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USC in the hunt for WR Bell

Phil Kornblut
Posted 11/30/19

One of South Carolina's primary recruiting targets for the 2020 football signing class is wide receiver/tight end Jaheim Bell (6-feet-3-inches, 204 pounds) of Valdosta, Ga. The multi-positional Bell has been off the recruiting radar for much of the …

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USC in the hunt for WR Bell

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One of South Carolina's primary recruiting targets for the 2020 football signing class is wide receiver/tight end Jaheim Bell (6-feet-3-inches, 204 pounds) of Valdosta, Ga. The multi-positional Bell has been off the recruiting radar for much of the season, which ended for him with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a Sept. 23 practice.

He took an official visit to USC in June and according to his head coach, USC is right in the hunt along with two other major programs.

"Last time we visited, it was South Carolina, Florida State and Oklahoma," head coach Alan Rodemaker said. "I still think it is probably those three. I know Florida State may have changed a little bit, and depending on what happens with Muschamp, I think that could change or stay the same. I don't think there's anything new with Jaheim. He is scheduled to sign on the (December) 18, but I don't know where yet."

Bell, a 1-time Florida commitment, also visited USC unofficially in February and for the Alabama game. He took an official visit to Oklahoma the last weekend in August, and he's visited FSU unofficially several times.

One possible indicator about what's in Bell's mind regarding the three finalists, according to his head coach, his ACL surgery was done in Columbia by one of USC's orthopedic surgeons.

"I think that bodes well for South Carolina," Rodemaker said. "He's doing great. He's walking around on it. It looks like nothing's wrong with it. I think his mother had a guy here, and she interviewed a guy there, and she chose to go with the guy in Columbia. That may be a hint as to where he's going to sign, but I don't know anything more than that, but I know that's always a good sign."

Prior to his injury, Bell had six catches for 134 yards, a 22 yards-per-catch average, according to MaxPreps. As a junior, he recorded 70 catches for 800 yards and 14 touchdowns.

USC could stand to add a little punch to its offense next season, and it is looking at former Nebraska WR Miles Jones (5-8, 175) as a possibility.

Jones spent the past two seasons with Nebraska. He redshirted in '18 after having shoulder surgery, and this season he played in four games before deciding to transfer. The native of Miramar, Fla., has known USC offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson since his high school days, and they remembered him after his name hit the NCAA Transfer Portal. They had Jones visit unofficially for the Appalachian State game.

"I really liked what I had to see," Jones said. "I feel like I could go there and make an immediate impact if I wanted to. Right now I'm just talking to the coaches, nothing too major really, just letting the coaches finish out their season because they have a lot going on right now trying to play against Clemson. I'm just keeping in touch with Coach (Thomas) Brown, the running backs coach."

USC is not in position to offer Jones a scholarship at this point. That's something he was aware of prior to his visit.

"It would be a preferred walk-on spot simply because they don't have enough scholarship spots left, but they want me," Jones said. "I could go there and still earn a scholarship. It doesn't turn me off, it's definitely something I'll consider.

"Most schools don't have scholarship spots, so a lot of places I'm looking at right now are just preferred walk-on spots anyway. FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) have a lot of scholarship spots, but if I want to go Power 5 it would be a preferred walk-on most likely."

As a high school senior, Jones led his 14-0 team coached by former National Football League star defensive back Patrick Surtain in punt returns, kickoff returns and all-purpose yards (1,830). He averaged over 11 yards per carry and scored 12 touchdowns, and he caught 29 passes, averaging nearly 14 yards per catch. He knows he has desired talents he can take to his next program.

"A versatile guy that can play slot receiver, running back, return kicks, just a weapon they don't really have I guess," he said. "A person they can move around and get mismatches against the linebackers and stuff like that."

Jones also has visited Florida State. With Willie Taggart out as head coach, he's not sure about the interest level there at this point. However, if the next head coach would be interested in him, he'd love to hear from him.

"They were the childhood school for me growing up," Jones said. "I always loved that school; I'm from Florida. That's just the team I liked growing up, so that would be a dream come true if I went there, but I've kind of grown past that."

Jones plans to visit Tennessee this weekend. He's also considering FCS programs Tennessee State and Florida A&M, two places he could play immediately. Jones said he wants to make his decision in early December, either after the weekend of the 6 or the 13, depending on when he visits Tennessee State.

USC running back commitment Marshawn Lloyd announced last week on Twitter that he will not finish this semester at Dematha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., because the school does not allow for December graduation, and he wants to graduate early so he can enroll at USC in January. Lloyd actually lives in Delaware and commuted every day for school at Dematha. He said in his tweet he will now do whatever it is he has to do to graduate early.

Longtime USC defensive tackle commitment Makius Scott of Gainesville, Ga., took an official visit to Oregon this month, but it doesn't appear the trip to the Northwest was enough to shake him from his pledge.

Scott's head coach, Heath Webb, said he talked with Scott and came away from the conversation with the expectation that Scott will honor his commitment to head coach Will Muschamp and USC in December.

"Said he had a good time and enjoyed the trip, that sort of thing," Webb said. "Not a great deal of detail other than, 'That's a long way from home,' which is about what I expected him to say. That was one of the things he liked about South Carolina, that it is close to home."

And that, along with other things Scott likes about USC and his opportunity there, is probably enough of a reason for Scott to follow through and sign with USC next month.

"That was what I took away from the conversation," Webb said. "I don't see any reason why (he won't sign). It was just an awesome opportunity to take a trip to Oregon, which I think was the primary motive there. I think that's kind of where he's at."

Scott is one of two DTs USC has committed for '20. He committed on June 7 after attending camp. Some of his other offers at that time were Memphis, Louisville, Wake Forest, East Carolina, Syracuse and Cincinnati. He has since added offers from Oregon and Georgia Tech.

Gabe Stephens (6-2. 180) of Mount Holly, N.C., is a highly regarded '21 prospect in the Tar Heel state, just like his dad was in the late 1980s at Kings Mountain High School. Calvin Stephens was a talented offensive lineman who played at USC under head coaches Joe Morrison and Sparky Woods and later played in the NFL. Calvin Stephens died of a heart attack in 2010, and Gabe is one of his sons following in his football steps on the gridiron.

Last week Gabe named his top 12 schools and USC was in that group.

"I know the coaches up there, I know what they are about and how they do things pretty well," Stephens said. "And it's kind of right around the corner from me so my family can make it up there with no problem. Of course, I've got that family tie that was passed on."

Also passed on were multiple football skills. He has been listed as a defensive back, but he said USC sees him as someone on defense who can be moved around to fit multiple spots.

"They are recruiting me as an athlete," Stephens said. "They started off offering me as a corner(back). I played corner in the ninth grade, but now I'm probably going to be like an outside linebacker."

According to MaxPreps, Stephens has 241 career tackles and 14 quarterback sacks.

Stephens has been to two games at USC this season and might return for the Clemson game on Saturday. He's obviously aware of the struggles this season, but said that won't affect his view of the program as he measures USC against the others. "I just look at it like if I were to go there, hopefully things can be back running up on their feet," Stephens said. "I don't look at what they're doing now. They are still a well-disciplined team, things just aren't going their way right now."

According to a February 10, 2018, story in the Shelby (N.C.) Star, Stephens committed to USC following his freshman season after it was the first school to offer him. He has since opened things back up, and the rest of his top 12 are Penn State, North Carolina, UF, Nebraska, Stanford, WF, Charlotte, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Ohio State and Vanderbilt.

"The list could change at any time, you never know," he said. "Florida, North Carolina, Nebraska and Penn State (stand out the most at this point)." Stephens also has visited Clemson, UNC, VT and Georgia this season. He does not have a timeline on a decision and is not in a rush to make one.

Offensive tackle Micah Morris of Kingsland, Ga., is one of the top prospects nationally in the '21 class, and he is moving quickly with his recruiting. He plans to announce on Dec. 17, the day before the early signing period for this year's seniors begins.

He named his top six last week from a list of 12 he was considering. USC will move forward in the process, while Clemson, which was among his top 12, did not make the cut. The others on the short list now are Auburn, Alabama, UGA, UF and Louisiana State.

"These are the six programs I feel like right now I could fit the most well in," Morris said. "Academically and as a football player, they are schools that have great academics and great football teams, and I feel I can reach my maximum potential right now at all of the six schools that I selected."

Morris and USC go way back to the early part of his sophomore season. USC gave him his first offer, and he's never forgotten that.

"South Carolina was the first school that offered me, so the relationship that I have with South Carolina has been the one that I've had longer than with any other school," Morris said. "I've been going there since I was a freshman, so it's just the bond I've made with the staff."

One thing USC will have to overcome against the others is its history of success. USC doesn't measure up in that category, especially this season as it is headed to a losing mark. However, Morris said the win-loss records of his final six are not the measure of the program he is seeking.

"What situation helps me to be the best that I can be rather than looking at the stats of the team," he said. "I have to go somewhere where I feel comfortable, where I feel I can spend the next three to four years where I feel like I can get the best education and be the best on the field." Morris has spent a lot of time talking with USC OL coach Eric Wolford. He has been to camps at USC and watched him at work at a game earlier this season. He likes what he's seen from Wolford and the product he produces on the OL.

"Coach Wolford is a great coach," Morris said. "He definitely gets the best out of his players and turns many into NFL offensive linemen. His track record is just amazing on how he can turn players into NFL-ready linemen."

Morris has visited USC, Alabama, Auburn, LSU and UGA. He will go to Auburn for the Iron Bowl against Alabama on Saturday. That will be his final visit.

USC offered '21 OL Jakiah Leftwich of Atlanta and '22 TE/linebacker Ben Gosnell of Pilot Mountain, N.C.

CLEMSON AND USC

DE Jordan Burch of Hammond in Columbia has set Dec. 19 for his commitment announcement. That is the second day of the early signing period. Earlier this season, Burch named a top five of USC, Clemson, UGA, LSU and Alabama. He has taken official visits this season to LSU and Alabama and unofficial visits to USC and UGA. He visited Clemson unofficially in January and July.

Tyler Morehead (5-11, 175), a '21 ATH from Homerville, Ga., is projected as one of the top players in Georgia in his class as an RB and safety. Clemson and USC are showing interest, and he's visited both this season. His offers include North Carolina State, West Virginia, FSU, Kentucky, Tennessee and Cincy. He was at Clemson for the WF game and plans to do more recruiting with Clemson down the road.

"It was a great visit, definitely a place I'll be taking an official to," Morehead said. "I got to go into the locker room and hear (head) Coach (Dabo) Swinney's pregame speech. Then I got to go up on The Hill by The Rock and watch them run down. That was pretty cool.

"After the game I went into the locker room. I talked to (assistant) Coach Mickey Conn and (DC) Coach (Brent) Venables. They were like, keep doing good and they like how I play."

The visit and the conversations with the coaches left Morehead feeling good about an offer from the Tigers.

"I think I'm close enough to where I'm going to get it soon," Morehead said. "That was my first visit and I feel good about Clemson. If they offer, they are going to be in my top five for sure." Morehead, who visited USC in October, said he's not heard USC since the visit. He's also visited FSU, UF, Tennessee and UGA.

USC '21 QB targer Colten Gauthier of Dacula, Ga., was offered by Maryland. USC also has offered, and he may return for a visit for the Clemson game. He has visited Clemson twice and the Tigers are interested but have not offered.

Some of his other offers are Miami, GT, Pittsburgh, Vandy, Central Florida, South Florida VT, WVU, Louisville, Syracuse, UK, Duke, Colorado and Boston College.

Clemson has one RB committed for the '21 class in Phil Mafah and is looking at taking a second in Will Shipley of Matthews, N.C. Clemson offered Shipley in July, and he made his first visit to Clemson for a game against Texas A&M in September. He was back for the WF game.

Shipley met with Swinney and RB coach and co-OC Tony Elliott and got further clarity on how he might fit in with Clemson.

"Visit went great," Shipley said. "Got to speak to Coach Elliot, (assistant) Coach (Danny) Pearman and Coach Swinney. Loved the game atmosphere and how they use their running backs. I can see myself in that offense, being put all over the field and getting the ball many ways."

Shipley also has been to games this season at Alabama, NCSU, Ohio State, UGA and Northwestern. He will go to Duke on Saturday. USC also has been a strong recruiter of Shipley, and he's visited there four times. Shipley said USC is continuing to recruit him, and he remains interested.

CLEMSON

Clemson LB target Justin Flowe of Upland, Calif., did not visit UGA over the weekend as scheduled but will reschedule, according to Rivals reporter Adam Gorney. He has taken official visits to Miami and Clemson and is scheduled to visit Oregon this weekend. He plans to announce his commitment at his all-star game in January.

Clemson made the top seven with '21 DE Cade Denhoff of Lakeland, Fla. The others are Alabama, LSU, Nebraska, Ohio State, PSU and Virginia. USC was also one of his offers.

OTHERS

Cheraw High WR Jalen Coit committed to NCSU, while Clover High WR Jaylin Lane committed to Middle Tennessee State.

Will Fowler, a '21 placekicker from Spartanburg High, planned to visit UNC last Saturday, while Myrtle Beach '21 WR JJ Jones planned to visit WF.

Grayson Loftis a '23 QB from Blue Ridge High in Greer, visited Notre Dame last Saturday. He has an offer from UGA.

BASEBALL

Thad Ector, a '21 third baseman/outfielder/right-handed pitcher from Tyrone, Ga., and '23 shortstop Ariel Antigua of Fort Worth, Fla., committed to USC.

Tucker Toman, a '22 infielder/catcher/right-handed pitcher from Hammond, committed to LSU. He's the son of former USC assistant coach Jim Toman, now head coach at MTSU.

BASKETBALL

Charleston Southern signed 6-0 guard Ernie Knox of Myrtle Beach High. Presbyterian signed 6-3 Ambaka Le Gregam of Kenya and Concord, N.C., 6-6 Kobe Stewart of Augusta, Ga., and 6-4 Kirshon Thrash of McDonough, Ga.