South Carolina co-defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward called South Pointe football coach Strait Herron Monday and told him he’d be sending Stallion junior Chris Smith’s game film over to the defensive backs coach, and he’d give the coach a call if they were interested.
“Sometimes you hear back, sometimes you don’t,” said Herron.
Ward called Herron back a day later. The Gamecocks were interested, and offered Smith a scholarship.
“When you’re one of the top athletes, you’re just waiting on that big offer,” said Herron. “The way the whole thing went down kind of did surprise me because it was done so quick.”
After talking to Ward Tuesday evening, Herron called Smith and shared the news.
“I was in the car with my friend and when (Herron) called I was so shocked I was ‘cheesing’ the whole ride,” said Smith, using young-speak for grinning.
Smith’s first offer came from Campbell and Coastal Carolina, Charlotte and Gardner-Webb quickly followed. This week he’s added offers from Old Dominion and Miami (OH), and said Wednesday that he’ll be visiting South Carolina in May. Smith, a self-professed Georgia Bulldogs fan, will look at the school in a new light, having not paid a ton of attention to the Gamecocks previously.
“I was real surprised because I haven’t even talked to South Carolina in the recruiting process,” Smith said.
The 5-foot-11, 178-pound cornerback had five interceptions and a pick-six last fall, all coming in two late season games against Broome and Seneca. He also was a dangerous kick returner and averaged nearly 23 yards per catch on seven grabs during spot time at receiver, though that average was skewed by the screen pass he took 89 yards for a touchdown in the Upper State championship game at A.C. Flora.
Wes Mitchell of the Gamecock Central recruiting web site felt South Carolina’s offer to Smith - delivered before any other FBS schools - showed the seriousness of the Gamecocks’ intent.
“Any offer, whether it’s verbal or written, can change at any time. Every school in America sends out more offers than they have spots,” said Mitchell. “But generally what you see in-state, and this probably goes for South Carolina, Clemson, Georgia with their in-state guys, Florida with their in-state guys, at a place where a school has previous relationships, like South Carolina at South Pointe, you’re not gonna extend that in-state offer lightly.”
Colleges don’t want to jerk around local prospects and coaches and burn in-state bridges, and South Carolina especially wouldn’t do that to a school that brought it Stephon Gilmore, Gerald Dixon and Jadeveon Clowney.
Mitchell also felt that South Carolina’s recent hiring of Jon Hoke as co-defensive coordinator influenced Smith’s offer. Hoke coached defensive backs in the NFL for 12 years with Houston and Chicago and has had about two months to get up to speed on local and national defensive back talent. Thed new Gamecocks defensive coach must have been impressed with Smith after seeing his tape Monday.
“The fact they offered now, as opposed to waiting, which they probably could have, the fact they offered now and the fact he’s an in-state kid, all that combined means they want this guy,” said Mitchell.
An offer doesn’t mean that South Carolina will leave a spot open for Smith forever; accordingly, he said he plans to commit near the beginning of the high school football season this fall. But it’s clear the Gamecocks are interested in bringing Smith into the fold.
“I do think any time there is a kid in Rock Hill that can play, South Carolina is going to try and take notice,” said Mitchell, originally from York. “They’re gonna make sure to evaluate that guy fully.”
Check out Smith’s junior year highlights from both sides of the ball here.
▪ Smith’s South Pointe defensive backfield partner Nick McCloud contiues to rake in offers. His list includes Kansas State, Northwestern, Appalachian State, Charlotte, Buffalo, Miami (OH), Eastern Michigan, James Madison, Furman and Gardner-Webb. Expect that list to grow when McCloud hits the summer camp circuit and visits some ACC and SEC schools.
▪ Northwestern junior linebacker Trae’von Hinton has added an offer from Gardner-Webb. He now holds scholarship offers from Towson and Charlotte. Hinton is one of several Trojans that should command quite a bit of attention in the coming years, along with sophomores Logan Rudolph, Ali Shockley and Jerry Howard.
▪ A Trojan in the junior college ranks is reported to be getting recruited interest too. Former Northwestern kick-blocking standout O’Darryl Davis-Douglas, now at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa, is getting early interest from Northern Arizona and Buffalo, according to the Juco Frenzy Twitter account. “ODD” as he was called by Northwestern coaches and teammates, will be a sophomore this fall.
▪ Nation Ford’s Hank Tuipulotu has gotten his first scholarship offer, from Furman. Tuipulotu led the area in receptions last fall with well over 100 and Falcons coach Michael Allen said he’s also getting heavy interest from Richmond, The Citadel, Wake Forest and N.C. State.
▪ York junior defensive end Deivonne Chalk has a written offer from Western Carolina and interest from a number of other schools, including UNC, N.C. State, Appalachian State, Wake Forest and Eastern Michigan. A number of other Cougars, including junior offensive tackle Ryan Enniss, junior spur Nick Sturgill and sophomore athlete Wally Wilmore, are getting high-level college football sniffs.
▪ One without any offers yet, but who surely will pile them up is Lewisville freshman defensive tackle Josh Belk. Watch his Hudl highlights here. Sure, it’s 1A competition, but Belk is a freshman and already checks in at 6-foot-3, 315 pounds.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T