I wrote what I believed was the best choice for Marcus based on facts and what I believed worked best for their family. I was invited to spend signing day with the family, and it was an experience I will never forget.
To this day, I still get ugly emails from Tiger loyalists who didn’t appreciate my perspective.
But at the end of the season, the Lattimore parents thanked me for separating the hype from the things that really did matter. They said they had no regrets that Marcus made the right decision and mostly for the reasons I stated in my article.
The parents said even with the two-hour drive, the season is grueling for parents, and they couldn’t have imagined road tripping six hours (one-way) per weekend.
So here we are once again, with a top recruit coming out of South Carolina. Jadeveon Clowney is the No. 1 recruit in the country, and he is definitely a game-changer for the school he chooses.
Let’s break it down
One of the overall themes on 2011 National Signing day was players staying in-state. Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Auburn all tended to keep the best talent in-state. When the choice came down to two schools, the in-state school seemed to fare better overall.
In-state works because family can help when needed and the local community can see their hometown boys play. At the end of the day, it comes down to support, and everybody needs more. Tradition, winning and nicer facilities don’t mean a thing when you are homesick.
What about Alabama?
Nick Saban is probably one of the top three best coaches in the country. Alabama is positioned to be a top 10 program for a while. One of the Palmetto State's best players, John Fulton, chose the Tide over the Gamecocks in 2010.
At best, Fulton got mop-up duty on special teams, and his family had to drive eight hours to make it to Tuscaloosa (through Columbia). His friends from home did get to see him play when Alabama played in Williams-Brice.
The jury's still out on Clemson
The head coaching situation is too unpredictable. Unfortunately, the alumni base and the powers that call the shots are predictable. A full TV channel could be produced to cover the handling of Clemson’s last five head coaches and their departures. Charley Pell, Danny Ford, Ken Hatfield, Tommy West and Tommy Bowden all could tell some interesting stories about their departures from Tiger town.
The bad thing is four out of five had a better winning percentage than Dabo Swinney has now at .559 (19-15). Dabo is very likeable, and the players relate to him, but none of it matters if the team isn’t winning. If Clemson doesn’t win nine games in 2011, Dabo is gone. An early loss could seal the deal.
Can the Gamecocks change history?
Can the Gamecocks do better? A young 2010 team did what no other Carolina team could before. They beat Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Clemson in the same season. They knocked off No. 1 Alabama on ESPN and played for the SEC championship. But they also lost heartbreakers to Auburn and Kentucky.
Coach Steve Spurrier is kind of quirky, but his players say nobody understands the game better. The Ole Ball Coach isn’t going anywhere with the talent he has on the roster, which helps with stability. Spurrier has done a better job with the football program by far than any previous coach.
Going into 2011, many analysts believe this may be the best Carolina team yet. Rock Hill to Columbia is a one hour and 15 minute drive. For Clowney, his mom and dad are just far enough away to be gone but close enough to visit when needed.
Stephon Gilmore opened the door for the best players to stay in-state. Marcus Lattimore proved that staying home works best. Now Jadeveon Clowney can change history by paving the road to Columbia for top in-state recruits for the future.
A Clowney commitment to Carolina makes the 2011 class into something special. I don’t see how it could go any other way.
Until next time, I will see you on the ball field.