The Clemson and South Carolina football programs went head to head for one of North Carolina's top prospects in 4-star defensive end Zaire Patterson (6-feet-6-inches, 225 pounds) of Winston-Salem, N.C., and Clemson came out the winner.
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Patterson announced his commitment to Clemson on Tuesday. USC seemed to have the upper hand with Patterson during the early phase of his recruiting, with North Carolina a primary competitor. However, Clemson became much more involved after losing the commitment of DE Korey Foreman and was able to close the deal over the last two weeks.
Patterson is ranked as the No. 18 weakside defensive end nationally in the 247Sports Composite, and the No. 16 prospect in North Carolina.
Last season, he had 109 tackles with 27 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback sacks, nine forced fumbles and four interceptions. His head coach, Deon Middleton, said Patterson will arrive at Clemson prepared to help as a pass rusher off the edge.
"First, his stature; he's legitimately 6-6 and 225 pounds now," Middleton said. "He has a very, very good get-off. He's got one job. His job is to get sacks, and he's done that really, really well. He's long and he has a knack for getting to the quarterback. First year, he had 13 sacks. Last year, he had 11 but he also had four interceptions. He can do pretty much anything, defensive end or outside linebacker."
Patterson also plays basketball and because of that he has not been at his optimum football weight, which his coach said should be around 250 pounds. Middleton added that Patterson likely will finish as the No. 1 student in his class with an eye on aerospace engineering at Clemson. He will have no problems picking up the defensive schemes from defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Patterson also held offers from Oklahoma, Michigan State, Louisiana State, Auburn, Florida State, Louisville, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Kentucky, Colorado, Tennessee and others.
Patterson gives Clemson 13 commitments for the 2021 recruiting class, which head coach Dabo Swinney has said should top out at 18. All but one of the commitments is rated at least a 4-star prospect.
Multiple USC coaches remain in touch with speedy wide receiver Simeon Price (6-0, 204). Price can also play running back and cornerback. He's talking a lot with USC head coach Will Muschamp and recruiters Bobby Bentley and Travaris Robinson.
"It's really a blessing when the coaches check up on you like that," Price said. "Coach Muschamp and Coach Bentley text me to see how I'm doing. Coach Muschamp will hit me up on Twitter, and the same with Coach Bentley. Coach Muschamp always tells me how important I am in their recruiting and how bad he wants to see me up there for a visit."
Price has not had the chance to visit USC but would like to once restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic are lifted. He has USC in his top 10 along with Oklahoma, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Arkansas, Nebraska, Mississippi, Michigan State and Tennessee. Louisville just recently offered Price. He's also been talking to Clemson.
"I've talked to Coach Venables, (assistant) Coach (Mike) Reed and (assistant) Coach (Mickey) Conn over there," Price said. "They have talked to me about corner and safety, whatever the case is, really like an athlete on defense.
"They talked to me about coming up for a visit before an offer happens."
Price said he won't make a decision until after his season, and he will not be signing early. He's rated a 3-star prospect is ranked 115th nationally among WRs and 106th among Florida prospects.
Defensive tackle Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins of Gaffney High School originally planned to announce his college commitment this month, but he put that off until June 26.
USC is one of his final six. Ingram-Dawkins would not say who he had planned to commit to, but he did spend time last week talking with Muschamp, Robinson and defensive line coach Tracy Rocker.
"They were saying how awesome it would be for me to stay in my home state and do what I do, have a great career," Ingram-Dawkins said. "I love it. It's my home state. My third offer, my first SEC (Southeastern Conference) offer. I've got a lot of love for them."
Ingram-Dawkins named his top six last week and at that time said he had made his decision and notified the school. A day later he put the kibosh on a commitment this month.
Ingram-Dawkins has a top six of USC, UNC, Tennessee, FSU, UGA and Penn State.
CB Javon Bullard (5-11, 183) of Milledgeville, Ga., included USC in his top 12. USC is working to get him to campus for the first time for a recruiting visit when the dead period ends.
"I talk to (assistant) Coach Kyle Krantz a lot, almost daily," Bullard said. "Me and Coach Kyle have a pretty good relationship. He's telling me they look at me as more of an athlete, not just a 1-position guy. I wanted to be playing corner, but he said they would try to squeeze me in at the nickel and the safety spot."
Bullard has liked what he's heard from Krantz and has a favorable impression of USC.
"South Carolina is a great program," Bullard said. "I grew up watching South Carolina. Of course, they are in the SEC. When they offered it was a for real moment for me."
USC will have to battle UGA and several others for Bullard. UGA is among his offers. Also in his top 12 are West Virginia, Auburn, Boston College, Vanderbilt, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Stanford, Central Florida and Purdue. He said along with USC, Tennessee, UGA, WVU, Louisville and NCSU have been showing strong interest.
Multi-position athlete Raheim "Rocket" Sanders (6-2, 210) of Rockledge, Fla., named USC among his top five last week and has set June 8 for his commitment.
USC is joined by Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and FSU on the short list. Sanders can play WR, RB, linebacker and defensive back.
He's been talking with a variety of USC coaches, including Muschamp.
Some of Sanders' other offers are Indiana, UCF, Kansas, Virginia, Miami, Louisville, Nebraska, Tennessee, Pitt, WVU, Auburn, Duke and Maryland. He does not plan to commit early, but he will graduate early.
New USC DL coach Rocker brought more than his football wisdom and teaching skills with him when he arrived in Columbia from Tennessee. He brought his telephone list too, and he's using it.
One player he has moved on with USC that he started with Tennessee is DE Demarcus Smith (6-4, 262) of Birmingham, Ala. The two reconnected once Rocker went to work for USC.
"At first, Coach Rocker was at Tennessee, and he ended up showing South Carolina my film, and they actually offered me before Tennessee offered me," Smith said. "They are telling me that that's the place for me to be. He likes that I'm physical and come off the ball, and they say I'd be a perfect fit in their defense."
Smith has not yet visited USC, but he plans to do so. He also has talked with Muschamp and he likes the feeling he gets from the USC staff.
"The coaches are cool, and I like the vibe with the coaches," Smith said. "I think it's an amazing place, and I can't wait to get my visit in when this corona thing is over with."
Smith said USC, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kansas and Ole Miss are the offers sticking out the most with him at this point. He also has Memphis and Alabama-Birmingham in his top seven. He has visited Tennessee, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Some other offers are North Alabama, Memphis, Georgia State, Southern Mississippi and Jacksonville State.
Muschamp and offensive line coach Eric Wolford have kept up their recruiting efforts with offensive tackle Caleb Etienne (6-9, 315) of New Orleans and Butler County Junior College in Kansas. The one-time Ole Miss commitment and Nichols State signee said USC is one of the programs he's talking with the most, and he has it in a strong position with his recruiting.
"I've been talking with the offensive line coach a lot from South Carolina, Coach Wolford. He's been keeping in contact with me the most," Etienne said. "We talk every day of the week. They stay in contact with me, get on Zoom, stuff like that. He just talks about the campus and all the stuff they have to offer, just really giving me a read on some of the stuff that they have that can help me if I come there."
Javon Kinlaw is the model USC coaches can now use when recruiting JUCO DLs. USC can point to Kinlaw's rise from the JUCO ranks to a first round pick in the National Football League draft as a result of his time at USC. That's part of the appeal DT Isaiah Coe (6-3, 310) of Iowa Western JC finds in USC, and one of the reasons he has USC in his final five as he moves toward his announcement on Friday.
"Yeah, definitely, the way they developed Javon Kinlaw and how they made him into a first-round draft pick, he was a top 10 prospect," Coe said. "It was really intriguing to me how they have a love for JUCO guys like myself and how they produce them and how they make them into better people and better players."
USC is in the final five for Coe along with Oklahoma, Mizzou, Ole Miss and Memphis. Coe said the relationship he's developed with Muschamp and others on the staff is a big reason for that.
Coe has not visited USC and won't be able to prior to his announcement. USC has been sending him pictures of the campus and the facilities. It's not quite a virtual tour, but it's been good enough for Coe.
"It was beautiful actually," Coe said. "I saw the apartments, I saw the weight room and I saw the indoor facility. It really is just a cool city and I really liked it."
Coe does have virtual tours planned with Mizzou, Ole Miss and Oklahoma.
USC is in the final 10 with four-star LB Jaydon Hood of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The others on his short list are UK, VT, Minnesota, Louisville, South Florida, WVU, Michigan, Vandy and Miami.
USC is in the top six with WR Keon Coleman (6-4, 195) of Opelousas, La. The others in the group are Michigan State, FSU, Mississippi State, Kansas and Oklahoma. Coleman is a 4-star prospect and is ranked the 48th best WR nationally and the No. 8 prospect in Louisiana. Last season, he caught 35 passes for 1,143 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Clemson is in the final six with SAF Corey Collier (6-2, 170) of Miami. The others are Florida, FSU, UGA, LSU and Miami. Collier is a 4-star prospect.
He was able to get to junior days at Miami, UF and Auburn from January through early March. Clemson also is one of the three favorites of Collier's teammate, CB Jason Marshall.
Clemson is in the top 12 with SAF Andrew Mukuba of Austin, Texas. The others are Texas, Auburn, Texas Christian, Arizona State, Alabama, UGA, Michigan State, LSU, UCLA, Mizzou and Arkansas.
Clemson is in the top five with 5-star CB Ga'Quincy McKinstry of Pinson, Ala. The others on his short list are UGA, Auburn, Alabama and LSU.
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