There were a number of players that weren’t able to play in Saturday’s game for various reasons, but North Carolina’s squad seemed to be hit harder by players that didn’t want to play.
North Carolina players selected who did not ultimately suit up for personal reasons included Leesville wide receiver Braxton Berrios (Miami commitment), Pine Forest defensive lineman Lamont Gaillard (Georgia commitment, and No. 1 prospect in North Carolina), Providence offensive lineman Bentley Spain (North Carolina) and Page outside linebacker Lorenzo Featherston (offers from every big SEC, ACC school, as well as Michigan and Notre Dame). Reasons ranged from injury to opting to play in bigger all-star games such as the Under Armour All-American game.
In all, nine players selected by the North Carolina coaching staff didn’t play in the game. Four Sandlapper selections didn’t play, including Spring Valley stud linebacker Christian Miller (Alabama), who has an injured shoulder and was unable to play.
South Carolina’s retooled offensive line
Of the four players missing for South Carolina, two of them were important hogs up front, North Augusta’s Jake Whitley and Wando’s Nolan Kelleher. Whitley is headed to Georgia Tech and missed much of his senior season for North Augusta, while Kelleher, a Florida commitment, was present during Shrine Bowl week but injured and unable to participate.
No question the Sandlappers missed their girth up front; Whitley is 6-foot-3, 305 pounds and Kelleher is a future SEC bookend checking in at 6-foot-6, 315 pounds. Tommy Brown’s squad rushed for just 55 yards on 28 carries, though sack yardage did skew that figure a bit. Taking away 52 yards lost by quarterbacks, South Carolina ran for 107 yards, which doesn’t look as bad considering two Division I blockers were unavailable.
Charlotte Catholic’s North Carolina commitment ran for a season-low 92 yards, which is no surprise for an all-star game. As Northwestern fans can attest, Hood is a volume runner, whose continuous body blows eventually soften up the defense to break a big one. With North Carolina trying to spread the ball around in the first half, Hood struggled to find a rhythm on just five carries, but he did in the second when he ran the ball 18 times and reached the end zone three times.
“They just kept giving me the ball, and the more I got out there, the more comfortable I got with the pace of the game,” said Hood. “I was able to adapt and you saw the results.”
Hood will be running for the North Carolina Tar Heels next season, but first had to play a final high school football game with the Shrine Bowl Tarheels. He felt pretty good about his performance as he sat in the end zone clubhouse reserved for most valuable players.
“I think I did well,” said Hood, “I mean, I’m here in the MVP room. Hopefully, I can build off this experience and just keep getting better and become a better football player off it.”
South Carolina defensive line
South Carolina held North Carolina to 11 yards on 16 carries, and just 26 yards total on 23 plays in the first half, and the Sandlappers defensive line was a big reason why. They faded a bit in the second half as Hood got going and the Tarheels offense began to gather steam.
“I think we got a little tired third quarter but in the end we got that energy back, so we were able to make the plays when we had to in the end,” said Brown.
South Pointe Stallion Zeek Rodney, who finished with three tackles and one for a loss, made what could of been a huge play late, blocking an extra point after North Carolina went ahead by two points.
“We called block right, but I saw that they brought a smaller offensive lineman in so I switched it left,” said Rodney. “I just blew up the right guard and I timed it perfectly.”
South Carolina coach Tommy Brown admitted that wasn’t a part of Rodney’s game with which he was familiar.
“He’s very physical and he’s been physical all week,” said Brown. “He came through and made a critical play that we needed.”
Seargent makes three tackles
Rock Hill’s third Shrine Bowl participant, Northwestern safety Corey Seargent, had a quieter afternoon in Spartanburg, making three tackles in the secondary for the Sandlappers.
Jacob Park struggles
Jacob Park’s performance Saturday in the Shrine Bowl was one he’ll scrub from the memory banks. The Georgia signee who will enroll at the school in January completed 3 of 11 passes for 61 yards and was sacked three times. He ran the ball nine times for 31 yards, but lost 43 on his sacks to finish at negative-12.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T