College Recruiting

Nerves, excitement for South Pointe’s Rodney during unofficial Clemson recruiting visit

bmccormick@heraldonline.comMarch 15, 2013 

  • Other notable area prospects in Rock Hill area

    Mason Rudolph, Jr., QB, Northwestern- The Trojans’ 6-foot-4 signal-caller already has offers from Virginia Tech, LSU, Mississippi and Oklahoma State. Rudolph threw for over 4,000 yards and 41 touchdowns as a junior, a number that incredibly could increase this coming fall.

    DaKeavis Wilmore, Jr., OL, Chester- Wilmore, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound road grader looks like a guard at the college level and has been hearing from Clemson and South Carolina, among others. Former Chester Cyclone Kalon Davis is an offensive lineman at Clemson.

    Daryl Foster, Jr. LB, Chester- Foster piled up over 200 tackles as a junior for the Cyclones. Foster will have to deal with more blocking attention as a senior, with sidekick Terrance Hampton headed to Wofford this coming season.

    Ryan Moore, Jr., RB, York- Moore, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound smashmouth runner from the old school, is hearing from a number of schools, including Charlotte, Furman, North Dakota State, Auburn and Oregon State.

    Anthony Johnson, Jr., WR, South Pointe- Long and lean, Johnson is also a terror on the basketball court, where he was named All-State recently. The 6-foot-4 wideout split pass-catching limelight with senior P.J. Heath last fall, but should be the go-to player in the Stallions’ passing game this coming season.

    Josh Massey, Jr., LB, South Pointe- Massey made over 130 tackles for the Stallions this year at linebacker and is getting early interest from Missouri and Mississippi State. Like Dupree Hart below, Massey is a very talented baseball player.

    Dalton Helms, Jr., QB, Nation Ford- Helms is another good baseball player in the spring that produces in the fall as well. The strong-armed quarterback has been up to Charlotte for a Junior Day and should earn more interest this coming fall.

    Dupree Hart, So., ATH, Northwestern- One of the most dynamic players in the state, Hart is diminutive in stature, but a huge playmaker. Hart led the Trojans in catches as a sophomore with 103, and has good hands and incredibly shifty feet.

    Jay Hood, So., WR, Lancaster- 6-foot-3, 185-pound sophomore has a Division I physique and will try to ramp up his productivity next year as a junior for the Bruins, who were very young as a whole last fall. Hood is already getting interest from Auburn, Duke, Minnesota, South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.

On the gridiron, South Point junior Zeek Rodney exudes confidence and swagger. But when it comes to the recruiting side of football, the stout defensive lineman gets a little bashful, and he was admittedly relieved when teammate Anthony Johnson was invited to join him last weekend on an unofficial visit to check out the Clemson football program.

“I wasn’t going down there by myself,” said Rodney, laughing. “I don’t like doing stuff like that alone. So, I was glad he got invited.”

The visits are coming more frequently for Rodney, a junior defensive tackle who dominated Region 3 lines of scrimmage last fall. The 6-foot-1, 260-pounder racked up 133 tackles, 27 sacks and 26 tackles-for-loss. Those plays erased over 300 yards of offense for opposing teams. Rodney also caused three fumbles, blocked two kicks and had an outstanding 40 quarterback pressures. It felt at times as if he was in the opposing backfield as much as the other team’s running back.

That kind of production has ramped up recruiting interest. So far, Rodney’s only scholarship offers are from Charlotte and South Carolina State, but that won’t last long.

“I take a stack of mail to him,” said Herron on Wednesday. “He’s getting letters all the way from UCLA to Florida State to LSU. It’s real funny because it’s the gamut; he got one today from Holy Cross. But you name it in the Southeast, he’s got it.”

Clemson assistant coach Jeff Scott set up the visit last weekend with South Pointe head coach Strait Herron, who insisted on an invite for Johnson too. Rodney and his father, Johnson, and Herron and his wife made the trip down to Clemson.

Rodney has previously been to official Junior Days at South Carolina and North Carolina, but the visit Saturday to Clemson was a little different. As part of a group of about 30 juniors from all over the country, Rodney and four or five other defensive tackle prospects met with Clemson defensive line coach Dan Brooks during their tour of the West Endzone at Tiger Stadium.

As the group was shepherded into another room, Rodney was told to hang back for a moment. Around the corner came Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney for a quick word, even though the Tiger football team was practicing at the time. Rodney said that Swinney told him “he liked the way I play the game, hard, and he liked my motor.”

It was a personal touch that made an impact.

“I think he’s a great coach, a great person,” said Rodney. “Loves his players as well.”

Overall, the visit was an enjoyable experience for the Stallion sack machine.

“I was excited,” Rodney said. “I’ve never been to Clemson before. Saw the new practice facility; it looked nice.”

Though South Carolina has been very successful recruiting South Pointe in recent years, Rodney has liked a different school since he was a little kid: “Florida State,” he said, adding that North Carolina, South Carolina, LSU and Clemson are also schools of interest. Rodney’s distant cousin, former Northwestern standout Roderick Byers, is a sophomore defensive lineman at Clemson.

All of those schools are in play for Rodney after his monster 2012 campaign. The High School Sports Report named Rodney the Statewide Defensive Player of the Year, an award he accepted at a banquet last month. Rodney admitted it was a nice shot of confidence to win the Defensive Player of the Year honor, especially as coaches across South Carolina had input in the decision.

“I was surprised,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to get it. I just expected to make the all-state team.”

Opposing coaches weren’t surprised, and they won’t be this fall either. If Rodney was one of the first names on the scouting report in 2012, next season his name will be first line, in red, all caps, size 72 font.

“I know that I’m gonna be facing different strategies, probably gonna be getting more offensive linemen,” said Rodney. “I’ve got to work harder in the weight room, be stronger, so I can do better in the upcoming season.”

Johnson could be in for a big year too. The slender, 6-foot-4 receiver only caught 34 passes last year, but nine of them went for touchdowns, and he averaged over 23 yards per catch. Johnson saved his best for last, grabbing a combined 12 passes for 340 yards and two scores in the Class AAAA-DII quarterfinal win over York and semifinal loss to Greenwood.

Both Johnson and Rodney have work to do in the classroom, but getting out and seeing Division I campuses can only serve as motivation to that end.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be an issue,” said Rodney about his grades. “It’s not that I don’t know the work, it’s just doing the work. Coach is pushing me, and my parents and other coaches are letting me know I’ve gotta’ get my grades.”

Rodney is signed up to take the SAT and the ACT later this school year, a detail that’s derailed many recruiting processes, and he said he’s also avoiding negative posts on social media that can turn off recruiters.

At the end of the day, Rodney’s jaunt down to Clemson was just an unofficial visit. But Herron, and undoubtedly many others, hope it’s an experience that crystallizes and hardens Rodney’s desire to make it to the next level, something his talent deserves. It will give him something to ponder the next time he’s bored with homework and staring out the window.

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