duncan, said the wide receiver had caught the coach’s eye all the way back when he was a freshman. Johnson was at a camp at Georgia, already a precocious talent.
And the bond has carried through.
“We have a good relationship,” Johnson said. “We have a better relationship than most of me and the other coaches from other colleges.”
McClendon was Georgia’s running backs coach at the time. He came to USC as a wide receiver coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator after last season.
Johnson, a three-star prospect who is one of the few 2018 players who didn’t enroll early, was part of a talented group that moved through the Screven County program. The Gamecocks are still awaiting final word on his enrollment, Muschamp said last week
Duncan said the group had the makings of something special in seventh grade, when he joined the program. Johnson started six games as a freshman, still needing to do some maturing, and left with every notable receiving record the school had.
And McClendon noticed the 6-foot-3, fast, wiry freshman.
“They had a developed a relationship when coach McClendon was at Georgia and Tyquan was going to camps there when he was younger,” Duncan said “ think that was probably the main thing that cemented that relationship with South Carolina.”
That and the proximity.
Screven County is just on the other side of the South Carolina border. Duncan pointed out that Johnson’s high school is closer to Columbia than even Athens.
“It meant a lot,” Johnson said. “Going that far and not being able to get to your family. It kind of got to me a little bit.”
One of the best players he played alongside, lineman/fullback C.J. Wright, also stayed close, picking Georgia Southern. (At 6-foot, he wasn’t being recruited by power schools.)
So if he ever wants or needs to get home, it’s just a quick ride down the country roads, through Swansea, Blackville, Barnwell and down into Sylvania, Ga.
“With the relationships he has here, he’ll be far enough away where he’ll be on his own and have to learn away,” Duncan said. “But he’ll also be close enough to where his family can come see him or he can come home when he has an opportunity.”