All-American DE Xavier Thomas (6-3 255) of Florence and IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL Saturday brought to a sudden end his recruiting battle between Clemson and USC announcing that he will sign with the Tigers in December and enroll in January. Thomas, who was at Clemson Saturday for the spring game, is another huge pickup for Dabo Swinney’s 2018 class while his decision is a blow to Will Muschamp’s efforts to elevate the Gamecocks’ talent level on defense. The decision and the timing both were a bit surprising considering Thomas grew up a Gamecock fan and had made numerous visits this spring to USC, including last Saturday’s spring game. Thomas had never publicly stated a preference though many thought Columbia’s proximity to Florence and the Thomas family worked in USC’s favor. Plus, he had stated he would wait until his birthday December 20th to make his announcement. But Friday word started to surface on Twitter that Thomas could spring for Clemson Saturday. He apparently stopped following Gamecock coaches on his Twitter account. He actually told Swinney of his decision earlier in the week and Muschamp on Thursday. “I have been talking to my family, and I just wanted to go ahead and get this out of the way,” Thomas said. “I knew Clemson was where I wanted to be, and I didn’t see a reason to put it off any longer. I knew in my heart this is where I wanted to be, and I know it’s the right decision. That is why I took those last two trips to South Carolina. I wanted to make sure. So I went back to Columbia, and after the visit last weekend I really knew for sure.”
University of Minnesota graduate transfer DE Gaelin Elmore is in the process of checking out the schools he’s considering for his final season. He was at Arizona over the weekend and USC Monday and Tuesday. The Gamecocks are shopping for some immediate help at defensive end and did their best to convince Elmore to join in. “It was awesome. I didn’t know what to expect going down, having never been to South Carolina,” Elmore said. “Me and Coach Muschamp had kind of a previous relationship because I was recruited by Florida coming out of high school. It was awesome to get down there and see everything the school has to offer. They have a lot of great resources and I really enjoyed my time there. Great people and great community. It was great, I enjoyed it a lot.” Elmore said part of his time was spent meeting with Muschamp and Lance Thompson and he got an idea about how they would use him should he decide to join them. “Up and down the line, not really restricting me to one position,” he said. “They were telling me I could contribute up and down the line and on every down, and that’s something that’s really appealing, especially having defensive coaches with NFL experience and knowing what teams in the NFL look for. So, just seeing how they want to use me and the way they say they can use me is pretty sweet. They are definitely someone I have to consider hard. My dad really loved it and that’s a big point to take into consideration. South Carolina is someone that’s definitely going to be in my mind for a while and probably be right in there when I start to make my decision.” Elmore will visit Houston this weekend.
USC last week offered TE Tommy Tremble (6-4 225) of Johns Creek, GA. “They said they liked how I’m a big man that has a lot of potential on the field either getting vertical or putting my hand in the ground and blocking.” Tremble will visit USC April 29th. Tremble visited Georgia Saturday and Auburn earlier in the week. He is going to Tennessee Saturday. He also has offers from Indiana, Missouri, Minnesota, Maryland and Colorado State.
LB Ernest Jones IV of Waycross, GA visited USC for a spring practice, for the spring game and plans to return this week for a more in depth visit with the academic side of the school. With all that interest in the Gamecocks, it’s no surprise then that Jones now favors the Gamecocks over some other SEC schools. His mind is not quite made up, but he does plan to announce a commitment by or on May 5th. “I’m loving South Carolina,” Jones said. “I’m liking everything. I’ll get a good education if I go there and get to play big-time football, so I’m really getting the best of both worlds. They have explained to me how I will fit on the depth chart. They said they need me. It’s going to be a good opportunity to go play under Coach Hutzler and Coach Muschamp so I’m excited. Have I made up my mind? Not yet.” Jones plans to visit Florida this week and he also wants to visit Ole Miss and Tennessee. But the Gators present the greatest threat. “Florida was my dream school coming up and I’ve been waiting to get there and visit and see how I would fit in there, if possible,” Jones said. Florida will have to show Jones a lot to turn him away from the Gamecocks. He was zoned in on the defense when watching that practice and the spring game and definitely saw where he could fit in. “Their defense plays hard you can tell and Skai Moore is good,” he said. “I usually watch him the whole time because they say that I will be playing in his position. I study him to see how they have him do it. I like South Carolina’s defense.” Jones last week picked up an offer from Tennessee. He also has offers from Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Duke, Western Kentucky, Oregon, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech and Georgia State.
DE Dorian Gerald (6-3 250) of College of the Canyons JC, CA was an unknown quantity coming out of West Florence High School, but now he’s a heavily recruited prospect who USC offered last week. “It’s my home state and it means a lot to me to know that my home wants me to come home. I’m lost for words honestly. It means a lot to me. That’s one of the best offers you’re going to get, your home state offer.” Gerald made a big impact in his first season in 2016 finishing second on the team in tackles with 54. He also had 12 of the team’s 33 sacks, a figure that led the conference, and forced four fumbles. He also recorded 24 tackles for loss. Gerald was named to the Region III All California Community College Team. He also was named to the first team of the Southern California Football Association All League Team. “They love the way I get to the quarterback and that’s what they want,” he said. They need a pass rusher who can come in and compete for a starting position, no doubt about it. He’s bringing me in to rush the passer.” Gerald also has picked up offers from Tennessee, Arizona State, Colorado State, Syracuse, Washington State, Memphis and others. He’s very excited about the USC offer, but he’s not ready to push the Gamecocks, or anyone, to the front of the line. “I’m an open book,” he said. “I’m loving everyone. Of course, it would be nice to come home, but I want to go to a place that leads me to the best opportunity to play because you don’t have a lot of time coming out of JUCO. Of course, it would be lovely to come home, but I also have to consider who is going to offer me the best opportunity to get on the field earliest.” Gerald has not taken any visits yet, but he plans to set up some unofficial visits soon. While in California he wants to stop by Southern Cal and Arizona State, and when he’s home this summer he plans to check out USC. He did visit USC in the past while in high school. Gerald will graduate in December and enroll in his new school in January. He will have three years to play two.
LB Quin Williams of Madison, GA visited USC late in March to watch a spring practice and afterwards declared the Gamecocks as his leader. He was back at USC for the spring game and the Gamecocks do remain his favorite though he’s not ready to declare his recruiting over. “I see them going thru a rebuilding process and it looks like it’s going in the right direction.” Williams visited Auburn last week. He said USC, Auburn, Florida and Florida State rate as his top schools at this point. He does not have a timetable on a decision.
OL Jerome Carvin of Cordova, TN made his first visit to USC for the spring game and was joined by his mother on the visit. “I was talking with Coach Wolford, Coach Bentley and Coach Muschamp and they were saying I am a top priority for them. They like how I am relentless in finishing my blocks, the way I move for how big I am and that I have good feet. And I’m a pretty good pass blocker.” Carvin is being recruited as a guard. The trip to USC was the latest in a full itinerary of campus visits for Carvin, who also has been to Alabama, Tennessee, Memphis, Kentucky, Georgia, Auburn, Louisville, Missouri, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Carvin said he will soon release a top seven and then he will narrow his list to five for his official visits.
LB Azeez Ojulari (6-3 222) of Marietta, GA last week picked up an offer from USC. He also has offers from Georgia Tech, NC State, Oklahoma, Wake Forest, Maryland, Southern Miss, Notre Dame, Alabama, Iowa State and others. But the USC offer really jumped out at him. “My first SEC offer so I’m very excited,” He said. “It’s big time football and a great school. I really want to visit, but I don’t know what day yet. They (recruiters) say they really like my film and how physical I play, and they liked how I jump with a 39.8″ vertical.” Ojulari also has visited Clemson, Georgia, NC State, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest and Auburn. He includes USC in the top group of schools he’s considering at this point.
DB Chris Smith (6-0 165) of Hapeville, GA is one of the top cornerbacks in the country based on his offer list of USC, Auburn, Southern Cal, Ohio State, Michigan, Georgia, Kentucky, Kansas State and others. He visited USC last month and the Gamecocks have moved into a prominent place with him. “When I was talking to Coach T-Rob (Travaris Robinson) he was talking about the scheme and told me I had a good chance to play there. Muschamp was really the same. They said they really like me and they need me. My relationship with those guys is good. They really like me and I really like them. They show me a lot of love and right now they are recruiting me the hardest. I feel really good about the school and they are one of my top schools now.” Smith said the other schools strong on him are Michigan, Ohio State, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Cal and Tennessee. He has also been to Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Smith has not developed his top list yet, but when he does he feels certain USC will be a part of it. “They were one of the first schools to believe in me and I definitely think they will be one of the schools I’ll be considering to the end.” Smith said he can play corner or nickel.
USC signee LB Eldridge Thompson said he has completed all his JUCO academic work and is set to enroll, perhaps in May.
Some USC in-state targets picked up more offers…Spring Valley LB Channing Tindall was offered by Tennessee and Arkansas, South Pointe DB Steven Gilmore Jr. by Duke and Louisville, Greenwood WR Sam Pinckney by Georgia and Gaffney WR Dennis Smith by Florida State.
DB Jaylon Reed of Olive Branch, MS released his top 10 and USC is on the board along with Ole Miss, Oregon, Memphis, Tennessee, Marshall, Louisiana Tech, Mississippi State, Purdue and Georgia.
USC offered QB Tanner Mordecai (6-3 213) of Waco, TX. Some of his other offers are Baylor, Texas Tech, Houston, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss and Syracuse. Last season he passed for 1716 yards, 13 touchdowns and 5 interceptions and rushed for 517 yards and 8 touchdowns.
USC QB target Tyler Shough of Chandler, AZ was offered last week by Michigan and Missouri.
OL Reuben Unije (6-5 303) of IMG Academy visited Tennessee and might visit Florida. He also plans to visit USC.
USC offered WR Rondale Moore (5-8 165) of Louisville, 2019 DL Lloyd Murray Jr. (6-1 320) of Wichita Falls, TX, 2019 DB Jalen Alexander and 2019 DE Kevin Harris of Loganville, GA and 2020 RB Don Chaney Jr. of Miami.
Former Duke QB graduate transfer Thomas Sirk will enroll at East Carolina. He visited USC for the spring game weekend.
2019 DB Akeem Pauling of Ben Lippen was back at USC for the spring game. Pauling said Clemson and Georgia Tech also are in touch and want him to visit.
USC reportedly is on the offer list for Pitt graduate transfer 6-8 Cam Johnson, who averaged 12 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season and has two years of eligibility. The others on the list are Florida, Ohio State, Texas, Kentucky, Michigan, Arizona, Iowa State, Baylor, Ole Miss, Marquette and TCU.
6-2 NaLyssa Smith of Converse, TX took an official visit to USC last weekend. She’s ranked fourth nationally by ESPN.
2019 OF Tyler Kehoe (5-11 165) of Prospect Park, PA committed Sunday to USC. He had been committed to Louisville. He also was recruited by Clemson, Arkansas, Penn State, Houston, Pitt and Virginia Tech.
**Phil Kornblut's latest "Recruiting Roundup" for Spurs & Feathers (photo by Juan Blas). Catch Kornblut every night on SportsTalk and get more of his statewide recruiting news at SportsTalkSC.com and on Twitter @SportsTalkSC**