CHESTER -- Heading into the high school football season, C.C. Whitlock's name was on nearly every college recruiting list in the country.
He's a combination of speed, strength and is very good at seeing the field in front of him.
Colleges started calling and sending letters when he was a sophomore and the stacks grew daily. The Chester senior has narrowed his list to five schools and unless he makes an unofficial visit or strikes a fancy to another, he's locked in.
Whitlock has taken official visits to South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama. He'll take one next week to Florida and watch the Gators play Florida State. The fifth will be to Clemson.
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Whitlock's reputation has paid dividends. Other players are getting noticed and two, Gene McCaskill and Terrell Springs, have committed. McCaskill, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound quarterback/wide receiver, is going to Kentucky. Springs, a 5-8, 171-pound cornerback/running back, is headed to UAB.
With their dreams of playing college football answered, there's still another to be fulfilled. The next step to that one -- winning the Class AAA state championship -- is a third-round playoff game hosting Daniel on Friday.
The last time Chester made it to the third round was in 1963. The Cyclones (10-2) won a school-record 11 games on their way to a 12-9 win over Eau Claire for the state championship.
To get there again, Chester must beat Daniel and either Union County or Greenville in next week's Upper State championship. It could happen -- coach Victor Floyd saw this season coming when he took the job four years ago.
"I knew when I got here that we had a special freshman class,'' Floyd said. "Some of them quit. Others got kicked off the team. I was hard on the ones that stayed because their friends are out having a good time.''
The team has evolved in several ways since then. Floyd's first team went 2-9, his second 6-5 and last year's was 7-4. In the first two seasons, Floyd said the Cyclones would get maybe 80 fans for a home game. Last week in a 16-12 win over rival Fairfield Central, the stadium was full.
When Whitlock was injured early in his sophomore season, McCaskill stepped in at quarterback and is still there. They share time, but McCaskill takes most of the snaps.
That wasn't the plan when the season began. Floyd decided to use Whitlock as an H-back to give him a running start when he got the ball.
"He's mainly at wide receiver now because he's so valuable on cornerback,'' McCaskill said. "But we still have a rotation going.
"If C.C. needs rest, I'll stay at quarterback most of the game and he'll play some at receiver. If he's not tired, he'll come in and take some snaps.''
Whoever takes the snaps Friday will have his hands full. Daniel has intercepted 27 passes this season.
McCaskill was recruited at wide receiver during a 7-on-7 camp at Kentucky. He played there and at quarterback during the competition, but Kentucky coach Rich Brooks offered him during a break in one of the Cyclones' games.
"He liked my speed and the way I go up and get the ball,'' McCaskill said. "I had some other schools interested in me, but Kentucky made contact my junior year. Other have called since then, but I'm not changing my mind.''
McCaskill has passed for 1,012 yards and 12 TDs, has caught 22 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns and has run for 494 yards and six TDs.
Whitlock has thrown for 740 yards and 10 touchdowns, has caught 16 passes for 290 yards and four TDs and has run for 212 yards and four touchdowns.
Speed is the first thing that coaches notice about Springs. He's like a waterbug with muscles. During a defensive backs camp at Wake Forest, Springs won a 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds.
Last year, Springs, Whitlock, Devin Jackson and Marquis Coleman, a defensive back at UAB, won the 400 relay at the Class AAA state track meet. Springs, a 3.75 grade-point average student, also had offers from Duke, S.C. State and Wofford, but UAB was always his first choice.
"I went to another DB camp and they saw me there,'' said Springs, who has three interceptions and 15 pass breakups. "UAB's cornerback coach, Corey Barlow, said he wanted me to come play for him. That's all it took because Marquis is there.
"I looked up to Marquis when he was here. He was always positive and helped me. He told the UAB coaches about me. This is exciting because we'll be playing in the same defensive backfield in college.''
There are 16 seniors on Chester's roster, down from when the season started. It's tough playing for Floyd, a strict disciplinarian, who pointed out that only the strong survive.
Those who have stuck it out are glad they did. Doing what Floyd says is the only way to go. His players are starting to realize it's for their own good.
"We've been building toward the state championship since going 2-9 my freshman year,'' Springs said. "We started coming together last year and realized we had a chance to do it before graduating.
"We want it bad, don't want to let coach Floyd down. We want to do well for him because of all the good things he's done for us.''
Friday's playoff games
Class AAAA Division I
Northwestern at Irmo, 7:30 p.m.
Class AAAA Division II
Clover at Greenwood, 7:30 p.m.
South Pointe at Berkeley, 8 p.m.
Daniel at Chester, 8 p.m.
Class A Division II
Ridge Spring-Monetta at Great Falls, 7:30 p.m.