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December 15, 2004

South Carolina roster shows a lot of skill

North Carolina roster preview

SPARTANBURG, S.C. Weeks ago, when the rosters for the annual North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl were announced, North Carolina coach Dick Cline began getting that same line of advice.

Forget the fact that he happens to have two of nation's top running backs (Toney Baker and Montario Hardesty) on his own team.

South Carolina happens to have a deep group of talented defensive backs, including a trio of four-star safeties in C.J. Byrd, J.C. Neal and Jamie Robinson, who specialize in making big plays and big hits all over the field.

Get the lowdown on every player on the South Carolina roster below (recruits who have committed have the school they have chosen listed next to their name in parenthesis).

FOUR-STAR RECRUITS:
C.J. Byrd (Georgia): Being billed as Georgia's next great safety. The super athletic 6-foot-3, 190-pounder from North Augusta is ranked the top player in South Carolina and the No. 6 athlete in the nation. Look for him to make some big plays Saturday.

Mike Davis: The source of one of the biggest ongoing recruiting battles in the Southeast. The 5-foot-11, 212-pound running back from Columbia has scholarship offers from virtually every program within a 500-mile radius and beyond. He is blessed with uncanny balance and an ability to make defenders miss, but some still doubt his potential because he didn't play in the state's highest classification. Clemson is considered a slight leader over Auburn, Kentucky, UNC and others.

Eric Huggins (Oklahoma): The future Sooner spent the first two days of practice burning some of South Carolina's top defensive backs. But, the 6-foot-3, 186-pounder, who had a handful of scholarship offers from elite programs, from Conway clearly must add bulk and strength to be a factor in the Big 12. He has the frame to do just that, but is probably a couple of years away from making an impact at the next level.

Josh Miller (Clemson): Mike Davis may be ranked higher and may be surrounded by more hype, but this product from Manning might be the top running back in the state. At 6-foot-1, 218-pounds, he has a much bigger and more muscular frame. Don't be surprised he makes a quick impact in the ACC.

J.C. Neal: Near the top of N.C. State and Virginia Tech's recruiting boards. The 6-foot, 180-pound defensive back from Sumter could make a difference for a handful of recruiting classes in the Southeast.

Rendrick Taylor (Clemson): An in-state recruiting battle is heating up over this 6-foot-3, 210-pound safety. He is planning on taking official visits to Clemson and South Carolina next month. He has the size to earn playing time quickly at either school.

Jamie Robinson: Clearly one of the top players in the state. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder from Rock Hill could play cornerback or safety at the next level. Many of the top programs in the Southeast are pursuing him. Florida State is considered the leader, but don't rule out Clemson.

THREE-STAR RECRUITS
Thomas Austin (Clemson): Might be the best offensive lineman in the state. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder from Camden had a handful of scholarship offers and is now considering South Carolina after hearing from Steve Spurrier. Locking up this product is a major focus for the Tigers coaching staff at the moment.

Hivera Green: A handful of Clemson and South Carolina coaches have been following this highly-touted 6-foot-5, 267-pound offensive tackle from Conway. But, he may not stay in-state. Virginia Tech is also a contender.

Damien Wright (South Carolina): The Palmetto State is loaded with highly-coveted defensive backs and the 6-foot-2, 190-pound safety from Sumter is one of the best of the bunch. Athletic and big enough to be a factor in run defense, he could also play a variety of positions.

TWO-STAR RECRUITS:
Trey Bailey (Wake Forest): One of a handful of D-I prospects from state power James F. Byrnes High. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder had to enjoy seeing a handful of Wake Forest coaches on the sidelines Tuesday. The Deacons were one of the few programs to seriously recruit him.

Mychal Belcher (South Carolina): The local star quarterback from Roebuck has been transformed into a defensive back this week and ha been matched up against some of the top receivers in the South. The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder traveled all over the Southeast, including stops at UNC and West Virginia, before settling on the Gamecocks.

Sadat Chambers (Clemson): As versatile as any recruit at the bowl game. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder is playing quarterback, in large part due to the lack of players at that position. He has a funky throwing motion and is better suited for receiver or defensive back. Still, he will play a heavy amount of snaps and his performance will be critical.

Reynaldo Hunter: This 6-foot, 180-pound receiver from perennial power James F. Byrnes High in Spartanburg lost only two games in his last three years. Byrnes runs a spread offense often using five wide receivers in formations and the speedy Hunter might be their biggest weapon. UNC is his top choice and he heads to Chapel Hill for an official visit Jan. 28.

Hadrian Lewis (Clemson): Not heavily recruited coming out of Charleston, the 6-foot, 180-pound cornerback is attracting the attention of plenty of coaches now. He raised his stock with a strong senior season.

Nathan Pepper (South Carolina): Few D-lineman on either roster have been more impressive. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder from Greenville appears to have grown in recent months and he is blessed with plenty of lateral speed. Like many Gamecock commits he was excited to hear that Steve Spurrier would be his new coach, but he isn't done looking around. He is going to take an official visit to UNC in January.

Jordan Sorrells (Furman): Not too many recruits choose Division I-AA over I-A, but this 6-foot-2, 200-pound quarterback from Greenville did. The left-hander committed to nearby Furman despite a scholarship offer from Kentucky. With a lack of quarterbacks in the Palmetto State this year, his play will be crucial.

UNRANKED RECRUITS
Dontay Bennett: Opportunity is knocking for this 6-foot-3, 290-pound offensive tackle from St. Stephens, who will be matched up against some of the top D-lineman in the nation Saturday. Shutting down one of those prospects will earn scholarship offers.

Jeremy Davis: No need to grow a little more or to bulk up here. At 6-foot-5, 290-pounds this offensive tackle from Pickens has the frame needed to be a great pass blocker.

Rod Fluellen: The energetic running back from Columbia is undersized at 5-foot-8, 190-pound (and even those numbers are generous), but few recruits can match his level of effort. He has been diving for several passes during the first two practices and coming up with his share of impressive catches. It might be enough to start earning him some Division I-A scholarship offers.

Devon Greene: The audition has begun for this 6-foot-2, 190-pound quarterback. Not heavily recruited coming out of Ladison, he has a chance to impress coaches from all over the Southeast now.

Miguel Graham: One of a handful of D-I prospects from Rock Hill. The 5-foot-10, 165-pounder has the tools to be a shutdown corner and will earn himself some scholarship offers this week.

Alonzo Higgins: Clearly one of the best players on this roster, but academic problems are preventing the 6-foot-3, 230-pound outside linebacker from being a major recruit. He has the ability to play several different positions and has garnered interest from Clemson, North Carolina and South Carolina. Don't be surprised if he ends up at a junior college.

Mike Hill: A versatile defender who could develop into a solid defensive end. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder is from Hanahan.

Jimmie Holmes: Looking for a pass-rush specialist? Check out this 6-foot-2, 224-pound defensive end who thrives on putting pressure on quarterbacks.

Barry Humphries: May end up being a defensive tackle, but this week he is playing on the O-line. The 6-foot-3, 291-pounder is tough to move or get around traits that coaches love in interior lineman on both sides of the ball.

Jessie Jackson: Spent the first two days beating some of the top defensive backs in the nation downfield. If that continues expect the 6-foot-2, 195-pound receiver from Taylors to be one of the biggest surprises of the week.

Thomas James: One of the strongest players on the team. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound defensive lineman from Goose Creek can overpower offensive lineman.

Kirk Leach: The biggest player on the team. At 6-foot-3, 305-pounds, the offensive tackle from Hamer commands attention, but is he quick enough to play at the D-I level? Coaches will find out soon.

Ryan McClain: One of several relatively unknown lineman in this game. The 6-foot, 274-pound defensive tackle from Charleston is built to plug up running lanes.

Philip Morris: One of the biggest linebackers on either team and he has raised his stock considerably over the last two days. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder from Orangeburg will be a big factor Saturday.

Will Newell: A prototypical linebacker from Columbia. He stands 6-foot-2, 225-pounds and has a good wingspan. Look for him to capture the attention of coaches by the end of the week.

Derell Nichols: The 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive tackle from Mullins closes up running lanes quickly. He is receiving attention from ACC schools, but don't be surprised if he ends up at a junior college program.

Tharry Salley: A strong performance might mean scholarship offers for this 6-foot-2, 215-pound linebacker from Blackville.

Josh Sims: A lack of height will probably keep this offensive lineman from Sumter from playing at the high Division I-A level. But, the 6-foot, 285-pounder could still be a force for several college programs.

Thomas Slaughter: One of the top offensive lineman in the state. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder from Rock Hill will be paving running lanes for Mike Davis, Josh Miller and others.

Curtis Smiley: The third and most unique option in the offensive backfield. He is overshadowed by Mike Davis and Josh Miller when it comes to hype but not size. The 6-foot, 245-pound fullback is a throwback to the punishing ball carriers of the past.

Terrance Smith: One of a handful of impressive receivers. The 6-foot-1, 186-pound receiver from Aiken has hauled in several deep passes over the first two days of practice.

La Marcus Stewart: Another one of several versatile defenders in this game. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder from Union is playing linebacker this week but could end up at several positions at the next level.

Andy Strickland: One of the top receivers in the state from one of the top programs in the state. The 6-foot, 185-pounder was a big weapon for Gaffney High, the first school to beat Byrnes High in two years this season.

Pernell Thompson: Plenty of potential here. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound receiver from Jonesville could add at least a dozen more pounds of muscle to his frame. Look for several I-AA programs to be interested.

Millhouse Tillman: It's easy for this 5-foot-9, 165-pounder from Summerville to be overlooked. Not just because of size, but also position. He plays cornerback and the South Carolina happens to have some of the nation's best corners.

Christopher Tommie: Dozens of programs are looking for kickers and this 6-foot, 165-pounder from Greenwood is a solid candidate.

Vance Walker: The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder from Fort Mill can play nearly all the positions on the D-line and that versatility will earn him more attention this week. The North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl is an annual all-star game that pits the top seniors from both states. The game will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday. Rivals.com will continue to bring you coverage of practices and events leading up to the game.



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