South Carolina landed a verbal commitment from 3-star running back AJ Turner (Centreville High School, Virginia) at Nike's "The Opening" Thursday evening.
Turner was a heavy South Carolina lean throughout his recruitment—checking in with a 100 percent on his 247Sports Crystal Ball before the decision—and chose the Gamecocks over Michigan State and in-state Virginia, per Adam Friedman of Rivals.com.
Turner announced his decision live on ESPNU with analyst Tom Luginbill. Brandon Parker of the Washington Post confirmed the news:
Turner is the No. 27 running back and No. 342 overall player on the 247Sports composite rankings. That puts him on the higher boundary of 3-star recruits, which begin with the No. 314 player in the class. He is, for all intents and purposes, just as good as a low 4-star recruit.
At 5'11", 180 pounds, Turner projects as an all-around back but skews more toward power than speed. He isn't by any means slow, however, and picking up steam is part of what enables him to run with so much force in the first place. He gets going downhill in a hurry and knows how to initiate contact. He just won't be much of a home run threat.
Which is fine. South Carolina could use another singles and doubles hitter in its backfield. Mike Davis, Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson will all be juniors this season, leaving a future void at the position.
Of the 20 players committed to South Carolina this cycle, Turner is the only running back. The Gamecocks also missed out on a running back in 2014, and one of the only two running backs they landed in 2013, Jamari Smith, has been converted into a full-time cornerback.
The other running back from the 2013 class, David Williams, took a redshirt last year and is the early favorite to start once Davis, Wilds and Carson are gone. He was the No. 156 overall prospect that cycle, and, although there is competition ahead of him, Bleacher Report's Charles Bennett thinks he could be an X-factor as soon as 2014.
Everyone already knows what juniors Mike Davis, Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson can do.
The guy to watch is redshirt freshman David Williams, a consensus 4-star recruit, including 247Sports, who has a quality the other three don't possess—blazing speed.
Make no mistake, Davis has proven to be deceptively fast, and Carson has a quick burst that makes him dangerous, but Williams is a blazer along the lines of wide receiver Damiere Byrd, the fastest player on the team.
Williams is big in his own right (6'1", 210 lbs), but that he projects as a speed threat along the lines of Damiere Byrd means Turner could make a perfect complement for him. No need to waste a lead back on short-yardage downs when another player can convert.
Or, of course, Turner could pan out as the lead back himself, and Williams could be the speedy complement behind him who subs in on passing downs. So is the nature of this business: There is no way to know for sure, at this point, who will and who won't develop.
What we do know is that Turner gives South Carolina options—and that he does so at a position it hadn't recruited well the past two cycles. That makes him a healthy combination of talent and need.
Good get for Steve Spurrier's ball club.
Note: All recruiting information via the 247Sports composite rankings
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT