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USC picks up commitments from Blake, Morgan

PHIL KORNBLUT
Sports Contributor
Posted 6/27/20

The University of South Carolina football program picked up two commitments last Monday in Wide receiver O'Mega Blake of South Pointe High School in Rock Hill and offensive lineman JonDarius Morgan of Birmingham, Ala.

Blake (6-feet-2-inches, 188 …

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USC picks up commitments from Blake, Morgan

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The University of South Carolina football program picked up two commitments last Monday in Wide receiver O'Mega Blake of South Pointe High School in Rock Hill and offensive lineman JonDarius Morgan of Birmingham, Ala.

Blake (6-feet-2-inches, 188 pounds) had narrowed his decision to USC, Louisville and Virginia Tech. He also had offers from West Virginia, Syracuse, Mississippi, Penn State, Michigan State, Tennessee, North Carolina State, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, East Carolina, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Pittsburgh.

USC didn't offer Blake until earlier this month, but that made no difference to him.

"It's the team I always liked growing up as a little kid," Blake said. "That was my dream school. It just felt like home. That meant a lot to me. They treat me like I was home."

Not only that, Blake sees early opportunities for him at WR, and he has built a strong relationship with the coaching staff.

"I've got a chance to play early, develop, and the coaching," Blake said. "It means a lot to be close to home. (Assistant) Coach Joe (Cox), (head) Coach Will Muschamp, they are great guys. They kept everything real from the jump. (Offensive coordinator) Coach Mike Bobo is coming in. I sat down and talked with him. He's a great guy. He knows what he's doing, you can tell. He's just trying to build for the future as well."

Last season, Blake had 50 receptions for 1,019 yards and 14 touchdowns. He can also play in the secondary and is a candidate for the return teams.

He's ranked the No. 13 prospect in South Carolina in the 247Sports Composite and is rated as a 3-star prospect.

Morgan (6-4, 305) held offers from Arizona State, Syracuse, Tennessee State, Louisville, Georgia Tech, South Florida and Troy. He took unofficial visits to Tennessee and South Alabama prior to the dead period being imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic

Morgan was an unknown in recruiting circles until the spring. His new head coach, Bill Smith, didn't know about him until watching film soon after taking the job.

"Started watching film and JonDarius was the first film I watched, and I thought our left tackle was SEC (Southeastern Conference) good," Smith said. "About a week later, (USC assistant) Coach (Bobby) Bentley called about my kids at Fayette County (High) and asked if I had any guys he should take a look at Huffman (High). I sent him the spreadsheet and about a week later he called me back and said he really liked JonDarius. (OL) Coach (Eric) Wolford called and asked me about him. I knew they were very interested, but they wanted him on campus.

"Troy and South Florida offered, and then South Carolina called back and offered. Georgia Tech offered later that day. Syracuse offered the next day and then Louisville after that. He's just exploded. His film is outstanding."

Smith said Morgan can play tackle and guard and has the potential for a big SEC and National Football League career.

"He has a big frame, quick feet, and I feel like he can play guard, and his feet are good enough he could play tackle," Smith said. "I told Coach Wolford he's getting a diamond in the rough, a hidden gem. He said we know. I feel like he'll be a 10-year NFL lineman. He's shown a lot of improvement from three weeks ago until today."

Another USC target is close to coming off the board with a decision. WR Derwin Burgess (5-11, 177) of Riverdale, Ga., tweeted that he is close on announcing his commitment. He has not specified a time and date. Burgess has been working with a short list of USC, GT, Indiana, Tennessee, Florida State and Coastal Carolina.

Dink Jackson (6-2, 185) of Melbourne, Fla., is one of the top safety prospects in the country. He's rated as a 4-star prospect. He recently named a top 10 and USC made the list. The others are FSU, Tennessee, WVU, Miami, UK, Southern California, Ole Miss, Auburn and Louisville.

Jackson said he hears from USC at least once or twice a week, and he considers it a major player for him at this point.

"We've been discussing me getting up there after this corona thing is over," Jackson said. "I'm really not ready to narrow things down right now. They are in the mix. I really like that Coach Muschamp communicates with me a lot. It makes me feel like I'm a priority for them."

Three-star defensive end Zyun Reeves (6-7, 245) of Kernersville, N.C., has offers from USC, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Michigan, Michigan State, Syracuse, FSU, Louisville, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, ECU, Tennessee, Illinois, Virginia, Coastal, Appalachian State and others. He's not ready to trim his list, and he's not rushing to a decision.

"I'll probably start to cut down schools in July," Reeves said. " I've only been in it for a couple of months, so I'm just trying to see who is really out there for me."

USC is definitely one of those schools out there for him. He cited USC, FSU, Michigan and UVa as four which have been pushing hard to this point. In fact, USC was the one to get the ball rolling for him in recruiting.

"I'm hearing good things; they were my first offer," Reeves said. "We had a connection early. They send me stuff every day. I talk to (assistant) Coach Kyle Krantz and (assistant) Coach (Tracy) Rocker a lot. Coach Rocker calls me and checks on me and tells me about the defense and their front and that they need me. He likes my size and my upside, and that I'm athletic and can move around at the size that I am."

Though he's not to the point of naming favorites, Reeves does hold USC in high regard. He visited last season for the Appalachian State game and that's when he got his offer from Muschamp.

Reeves also has taken unofficial visits to FSU, Tennessee, North Carolina and NCSU. He wants to get his list down to five and then take his official visits with those schools.

Three-star tight end Bryson Nesbit (6-6, 220) of Charlotte is a major USC target, and he has USC in his top 13. His list was cut by one after Northwestern got a TE commitment. He hears a lot from Muschamp, Bobo, Bentley and Cox.

"I'm in constant communication with them," Nesbit said. "I talked to all of the coaches, Bobo, Muschamp, Bentley and Coach Cox. Coach Bentley is my lead recruiter and Coach Cox, after being moved from the tight ends to receivers, I still talk to him twice every week or so. I have Zoomed with them before. I've sat in the tight end room and seen some tight end film."

Nesbit, of course, has strong ties to the program through his dad, former USC standout OL Jamar Nesbit. There can be additional pressure in the recruiting process when a prospect is a legacy recruit, but Nesbit said he's feeling no such pressure as it relates to the history between USC and his family.

"Obviously, I've grown up around the Gamecocks, I've been to the stadium multiple times and all that stuff," Nesbit said. "My parents just want the best fit for me. He (Jamar) definitely sits down with me. He's gone through it before. He tries to guide me through it a little. He really treats them just like anybody else. It was the perfect fit for him, but he understands it might not be the perfect fit for me. He really just wants the best decision for me."

The others on his short list are NCSU, Indiana, Michigan State, Duke, VT, Auburn, Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, Rutgers, Louisiana State and UNC.

Wolford has USC in the top spot with OT Cedrick Nicely (6-5, 305) of Gainesville, Ga. Nicely said USC is his favorite at this point ahead of GT, USF and Liberty. However, he said he's not ready to commit. That won't come until sometime during his season, or it could happen on his official visit on Sept. 5.

"They are No. 1, but my recruiting is still open," Nicely said. "I've been there before for games and a junior day. It's a good community. Their facilities are nice. When I go up there they make me feel like I'm at home."

No one on the USC staff makes him feel more at home than Wolford. They have developed a close relationship during the recruiting process, as Wolford has put in the work to convince Nicely he needs him.

USC's pursuit of TE Jalen Shead (6-4, 235) of Olive Branch, Miss., is off to a good start. According to Shead, USC just recently discovered him, and Bentley has worked quickly in relationship building. So quick in fact, Shead has scheduled an official visit with USC for the weekend of the Missouri game on Sept. 19.

Shead and Bentley have talked in detail about the USC offense, how the tight end is used and what it likes about him for its offense. Since his USC offer, Shead has also picked up offers from Alabama, LSU and Arkansas. He also has offers from Texas Christian, FSU, Colorado, Kansas State, Memphis, Ole Miss, Central Florida, Tulane, Liberty and others. He does not have favorites at this point, but he plans to name some soon.

Linebacker Jordan Poole of Oakboro, N.C., said he's now looking at no later than Wednesday for making his decision from USC, NCSU and VT.

USC offered TE Thomas Fidone (6-5, 225) of Council Bluff, Iowa. He's a 4-star prospect and ranked the No. 2 TE nationally and the top prospect in Iowa. His offer list also includes Alabama, Iowa, LSU, Nebraska, Michigan, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, FSU, UGA, GT, Miami, Missouri, Notre Dame, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Southern Cal and others.

CLEMSON

Malaki Starks (6-2, 196) a '22 SAF from Jefferson, Ga., heard from Clemson earlier this month and landed an offer. Starks is regarded as an athlete, but with Clemson he's being recruited as a SAF. He got his offer from SAF coach Mickey Conn.

"Me and him have been talking for a while and he told me a long time ago that they aren't allowed to offer any 2022 prospects at the moment," Starks said. "But he told me that once he was allowed to I would be his first safety and he told me I was a big priority at Clemson. Some of my family went to Clemson and they love Clemson, and that offer was very special. It's amazing. I can't wait to go up there and look at the campus."

Starks is rated as a 4-star. He also holds offers from USC, Alabama, Auburn, UF, FSU, ND, Tennessee, UGA, GT, LSU and Nebraska. What is helping to separate Clemson from the rest?

"One thing I think is big is leadership, and I see that a lot there," he said. "That is why they can be so successful all the time. (Head) Coach (Dabo) Swinney is very big on leadership and that is something that Coach Conn has told me. I just love it. I love how they compete and the pageantry of the games. I would like to make a visit as soon as I can. I am really looking forward to getting up there and getting to know everybody and getting on campus." Starks also plays running back, but Clemson likes him for the secondary.

Clemson offered '22 LB Daniel Martin (6-3, 190) of Marietta, Ga. He's rated as a 4-star prospect. He also has offers from Auburn, Arkansas, FSU, UGA, GT, UK, LSU, Nebraska, Tennessee, Oregon, Syracuse and VT.

BASKETBALL

Jacobi Wright, a 6-2 point guard from Fort Mill and Legacy Charter in Greenville, became the second public commitment for USC's '21 class on Sunday. Wright had narrowed his decision to USC, Winthrop and Charlotte.

He did multiple Zoom meetings with the staffs from all three schools and had other forms of contact with the recruiters. In his final evaluation, what USC had over the other two programs was that big-time, major conference feel, and that fit into Wright's future plans.

"They just kind of fit what I was looking for," Wright said. "A great coaching staff, great environment. I know some of the players there. Big arena and big conference, I get the exposure that I am looking for. It's just somewhere where I feel comfortable."

Wright has visited USC for practices and games and has gotten to see up close how head coach Frank Martin runs his team. He knows Martin is a good bit different from most coaches, and he's looking forward to learning under his style of coaching.

"I know he coaches his players hard," Wright said. "I know he's going to stay on his players, but I feel like that's a great asset to have when you are trying to get better as a player because you don't want somebody to be easy on you and let you make mistakes and be OK with it. I feel like he just motivates his player to become as close to perfect as possible and make them the best players that they can be.

"I really like the way he coaches. He just prepares you for life as well."

Wright said Martin showed another side of himself when he let him and his staff know that he was coming to USC.

"It was a lot of excitement," Wright said. "They were just excited as I was to tell them. It just made me feel good because it made me feel like they really wanted me. He says I'm the perfect fit for what he's built in the program and what the team needs when I come in. They say I have a great feel for the game. They said I'm a good leader of my team and a real solid point guard who can do a little bit of everything. They said I could fit well in running the team and leading them to where we need to go."

Wright also had offers from St. John's, DePaul, Elon, Tennessee State, Tulsa, North Carolina Wilmington and Rhode Island.

Joshua Beadle, a 6-3 combo guard from Cardinal Newman in Columbia, cut his list to a final five of Clemson, College of Charleston, Furman, Wake Forest and Virginia Commonwealth.

"I do plan to commit soon," Beadle said. "I'm having my parents and everyone in my family list the pros and cons of each school. The five are still in it. It's a really hard decision."

What makes it hard, according to Beadle, is that each school can meet all of his needs.

"They all check my boxes off over what I want in each school," Beadle said. "A fast-paced team, a guard-oriented team, good coaches with history and family-oriented culture."

Clemson has been recruiting Beadle for an extended period. He went up for a couple of games last season and Clemson coaches took in some of his. Head coach Brad Brownell offered in early May and the pursuit has continued.

"I think Clemson is a real consideration with them being in my top five," Beadle said. "We had a Zoom call the other day and it went well. They like how much that I know the game, my IQ really, and they think I'll be a really good fit."

WF also is a major player with new head coach Steve Forbes, who had offered Beadle while at East Tennessee State. His lead recruiter for Beadle is Columbia's own BJ McKie, the former USC star.

"He's been recruiting me really hard and we talk a lot," Beadle said. "He'll text me after games sometimes. It's really just more than basketball."