Before the class of 2013 had even inked on Wednesday, South Carolina had around 40 of its top underclassman prospects on campus for a junior day last Saturday. Junior days allow a school to showcase its program and for prospects to better get to know the coaching staff, while getting a feel for how they operate.
Four-star running back Derrell Scott has South Carolina in the lead.
Havelock back on campus - Havelock (N.C.) High has been good to the Gamecocks in recent years and they hope that trend continues with the class of 2014 and 2015.
On Saturday, South Carolina's top running back target, 2014 four-star Derrell Scott visited along with his class of 2015 teammate, WR Michael Bowman.
Scott has seen the program many times before.
"It was good," Scott said. "They showed us around, basically. I've been here before but it was the first time for my mom and my brother. They got to see the place and all that."
Scott says his family also enjoyed the trip.
"I think they thought it was a really nice place," he said. "They liked it."
South Carolina has had success recruiting Havelock, and believes it landed a steal in Pharoh Cooper.
"He seems pretty cool. He seems like a really cool guy," Scott says.
With Lawing's departure, Scott's relationship with running backs coach Everette Sands has also been important.
"I just spent more time with Coach Sands, my position coach," Scott said. "We've got a good relationship. We were watching film today and just looking at plays and stuff like that."
Scott says that South Carolina remains his long-time leader with Ohio State, Notre Dame and Tennessee clustered behind it.
Scott plans to make a decision after his senior season.
While Scott already has a good feel for his recruitment, Bowman's is first starting.
South Carolina was the first to offer and he's since picked up offers from North Carolina, North Carolina State and ECU.
"I liked it, but it was my first time being here," Bowman said of the trip, "so I might come back next time too."
Defensive backs coach Grady Brown has been heavily involved in Darin Smalls' recruitment.
The 5-foot-11, 181-pound Scott is rated the No. 1 all-purpose back in the county by 247Sports.
Smalls returns to Columbia - Class of 2014 DB Darin Smalls (Summerville/Summerville) was a relatively unknown commodity when South Carolina secondary coach Grady Brown offered him in early December, but since then he's also added offers from Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State.
Because of the early offer and an early visit for one of the Gamecocks' bowl practices, South Carolina holds the early edge.
Smalls returned to campus for the Gamecocks' junior day.
"They were just talking about their campus and giving us tours and all that," Smalls said. "They were telling us how we need to work out and keep our heads straight and focus on school."
Smalls says a couple of things in particular stood out about the trip.
"Actually being able to stand on the field and actually put on a jersey was cool," Smalls said.
Follow the visits, Smalls says the Gamecocks are still on top.
Class of 2015 OL Zack Bailey talks with offensive line coach Shawn Elliott often.
"What makes them the leader is they were my first offer and I come here more than I go to any other college, so that's probably what sticks out to make them my leader," he said.
The 5-foot-11, 182-pound prospect doesn't currently have a time table for a decision.
"I'd probably let it play out," Smalls said. "I'm not going to rush my decision. USC still leads and Clemson and Notre Dame is after that."
Smalls will visit Clemson in March and maybe Virginia Tech in April. He'll be back in Columbia for a spring practice and the spring game.
2015 lineman enjoys trip - Smalls wasn't the only Summerville prospect to make the trip as class of 2015 offensive lineman Zack Bailey (Summerville/Summerville) with him. Bailey has visited South Carolina multiple times but Saturday was his first trip in which he’s had an offer in hand. Bailey picked up an offer, the only one to his credit at this time, from the Gamecocks back in December after visiting for a bowl practice.
Bailey was on campus for a couple of games this season but returned with Smalls on December 15 to watch Outback Bowl practice. Just a few days later, he picked up his offer.
He was back in Columbia for Junior Day on Saturday and said the best part of the trip was being in the locker room.
“Trying on the jerseys was the coolest part of the visit,” Bailey said. “They just got new jerseys and putting those on just felt good. I can’t wait for football season to get going again so I can hit somebody.”
Everette Sands is Zack Bailey's recruiter of record.
Bailey, who stands 6-foot-5, 295 pounds, said he’s being recruited by the Gamecocks to play left guard. He has already started to build a strong relationship with offensive line coach Shawn Elliott
and recruiter of record Everette Sands .
“(Coach Elliot and I) talk frequently. We talk about school and when the next camps and combines are coming up so I can be there for them,” Bailey said. “Coach Sands seems like a real good guy, too.”
Bailey said he doesn’t have any other visits planned at this point. Bailey, who has not yet been ranked by 247Sports, is from Washington State. He said that he was able to watch some film of South Carolina from last season and noticed that the Gamecocks run some up-tempo offense, which is what he likes to run.
“South Carolina is pretty much my leader,” Bailey said. “I’d like to talk
to Florida, Oregon, Georgia, Alabama, and some schools like that. I don’t really know if there are schools close to offering right now.”
Four-star defensive tackle takes in trip - South Carolina had several of the top defensive tackle prospects in the country on its campus for the junior day and one of those prospects is four-star DT Dontavious Russell (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton).
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound prospect has offers from programs like South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Georgia Tech among others.
"I went and met Steve Spurrier in his office," Russell said. "We went around and saw all the stuff that they have there. We went and saw the academic offices. It made a good impression, because I didn't really know much about the school."
"He was just telling me a little bit about himself and what it's like on game day," Russell said of his conversation with Spurrier.
Four-star DT Dontavious Russell is considered the No. 6 DT in the country.
Russell got to know new defensive line coach Deke Adams on the trip.
"We had a long conversation just now before I left. He talked more about life," Adams said. "He didn't just talk about football, he was talking about life after football, so it seemed like he cared more about my future other than football."
Russell also liked the academic setup at the school.
"I like that unlike some of the other schools I went to, you have the option when you got to study hall, that once you finish what you're doing, you can leave and don't have to just sit there not doing anything. I felt good about that," Russell said.
Russell hopes to visit Georgia on Feb. 16 for its junior day.
Kinlaw back for first time in a while - Three-star 2014 running back Caleb Kinlaw has had a South Carolina offer since his freshman year, but hadn't been on campus in a while until Saturday's junior day.
"It was good," Kinlaw said. "I haven't been here in a while, so it as good to get back up here. They were just kind of telling us what they expected of us, those that they've offered, that they want us to come here, and how the running backs' carries are going to be distributed and things like that."
Kinlaw is being recruited by receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr.
"He's come by the school a number of times," Kinlaw says. "He said that he wants me and he wants me to keep coming up for visits."
The two have developed a strong relationship.
"It's pretty close," Kinlaw said. "It's probably the closest among my (recruiting) coaches. It's between him and (Tennessee running backs coach Jay) Graham and Coach Vic Koenning who is coming in from North Carolina soon."
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound back also has offers from North Carolina, Tennessee, Clemson and Georgia Tech. He says, "They're kind of all even right now."
Kinlaw plans to visit North Carolina Feb. 23 for its junior day and also hopes to see Tennessee, Ohio State and Virginia Tech soon.
John Whittle contributed to this report.
More in-depth junior day coverage
Junior day quick-hitters - Want to get an overview of many of the prospects who made it in with scoop on how their trips went? This is the place to start before you go in-depth below.
Googer takes in junior day - Four-star WR Terry Googer is one of the Gamecocks' top targets at his position and he had a great return trip to South Carolina Saturday. Where do the Gamecocks stand? Find out inside.
Gamecocks grab Newell's attention - South Carolina doesn't recruit Kansas much but the Gamecocks made an exception for four-star DT Peyton Newell. Newell had his eyes opened to the Carolina program on the trip.
Big first impression - South Carolina landed one 2013 linebacker out of Alabama in Jonathan Walton ... could they be set to add another in 2014? This four-star prospect was blown away on his first trip to Columbia. Look inside to find out where the Gamecocks stand with the Mobile native.
Bone focused on three - When three-star WR Blake Bone stepped foot in Columbia Saturday for the Gamecocks' junior day it was the first time he'd be on the USC campus since he was a freshman. He's taken his recruitment slow, but is starting to dive into it now. Find out where the Gamecocks stand and more.
Gamecocks still on top - Defensive tackle Poona Ford may be the captain of 2014's all-name team, but he's a pretty good prospect too. He talks about the Gamecocks' early lead following Saturday's visit.
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