Bowl scuttlebutt, resetting the recruiting board and more
Last week, we wrote about the rollercoaster that has been this football season and it was at its lowest point at that time. Right now, South Carolina is flying high after a historic win in college football history. And the same can be written this week as it was last, that regardless of what it may seem like on the message board at times, most feel like second-year head coach Shane Beamer has the program going in the right direction overall. We’ll pass along a few football nuggets and updates from the recruiting trail, too.
While there aren’t any notes from the hardwood after an incredibly disappointing weekend that saw the Gamecocks drop all three games in the Charleston Classic, we do have a bunch of interesting nuggets from the diamond.
And this is TheBigSpur.com, a place to come for insight on South Carolina athletics, so with sports back in high gear, we’re going to bring you what’s going on behind the scenes within the programs. We decided to revive one of our popular features, the VIP Room.
— Everything I can gather is that both South Carolina and the Gator Bowl still want each other and the win on Saturday night has helped to solidify that. Of the couple of sources I have spoken with recently, I was told that nothing has really changed along those lines. It should be noted that neither the school nor the bowl make the selection at that stage as the SEC makes the assignments with input from the various parties.
While the Outback Bowl, now the Reliaquest Bowl, was at one point considered higher in the pecking order, both bowls are at the same level now. Moving “up” a tier would mean the Gamecocks are in the Citrus Bowl, and that would take some weird things happening, but it’s not out of the question, should the Gamecocks win this weekend. As it stands today though, regardless of this Saturday’s outcome, if I was asked to make a bet and choose between the Gator and the field, I’d put my money on the Gator.
— Beamer has mentioned it but the game plan was to leave the defensive backs on an island and bring a bunch of pressure against Tennessee. They’re comfortable in doing that with the cornerbacks they have, and brought pressures well over half the plays. There were rare instances that players actually got home and credited with some sort of stat on affecting the quarterback, but there was certainly some feeling that just seeing and reading pressure had some effect on Tennessee’s offense as Hendon Hooker got rid of the ball quicker than he needed to in certain instances and was less accurate than usual.
South Carolina covered the deep ball really well and made plays in front of them. For the first time in several games, the tackling was good, which made a big difference as well.
They also used Cam Smith a little bit differently than usual playing him farther off of the receiver instead of jamming the player, typically Jalin Hyatt, at the line. Smith has great instincts and is really comfortable in reading routes and making up ground really quickly. Playing like that can make a player more vulnerable to double moves, but Tennessee didn’t take much advantage of that, either.
— Sticking with the secondary, unsurprisingly, the play of Peyton Williams was applauded. There was some miscommunication in the long touchdown pass at the start of the second half, but he went out there, was comfortable and there was little that changed when he had to take over for Nick Emmanwori. This was surprising to me because the feedback that I received on Williams in preseason practice was not all that great. It was emphasized to me that he had a long way to go, and was a definite redshirt. He is redshirting this year, but he’s certainly come a long way since preseason camp, and carried himself with some confidence in the game.
FOOTBALL RECRUITING – from Hale McGranahan
Here is the absolute latest with each target we know of, in the 2023 recruiting cycle. There could be additional names that emerge, and additional names we are not aware of right now.
An update on the class is appropriate today since we are now exactly one month away from the start of the Early Signing Period, which runs Dec. 21-23.
Quarterback: There isn’t much we are in position to pass along right now, aside from this: LaNorris Sellers, who is an early enrollee, is still in play for South Carolina.
The Syracuse commitment will be in Columbia on Friday, as South Florence takes on AC Flora in the South Carolina 4A high school playoffs. A win would bring him back a week later for the state title game at Benedict on Saturday, Dec. 3.
It remains to be seen if South Carolina’s coaches will be able to get Sellers back on campus for an official visit next month.
If he plans to take one, there may not be much of a window to squeeze it in, especially if South Florence ends up playing for a state title next weekend. Plus, he’s supposed to play in the Shrine Bowl, which is Dec. 17, so if he’s going to take an official visit before the Early Signing Period, then it would likely have to be the second weekend in December.
Running back: The writing was on the wall with Khalifa Keith, who announced a commitment to Tennessee on Sunday, less than 24 hours after South Carolina’s win on the field. A South Carolina offer went out to junior college running back Robert Henry (Jones County) about a week ago, not coincidentally around the time said writing appeared on said wall.
Kentucky, the school Keith was previously committed to, is the primary competition for Henry, who has an official visit with the Gamecocks the weekend of Dec. 16. As it stands right now, I like where things stand, though I’m not totally sure yet if an official visit has been scheduled to Kentucky. Henry plans to commit somewhere on Dec. 17.
Wide receiver: Tyshawn Russell (Harrisburg, Pa.) picked up an offer from South Carolina a little more than a month ago. He was supposed to visit for the Tennessee game, but did not make it in. However, the Gamecocks were able to have him on Sunday afternoon, when he came down for an unofficial visit.
South Carolina is now set to host Russell for an official visit on Dec. 16. Virginia Tech will bring him in for one the weekend before that.
The feedback on Edwin Joseph’s official visit was, as you would expect, very positive. Joseph had both of his parents with him. I’ve heard that things went really well with his mom, which is always an important aspect. Joseph is expected to officially visit Florida State. Penn State, Louisville and Auburn have already hosted him for official visits.
Tight end: It’s entirely possible that South Carolina ends up landing Nyckoles Harbor (Washington, D.C.) and Reid Mikeska (Cypress, Tex.). I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but there’s a sense of confidence that it will.
Harbor’s already taken an official visit with the Gamecocks. He won’t make his decision February, so we’ll see how this develops over the next month-plus. Georgia, LSU, Maryland and Michigan are all in the mix.
Given who some of those competitors are, there’s really no telling which direction this thing could go. Official visits to Maryland (Dec. 9) and Georgia (Dec. 16) are set. He’ll officially visit LSU in 2023.
Mikeska, a former Clemson commitment who’s currently committed to Miami, is now in play to take an official visit to South Carolina. It’s not totally confirmed yet, but don’t be surprised if he’s back that final weekend before the Early Signing Period, when Henry and Russell are on campus.
Offensive line: Up next for Keyshawn Blackstock is an official visit to Penn State (Dec. 9). Illinois has already hosted him for a visit.
Coming off the official visit to South Carolina this past weekend, the presumption is that a guy from Georgia is probably more interested in playing in the SEC than for either one of those two Big Ten teams. Again, just a presumption.
We’ll see who else gets Blackstock in for an official. The uncertainty at Auburn is beneficial, but certainly worth keeping an eye on. He signs somewhere next month and enrolls in January.
Defensive line: Nothing new to pass along since last night’s post about Elijah Davis, who’s now back home from East Mississippi CC for Thanksgiving break. South Carolina’s working to get him in for an unofficial this week, to watch practice. He did not visit on Saturday night, even though he was scheduled to be in town.
Tennessee is hosting Davis for an official Dec. 9. We’ll see if Alabama gets one on the books that final weekend. Davis graduates next month then enrolls in January.
Linebacker: Listing Terrance Love here, even though he should be under a linebacker/safety heading. Either way, still waiting to see when he schedules an official. At last check, which was a couple of days ago, he still had not scheduled an official visit to South Carolina.
Still waiting to see what shakes out with Auburn’s head coach, though that may not necessarily be much of a factor, because Love seems to really want to play there. In other words, nothing’s really changed since his last trip to South Carolina, which was for the Texas A&M game.
Defensive back: As noted on Sunday afternoon, Aziah Johnson did indeed visit South Carolina on Saturday night for the Tennessee game. Johnson, who’s scheduled to take an official visit to Virginia Tech on Dec. 17, is a candidate to take an official visit to South Carolina.
At this point, we’re not sure if that will happen the weekend before Virginia Tech. Johnson (Richmond, Va.) met with Beamer and Torrian Gray while he was in town on Saturday night.
— One interesting note that I haven’t shared yet coming out of fall practice is just some statistical evidence on how much Braylen Wimmer has improved. Most who follow the team would agree that the biggest problem Wimmer has had offensively over the course of his career is chasing pitches, most notably breaking balls down and away, that were out of the strike zone.
Last season, he had a very high “chase rate” – swings at pitches out of the zone – of 37 percent. On average, 27 percent is about right. Wimmer, this fall, had a chase rate of 17 percent. That doesn’t mean he didn’t strike out some in the fall because he did, but he was also third on the team in walks and was swinging at better pitches.
I mentioned this in one other story but Wimmer also played error free baseball at shortstop in the scrimmages. He was the only infielder not to make at least one error.
— One question that the coaching staff is going to need to figure out during the preseason is who will lead off. Evan Stone has emerged as a player who could very well win that job this season as he has improved incredibly since the end of last year. He had a great summer before hurting his wrist, and I’m told that he is one of a few guys who puts in more hours in the cage and extra work with Monte Lee than anyone.
Stone is right there with Wimmer (and Talmadge LeCroy) in terms of best “chase rate” on the team. He also finished with one of the highest batting averages and more walks than strikeouts in the fall. Most players had around 40 at-bats, so it’s not a small sample size of action. Dylan Brewer is a candidate to be a leadoff hitter as well, if the coaches stick with a more prototypical guy. If the staff decides to go with someone who isn’t a prototypical guy like a Brewer or Stone, they could go with Carson Hornung (whenever he’s healthy) as he finished the fall with the highest average and on-base percentages, while also bringing power to the spot.
— One thing to keep in mind when discussing roles of the pitching staff is there’s more than one way to put together nine innings. It was pointed out to me recently that two of South Carolina’s best pitchers that may be in a relief role typically throw more than one inning, and typically get a little bit better as the game goes on.
The duo of Matthew Becker and Eli Jerzembeck were two of South Carolina’s best pitchers in the fall. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see those guys come in for a sixth or seventh inning and just keep on pitching all the way through the end of the game. That’s not to say that’s the decision on how games will work, but it’s something to keep in mind as a possibility.
If you’re talking a one-inning guy, Cade Austin fits the bill best, based on his arsenal and body of work last year, despite the fact that his fall wasn’t particularly memorable. Nick Proctor is also there in the mix for late inning work, too.
— South Carolina had what amounted to a “junior day” this past weekend against Tennessee bringing in all of its committed players to be around each other and get to know each other. All but one player, RHP Gavin King who had basketball, was able to make it in. There was some structure to the trip as they had a cookout at Founders Park and a bus ride to and from the stadium, but it was unstructured as far as what went on. There were no tours or meetings with coaches or anything like that, and was just a time for players and families to hang out.
The feedback that I’ve gotten from the weekend from the staff and players side has been extremely positive. The group chat that the class has is very active and it was the first time for some to put faces with names. Most of that class is from pretty close by, so it wasn’t too difficult to get everyone in. The guys left near the end of the third quarter of the game, but they were able to stay and watch the end in the players lounge at Founders Park.
— The Gamecocks picked up their third commitment of the 2026 recruiting class on Monday when left-handed pitcher Jackson Robinson (Anderson/T.L. Hanna) made the call. He had offers from both Clemson and East Carolina at this very early juncture of the recruiting process, but made the call on the Gamecocks. Robinson has a sister who goes to South Carolina and, even from the upstate, comes from a pro-USC household, but it was still a good get as the Tigers, too, made him a priority.
Robinson has been to camp a couple of times and has been low 80s but the staff likes his size plus his athleticism. Perfect Game has him up to 85 mph in one of their events in October. He was described to me as a “three-pitch guy who can really pitch.”
— South Carolina also had a 2023 pitcher on an official visit over the weekend. He’s supposed to make a decision here in the coming days.
#Bowl #scuttlebutt #resetting #recruiting #board