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South Carolina’s in-state priorities; Gamecocks coaches ‘don’t look at’ hype

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Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Palmetto priority

The Palmetto State’s No. 1 prospect for 2019, 5-star defensive end Zacch Pickens, is one of the South Carolina Gamecocks’ top remaining targets for the 2019 recruiting cycle.

“The No. 13-ranked prospect in the country, according to the 247Sports composite, is a top priority for [Will] Muschamp, who’s gone the extra mile to recruit the state since arriving in December of 2015,” SEC Country’s Hale McGranahan wrote. “The success rate has been hit or miss, because it’s tough when you’re battling Clemson, Georgia and Alabama.”

The Anderson, S.C., native is rated as the No. 1 strongside defensive end for 2019, per the 247Sports composite.

‘I just don’t look at it’

The message from Muschamp and Gamecocks offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon to the South Carolina football team is simple: ignore the hype.

“We talk to them about it a bunch,” McClendon said of South Carolina’s offseason buzz. “And as much as I love you guys, I just don’t look at it. Obviously, that’s a different time and age, because a lot of guys look at it, but the one thing that you have to make sure that they understand is that’s not reality, in the sense of you’ve got to go out there and earn what you get, at the end of the day, so nobody is going to go out there and play you a certain way because they read something about you.”

South Carolina won nine games for the seventh time in program history in 2017, finishing with a 9-4 record.

First round

South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley could be picked in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, according to SB Nation’s Dan Kadar.

Kadar projected the Gamecocks’ junior quarterback going No. 29 overall to the Green Bay Packers in his latest mock draft.

“I just think he’s more talented than the other quarterbacks [not included in the first-round mock], just from a raw talent standpoint,” Kadar told SEC Country. “Say, compare him to Jake Browning of Washington, for instance. I think Bentley is just the more talented player, and quarterback is a position where sometimes talent just takes over in how they develop and how they come along. And sometimes you assume there’s going to be a growth spurt, if you will, for any prospect.”

Bentley completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,555 yards and 16 touchdowns, as well as 6 rushing scores last season.

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Growing list

Four-star quarterback and South Carolina commit Ryan Hilinski’s offer list has grown lately.

UCLA and Ohio State offered the 2019 prospect last week, with LSU joining the fray in April.

Hilinski is rated as the No. 166 overall prospect for 2019, per the 247Sports composite. He committed to the Gamecocks on April 4.

Most wanted

The Gamecocks have their eyes on several in-state prospects for 2020, including Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High School QB Luke Doty.

“South Carolina is among a handful of schools that have made an early impression, along with North Carolina, Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech,” McGranahan wrote. “Clemson would hold the cards with an offer. Doty [6-foot-2, 190 pounds] possesses the athleticism to play wide receiver or defensive back at the next level, though quarterback is certainly the one he’d prefer.”

Doty is rated as the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback for 2020 by 247Sports, though he’s unranked in the 247Sports composite.

Lasting legacy

As if former South Carolina women’s basketball star A’ja Wilson’s list of accomplishments wasn’t long enough, she added another honor over the weekend.

University president Harris Pastides announced on Saturday that Wilson will have her own statue on South Carolina’s campus.

In her time at South Carolina (2014-18), Wilson led the Gamecocks to a national championship in 2017, swept every national award in collegiate women’s basketball in 2018 and was named SEC Player of the Year three times. The Columbia native was picked No. 1 overall by the Las Vegas Aces in the 2018 WNBA Draft in April.

Home sweet home

South Carolina’s softball team (45-14 overall, 15-9 SEC) will host UNCG, Liberty and Hofstra in the Columbia Regional of the NCAA Tournament starting Friday.

This is the team’s sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the first time since 2002 the Gamecocks have hosted a regional as the top-seeded team.

South Carolina lost 3-1 to Florida in the SEC Tournament finals on Saturday.

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Daniel Sweeney – SEC Country

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Major South Carolina target sets decision date; Gamecocks offer in-state CB

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Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Decision date

Four-star defensive end and 2019 prospect Savion Jackson will announce his commitment on Wednesday, June 13, according to a tweet he posted Wednesday night.

The South Carolina Gamecocks are listed among his finalists, along with Clemson, North Carolina, N.C. State and Virginia Tech.

The Clayton, N.C., native is rated as the No. 45 overall prospect and No. 3 strongside defensive end for 2019, according to the 247Sports composite.

Feeling good

Jackson took an official visit to South Carolina last weekend.

“They just finalized some stuff in my brain I was thinking about,” said Jackson after the visit. “They answered all my questions. I took away a lot from this visit. It puts them in a strong place with me, a more solid place.”

According to the 247Sports Crystal Ball, South Carolina is the favorite to land the 6-foot-2, 245-pound defensive end.

‘It means the world’

The Gamecocks offered 3-star cornerback and Blythewood, S.C., native Cam Smith during the second session of Will Muschamp Football Camp on Wednesday.

“It means the world, just because that’s where I wanted to go to as a kid, since that’s who I grew up rooting for. I’ve always wanted to be a Gamecock,” Smith said.

The 2019 prospect lists additional offers from Florida State, Georgia Tech, Tennessee and more.

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Another visitor

After taking an unofficial visit to see the Gamecocks on Monday, 3-star CB John Dixon plans to return to Columbia for an official visit the weekend of the Georgia game.

“I’m one of the top DBs they have listed, so they want me to get back up with my dad,” the Chamberlain [Tampa, Fla.] High School standout said.

The 247Sports composite tabs Dixon as the No. 32 cornerback for 2019.

Planning to return

Junior college CB DJ Daniel was another prospect on campus this week for Muschamp Camp.

“They were speaking of me committing, but all I could tell them is I have to really talk it over with my family,” Daniel told Phil Kornblut of SportsTalkSC. “Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed South Carolina. I’m definitely going to be right back here for one of my official visits — I know that for a fact.”

In addition to South Carolina, Daniel holds offers from Auburn, Florida, Georgia and more.

Record picks

With six players selected on Wednesday, the South Carolina baseball team set a program record with 10 players drafted in the 2018 MLB First-Year Player Draft this week.

The Gamecocks return to the diamond on Saturday to face the Arkansas Razorbacks in Game 1 of their best-of-three Super Regional series in Fayetteville, Ark.

Tip-off

The South Carolina men’s and women’s basketball teams unveiled their respective SEC schedules for the 2018-19 season on Wednesday.

The women’s team home slate is highlighted by a rematch of the 2017 National Championship Game between the Gamecocks and Mississippi State Bulldogs.

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Deebo Samuel named All-American; in-state South Carolina target sets decision date

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Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Growing buzz

Athlon Sports recognized South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Deebo Samuel as a second-team All-American on Tuesday.

The redshirt senior was named to the team as both wide receiver and kick returner.

Before breaking his leg against Kentucky on Sept. 16, Samuel had 15 catches for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns, with 2 kickoff returns for scores and 1 rushing touchdown. That was in three games.

Save the date

Three-star cornerback and 2019 prospect Cam Smith plans to announce his commitment on Aug. 17.

“That’s who I grew up rooting for and I’ve always been a Gamecock,” the Blythewood, S.C., native told SEC Country when the Gamecocks offered earlier this month.

Smith is rated as the No. 33 cornerback and No. 3 prospect in the Palmetto State for 2019, per the 247Sports composite.

‘Not like any other college’

What prompted Class of 2020 running back Mecose Todd to commit to the Gamecocks nearly two years before his signing day? Todd explained his decision to The State’s Matt Connolly.

“South Carolina is different. It’s not like any other college. I just feel more at home there,” Todd told Connolly. “When I went on visits to other colleges, I felt that way, but it wasn’t as strong. I wasn’t as close to the coaching staff as I was the South Carolina coaching staff.”

The Villa Rica, Ga., native lists additional offers from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Southern Cal and more.

Take the over

CBS Sports’ Barrett Sallee likes South Carolina to win more than the 7 games in 2018 that Vegas oddsmakers set as the Gamecocks’ over/under.

“Georgia and Clemson are likely losses, but the rest of the schedule is loaded with toss-ups,” Sallee writes. “Will they lose three more games in addition to the two likely losses to get to a push? I don’t see it.”

South Carolina is coming off of the seventh 9-win season in program history, posting a 9-4 record in 2017.

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Top tailgaters

According to 247Sports’ Sam Hellman and Scott Backstrom, the Gamecocks boast the No. 2 tailgate scene in the country.

“Consistently drawing in students and alumni alike, South Carolina brings the second-best overall tailgating community in the nation, according to Insider,” Hellman writes.

South Carolina was one of eight SEC schools on the list, second only to No. 1-ranked LSU.

Scoop and score

Tuesday marked 74 days until South Carolina football returns. What better way to celebrate than with linebacker TJ Brunson’s 74-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown against Arkansas last season?

South Carolina opens the season Sept. 1 against Coastal Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Do your part

A number of former South Carolina women’s basketball standouts are excelling in the WNBA this season. Help send them to the WNBA All Star Game — voting started on Tuesday!

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Mississippi’s finest: MSU, Ole Miss have battle on their hands for rich 2019 in-state recruiting class

Mississippi-Mississippi State-Dan Mullen-Hugh Freeze

The states where SEC schools reside are home to some of the best recruiting grounds in the country, headlined by the prospect-rich likes of Texas, Florida and Georgia. Usually, we don’t include Mississippi in that conversation, but next year will mark a major exception.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have some serious in-state talent at their disposal in the Class of 2019. For only the second time since 2011, the Magnolia State will have nine recruits with at least a 4-star rating, including a pair of 5-star prospects, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. And, as coaches slowly begin shifting their focus to the 2019 class, the number of blue-chip recruits could be even higher by next spring.

Headlining the class are 5-star outside linebacker Nakobe Dean (Horn Lake) and 5-star defensive end Nathan Pickering. They already have offers from at least six schools each, including Ole Miss and Mississippi State, and 247Sports has both ranked top-5 nationally at their respective positions.

Rounding out the list of Mississippi blue-chippers are defensive end Charles Moore, running back Jerrion Ealy, receiver Dannis Jackson, defensive end Byron Young, tackle Brandon Cunningham, athlete Diwun Black and athlete Brandon Turnage, an Oxford native. Georgia, LSU, Louisville and Tennessee have all offered Turnage.

The Rebels and Bulldogs have gotten an early crack at recruiting this elite top 10. But a big question looms: How stiff will the competition be in 2019?

When it comes to keeping top talent at home, the past couple recruiting cycles haven’t been so kind to the in-state powers.

In 2017, four of the top-12 ranked recruits signed with out-of-state programs; 4-stars Nigel Knott, Raekwon Davis and Scott Lashley all landed at Alabama. Then in 2017, five of the top 8 recruits left Mississippi, including the state’s No. 1 prospect Cam Akers (Florida State). No more than two of the state’s top-10 recruits left the state in any of the previous six classes (2010-15).

For Ole Miss and Mississippi State, it’s a somewhat troubling trend, albeit one that can be partly attributed to the NCAA’s months-long investigation of the Rebels’ football program. Coach Hugh Freeze went so far as to characterize his 2017 signing class, ranked No. 12 in the SEC, as a “penalty.”

MSU finds itself in a much better position. The Bulldogs signed 5-star Jeffery Simmons in 2016, and added local stars Willie Gay and Kyrin Hill this offseason. They’ve also cleaned up at the JUCO level while making forays into Georgia, Louisiana and Texas for their quarterbacks — Nick Fitzgerald, Keytaon Thompson and 2018 commit Jalen Mayden, respectively.

With Ole Miss still mired in murky waters, will coach Dan Mullen’s staff be able to take advantage? LSU, Alabama, Louisville and even Tennessee have swiped recruits from Mississippi in recent years.

Conversely, will Freeze keep his job and find the closure he seeks from the NCAA? And if so, can he get the Rebels recruiting at an elite level again?

Time will tell, but one thing’s for sure: the Magnolia State will host some fierce recruiting battles in 2019.

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South Carolina welcomes in-state QB; Florida prospects stand out in Day 3 of camp

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Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

In-state priority

Three-star quarterback and 2020 prospect Luke Doty was among those on campus Thursday for Day 3 of Will Muschamp Football Camp.

“Doty remains one of the Gamecocks’ top priorities at the position for the Class of 2020,” SEC Country’s Hale McGranahan writes. “After camp ended, Doty and his mother hopped on a golf cart with [South Carolina quarterbacks coach Dan Werner] and a few offensive staffers, which included strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman.”

In addition to South Carolina, the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High School quarterback lists offers from Auburn, Miami, Virginia Tech and more.

Sunshine State standouts

Day 3 of Muschamp Camp featured a handful of prospect from Florida, including several from Gamecocks freshman linebacker Rosendo Louis’ alma mater, Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High School.

“Ge’Mon Eaford, a 4-star linebacker, is the team’s top-rated 2019 prospect,” McGranahan writes. “At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Eaford is ranked the No. 13 outside linebacker in the country on the 247Sports composite.”

Eaford’s teammate, 2020 wide receiver Bryce Gowdy, was also on campus. Gowdy is rated as the No. 260 overall prospect for 2020, according to 247Sports.

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Beyond the sidelines

The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman profiled South Carolina’s Werner and his journey on and off the field earlier this week.

Werner joined the Gamecocks staff in January after spending one season at Alabama as an offensive analyst. Before that, Werner was co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ole Miss.

Break it down

Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports praised the Gamecocks’ impressive 2019 haul on Thursday.

South Carolina’s 2019 class, consisting of 15 commits, is currently ranked No. 4 overall in 247Sports’ 2019 composite team rankings.

Guess who’s back

The South Carolina football team’s official Twitter account hyped the return of redshirt senior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams.

Allen-Williams missed the majority of the 2017 season because of a shoulder injury suffered in South Carolina’s 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech on Sept. 23.

The Ellenwood, Ga., native had 10 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception and 1 fumble recovery in three games last year.

On the pitch

Former South Carolina women’s soccer forward Savannah McCaskill made her first start for the U.S. Women’s National Team on Thursday night.

“Savannah McCaskill , who was taken second overall in the 2018 NWSL College Draft by the Boston Breakers and then was picked by Sky Blue FC in the Dispersal Draft, has worked herself into consistent call-ups with the WNT this year,” the team’s official release reads. “She will make her first career start tonight, in what will be her sixth cap. McCaskill made the game roster for the Jan. 21 match against Denmark and earned her first cap when she came into the game in the 70th minute for Andi Sullivan.”

McCaskill was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year her senior season (2017) and earned All-America honors her last three years in Columbia, S.C. (2015-17). She finished her South Carolina career at No. 2 in all-time assists (34) and No. 3 in points (114) and goals (40).

We’re here

South Carolina’s baseball team arrived in Fayetteville, Ark., on Thursday night for the team’s best-of-three Super Regional against the Arkansas Razorbacks, starting on Saturday.

The Razorbacks took the regular-season series against the Gamecocks, winning two out of three, but South Carolina has a lot of momentum, having won five consecutive SEC series to close the season.

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Gamecocks’ top recruiting battles for 2019; previewing South Carolina’s in-state talent for 2020

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Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Recruiting rivals

The South Carolina Gamecocks are battling the Clemson Tigers for many of the top prospects in the 2019 recruiting cycle, including:

  • 5-star athlete Quavaris Crouch (Charlotte, N.C.)
  • 5-star defensive end Zacch Pickens (Anderson, S.C.)
  • 4-star linebacker Kalen Deloach (Savannah, Ga.)
  • 4-star tackle Warren McClendon (Brunswick, Ga.)
  • 4-star guard Keiondre Jones (Hogansville, Ga.)
  • 3-star linebacker Derek Boykins (Concord, N.C.)

South Carolina’s 2019 class is rated No. 12 in the 247Sports’ 2019 football recruiting composite team rankings.

Top talent

The Palmetto State boasts several highly touted prospects for 2020, particularly along the defensive line.

“Five-star defensive end Jordan Burch [Columbia, S.C.] has an early grip on the No. 1 spot in the class and [South Carolina and Clemson] have already offered,” McGranahan wrote. “The two schools have also offered 4-star defensive end Tonka Hemingway [Conway, S.C.].”

South Carolina has two commits for 2020: 3-star running back Mecose Todd and guard Tyshawn Wannamaker.

Making the trip

Four-star junior college cornerback Elijah Blades will visit South Carolina on June 2, according to SEC Country’s Sam Spiegelman.

Blades is rated as the No. 3 overall JUCO prospect for 2019, according to 247Sports.

In addition to South Carolina, the 6-foot-2, 170-pound cornerback lists offers from Alabama, Oregon, Florida, Texas, Tennessee and Ole Miss.

Moving on

South Carolina’s men’s basketball team has parted ways with reserve guard Rakym Felder, coach Frank Martin announced on Monday.

“When Rakym and I met to discuss his return to our program, there were certain things that I asked of him and unfortunately he has not met those expectations,” Martin said in a release. “I’m disappointed that he did not take advantage of the opportunity to fully return to our program. We wish him the best with his future.”

In his lone season with the Gamecocks, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native averaged 5.6 points and 1.3 assists per game through the 2016-17 season.

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Keep climbing

Four-star quarterback and South Carolina commit Ryan Hilinski is the No. 1 pro-style quarterback for 2019, according to ESPN.

Hilinski committed to the Gamecocks on April 4. He’s South Carolina’s highest-rated commit for 2019.

SEC honors

South Carolina freshman pitcher Logan Chapman was named SEC Co-Freshman of the Week on Monday.

The right-hander has a 3-0 record, a 3.29 earned run average and 40 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched.

Back on campus

Former South Carolina star and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft A’ja Wilson returned to Columbia on Monday night for the Gamecock Gala.

The three-time SEC Player of the Year and consensus National Player of the Year for 2018 took home the President’s Award.

A four-time All-SEC selection, Wilson averaged 17.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in her career at South Carolina.

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Daniel Sweeney – SEC Country