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USC gets commitment from Marion DE Sanders

Sports Contributor
Posted 7/11/20

There were plenty of recruiting fireworks for the University of South Carolina football program in the days leading up to the Fourth of July holiday.

Head coach Will Muschamp added three more of his targets to the 2021 class, bringing the class …

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USC gets commitment from Marion DE Sanders


There were plenty of recruiting fireworks for the University of South Carolina football program in the days leading up to the Fourth of July holiday.

Head coach Will Muschamp added three more of his targets to the 2021 class, bringing the class total to 14 pledges. Eight have come in since the first of June. Add in the three enrollees who count on the ‘21 class, and USC has 17 of the 25 spots allocated at this point.

Marion High School defensive end TJ Sanders (6-feet-4-inches, 285 pounds) announced a commitment to USC on Saturday North Carolina State, West Virginia and Vanderbilt. Sanders also had offers from Coastal Carolina, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Tennessee, Duke, Virginia, Virginia Tech, East Carolina and others.

Sanders got the chance to visit USC prior to the coronavirus-imposed dead period, and from that and follow-up conversations with the coaching staff, he felt USC offered him his best opportunity.

“They kept it real, and the conversations we’ve been having have not all been about football,” Sanders said. “It feels like the family I never had, so I felt like it was the right spot for me.”

Sanders and new defensive line coach Tracy Rocker have developed a tight relationship since Rocker arrived at USC from Tennessee and picked up Sander’s recruitment. He’s looking forward to learning the finer points of the position from one of the college game’s all-time greats.

“I feel like he can mold me into one of the best defensive linemen ever to go through South Carolina” Sanders said. “I hope he can get me to the (National Football) League. Me and him will be good together. He’s a fun, hard-working coach, and that’s the kind of coach I was looking for.

“He likes my potential. This (last season) was my first year (playing football). He would try to get the most out of me. He sees a lot of things I can improve on that he can help me with.”

Sanders has come a long way in football circles. He had primarily been a basketball player, and a good one, until adding football to his resume for the first time last season. Muschamp didn’t have a lot of film to review, but he saw Southeastern Conference potential in Sanders and that’s why he offered.

“I feel like I deserved it,” Sanders said. “I worked hard. Every time I set foot on the field I give my all and it’s paying off now. He (Muschamp) likes that I have the combination of speed and power. When I watched him in (spring) practice, his tone and attitude towards stuff, he sounded like he wanted it, like he was playing.”

Sanders has a 3-star rating in the 247Sports Composite and is the No. 5 prospect in South Carolina.

Earlier in the week, USC landed commitments from wide receiver Derwin Burgess (5-11, 177) of Riverdale, Ga., and athlete Simeon Price (6-0, 204) of Pensacola, Fla.

USC cornerback target Khyree Jackson of East Mississippi Junior College and Upper Marlboro, Md., has not yet determined a new commitment date after canceling his plans for a July 11 reveal. He has been working with a top six of USC, Oregon, Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama and Kentucky. Jackson said he wanted more time to visit schools before making his decision. Jackson said he’s talking with USC weekly.

Four-star DE Kelvin Gilliam of Highland Springs, Va., named his top 10 last week, and USC was firmly entrenched in the short list. That’s no surprise as Gilliam’s history with USC dates back to his sophomore year. He has built an uncommonly strong relationship with Muschamp and assistant coach Kyle Krantz.

He may be closer to the USC staff than any other, but will that be enough for USC to land one of the highest rated prospects on its board?

“They are very, very, very high on my list,” Gilliam said. “Just because of the contact we have been in. Also, SEC football, a great head coach. I think they are really going to do something special this upcoming year.”

Also on the short list are Oklahoma, Penn State, Minnesota, Texas, Florida, VT, Louisiana State, California and UK. USC would rank behind most of those programs in terms of recent and overall gridiron success, so it has to overcome its history in recruiting Gilliam with the promise of a bright future and having him be a major part of it.

“Just for them being a high priority for me and them,” Gilliam said. “Talking to Coach Muschamp a lot now. Coach Krantz, we talk frequently, sometimes every couple of days, sometimes every day, which is great. Just seeing how I can be in their defense is just great. Me and Coach Muschamp have a great relationship. We talk about things other than football, how my day is going, just things like that. I consider them family at this point.”

Gilliam has yet to visit USC but will take an official visit if the opportunity arises. He wants to take his other official visits as well before he makes his decision, but that’s all dependent on the NCAA and the recruiting calendar. Currently a dead period is in place through the end of August. He’d like to make his decision later in his season, but it could come as early as the end of summer.

Gilliam is ranked seventh nationally among weakside defensive ends and is the No. 4 prospect in Virginia.

Running back B Jaylin White of Dothan, Ala., named a top ten of USC, UF, Florida State, Louisville, Texas A&M, PSU, Nebraska, Mississippi State, Mississippi and Memphis. White has visited USC in the past. He’s ranked as the No. 12 RB prospect in the country.

Tight end Jalen Shead of Olive Branch, Miss., included USC in his top 10. The others are FSU, Southern California, Central Florida, Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, Kansas State, Texas Christian and Arkansas.

Time at home in New Orleans during the pandemic for offensive tackle Caleb Etienne of Butler Junior College in Kansas has meant some good home cooking. With that, his weight has jumped up 20 pounds to 335 pounds on his 6-9 frame.

Etienne hopes to arrive at Butler on July 28 so he can prepare for the season and show recruiters why he’s regarded as the No. 2 JC OT. USC offensive line coach Eric Wolford offered Etienne on April 9 and continues to pursue him for a possible third OL in the class.

“I talk to Coach Wolford a lot, almost every day,” Etienne said. “He’s my guy. He just lets me know how much I’m considered a big-time player around there. He said once everything clears up, for sure we are going to set up a visit. He’s been telling me about how they take care of their players and make sure they are straight. They treat everybody like family.”

Etienne has a top four at this point of USC, Oregon, Texas Tech and Houston. He said Wolford has explained to him how his size and skills would fit in with what he runs on his offensive line.

“He said I could be a part of them because of the way I play. They have the same thing as how I play on the field, so he said I would be a good asset as a left tackle,” Etienne said. “They are definitely at the top for sure. I’m really open to a lot of schools, but I’m starting to get close to narrowing it down pretty soon though.”

Some of his other offers are Mississippi State, Arkansas, East Carolina, Oklahoma State, Alabama-Birmingham, UCF and Ole Miss.

Etienne committed to Ole Miss in high school but signed with Nichols State. However, he didn’t quality and enrolled at Fort Scott JC in Kansas for the ‘19 season. Etienne wants to take official visits to his top four. He has one set up with Texas Tech for his off week on Sept. 12.

USC linebacker target Jordan Poole of Oakboro, N.C., had planned to announce on July 1, but he was not ready to do so on that date. He's down to USC, VT and North Carolina State.


Four-star defensive tackle Payton Page (6-4, 335) of Greensboro, N.C., has hit his month of decision. Page will announce his choice from among Clemson, North Carolina and Tennessee on July 28.

Clemson is clearly the favorite to land Page by those who predict commitments. All of the 247Sports experts who have logged a crystal ball did so for Clemson. As for the Rivals crowd, all three of its experts have predicted Clemson will land the player they consider the top prospect in North Carolina. Clemson certainly has made it clear to Page he is the one and only DT it wants for the ‘21 class. Clemson has basically slow-played every other prospect while it waits on Page.

Clemson assistant coach Todd Bates has been Page’s recruiter, and they talk on a regular basis. Page said their relationship dating back three years is key in this case.

“We really don’t talk about football like that,” Page said. “It’s more like, how’s my family doing, more personal stuff. We’ve been talking a lot of football like since my freshman year. We’re real close since we’ve been talking since I was young, but that’s like with all my schools.”

Page added Bates’ approach to recruiting him, as well as that of head coach Dabo Swinney and other Clemson assistants, is another reason he has held Clemson in high regard.

“Their consistency,” Page said. “Usually a coach will text you and you might have a whole conversation one day and won’t have any for another month. I see in that coach’s eyes that I’m just another recruit, and he’s just not trying to get a bond with me. He’s just doing a job I guess.”

Page is good enough at his craft that he knows his playing time at any of the schools will come. He also knows each has great facilities and all the other parts needed to be successful. So as he works on his decision for the next four weeks, Page is looking at something else to drive home the answer.

“Where I’m comfortable at,” Page said. “Wherever I’m comfortable at and where my family is comfortable. I’ve already been multiple times to my top three schools.

“It’s on my mind a lot, but it’s not keeping me up at night though. I guess it will probably do that a week before I commit though. I’m probably going to feel real bad the week before I commit. I probably won’t sleep at night.”

Page did get the chance to visit each of his finalists before the virus-induced recruiting dead period. He was at Clemson in January, UNC in February and Tennessee in early March. Page said he will notify the school he chooses in advance of his announcement day.

Clemson is in the top 12 with ‘22 OL Addison Nichols of Norcross, Ga. The others are Tennessee, Duke, Georgia, UF, Ohio State, Southern Cal, FSU, Auburn, Alabama and LSU. Nichols is rated as a 4-star, the No. 4 offensive tackle nationally and the No. 7 prospect in Georgia for ‘22.

Clemson is in the top 10 with ‘22 CB Domani Jackson (6-1, 185) of Santa Ana, Calif. The others are Texas, Alabama, Michigan, Oregon, LSU, Oklahoma, UGA, Arizona State and Southern Cal. Jackson is rated as a 4-star and is ranked the No. 2 CB in the country and the No. 2 prospect in California.

Clemson offered ‘22 running back Trevor Etienne (5-10, 200) of Jennings, La. He’s the brother of Clemson star RB Travis Etienne. Alabama, Auburn, UF, UGA and LSU are other offers. He rushed for 2,365 yards and 31 touchdowns last season.

Clemson offered ‘22 4-star CB Jaheim Singletary (6-1, 170) of Jacksonville, Fla. He also has offers from USC, UF, FSU, LSU, Oklahoma and PSU among others.


Lakewood High School ‘22 CB Zayveon Wells was offered by South Alabama.

Three more in-state prospects announced their college decisions last week. WR Ahmari Higgins-Bruce of Dillon High committed to Louisville, DE Jatius Geer of Belton-Honea Path High committed to Syracuse and WR Da’Shawn Brown of York High committed to Appalachian state. Unofficially, that’s 17 players from the state committed to Football Bowl Subdivision programs at this point.

Here are the other in-state commitments to FBS schools: RB Chance Black of Dorman High in Roebuck to VT; West Florence High CB Nyke Johnson to VT; WR O’Mega Blake of South Pointe High in Rock Hill to USC; Greer High OT Jaydon Collins to Wake Forest; Sumter High DE Justus Boone to UF; Boiling Springs High CB Caden Sullivan to Appalachian State; Myrtle Beach High WR JJ Jones to UNC; Chapman High LB Camden Gray to Navy; TE Brandon Johnson of Strom Thurmond High in Graniteville to WF; Chapin High OL Thornton Gentry to NCSU; OT Jayden Ramsey of Westside High to App State; WR Kendall Long of River Bluff High in Lexington to Syracuse; Lakewood safety James Wright to ECU; and Marion’s Sanders to USC.

Quarterback Jace Wilson (5-10, 170) of Del Valle, Texas, committed to Furman. Last season, he passed for 2,467 yards and 27 TDs and rushed for 207 yards and four TDs.

York WR Da’Shawn Brown committed to App State, WR Adrian Chandler of Williston-Elko High and LB Nahshawn Hezekiah of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High both committed to Howard.

Nicholas Williams (6-5 300), a ’22 OT from Fox Creek High in Summerville, was offered by NCSU. Some of his other offers at this point are Auburn, UF, FSU, Coastal, Arkansas, PSU, Syracuse, VT and West Virginia.


Clemson made the top 10 for ‘21 small forward Eric Van Der Heijden from Raleigh, N.C. Iowa, WF, Texas, Providence, Ole Miss, Maryland, Marquette, Louisville and Cincinnati are the other nine.

Clemson offered ‘21 power forward Trey Kaufman from Sellersburg, Ind. The 6-8, 210 forward also has offers from Indiana, Virginia and Xavier among others.

Clemson 6-9 PF target Kuluel Mading from Burlington, N.C., was offered by ECU; Clemson 6-4 target Jordan Hawkins of Dematha Catholic in Hyattsville, MD was offered by Maryland and UGA; Clemson 6-7 target Jordan Nesbitt of St. Louis was offered by Arkansas and Maryland; Clemson 6-8 target Ian Schieffelin of Loganville, Ga., was offered by College of Charleston; Clemson 6-8 target Kaleb Washington of Mableton, Ga., was offered by WF; and Clemson 6-6 target Lucas Taylor of Wake Forest, N.C., was offered by Creighton.