Josh Kendall

How does Bryan McClendon know if a California recruit is worth the travel?

South Carolina offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon recruited the state of California some even before he was employed by the Gamecocks, but McClendon never imagined he’d be such a regular on the West Coast.

“I felt like it had to be a special player to go out there, and we feel like there are some special guys out there that we are recruiting,” said McClendon, who was recruiting at Orange Lutheran High School in California on April 26. “Going out there isn’t bad. It’s when you get back on that red eye. Those aren’t easy.”

The Gamecocks have a verbal commitment from Orange Lutheran quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who is set to join the team’s 2019 signing class.

“Quarterbacks are different,” McClendon said. “They don’t mind traveling.”

Whether or not South Carolina can convince other players to come all the way across the country in the future has yet to be seen. The Gamecocks are trying though. They are recruiting four-star cornerback Chris Steele of Bellflower, Calif., four-star athlete Trent McDuffie of Bellflower, Calif., and three-star linebacker Ralen Goforth, all of whom are teammates at St. John Bosco.

USC has also offered four-star wide receiver Kyle Ford, a top-50 player nationally and teammate of Hilinski, and Oakland tailback Austin Jones.

“What I have come to do is ask a kid, ‘Who are some other schools you are really high on?’ If they say a bunch of SEC schools, I say, ‘OK, we’ve got a shot with this guy.’ But if they’re naming all the Pac-12 schools, I’m like, ‘This kid is not going to turn down all that to come East for one school,’” McClendon said. “You have to make sure you are using your time wisely. That’s the biggest thing because you don’t have a lot of it.”

That’s especially true if the prospect is a six-hour plane ride away.

“You have to spend your time on what you think you’re going to get the most return on,” McClendon said. “If you’re know you’re not going to get this guy, you don’t need to put that much time in no matter how much you like the kid.”

The Gamecocks currently have one California native on their roster, cornerback Keisean Nixon, who transferred from Arizona Western Community College.

McClendon’s recruiting schedule has gotten more hectic since he was promoted to offensive coordinator because now he’s not just recruiting one geographic area. He travels to visit every high level offensive recruiting target and every offensive prospect who the team is on the borderline between receiving a scholarship offer or not.