I've just completed a two-week trip through the Southeast and am looking forward to upcoming trips to St. Louis, Memphis, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
During my recent trip, I traveled 8,000 miles through 15 states and saw 300 players. I also navigated one snowstorm, stayed in a haunted hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla., experienced 30-degree nights in Florida, four inches of snow on the ground in Atlanta and enjoyed a two-day vacation in Washington, D.C., my first vacation since 1999. In Washington, I stayed at the historic Willard Hotel near the White House, where Lincoln and Grant once stayed.
Let's catch up with South Carolina, which has average to below-average talent in the class of 2011 but boasts two super stars, one of whom should rank among the top five players in the nation.
Jadeveon Clowney of Rock Hill, a 6-6, 240-pounder, is the best defensive end in the nation and a top five candidate nationally. He has been timed in 4.48 seconds for 40 yards and recorded 26 sacks last season. Anyone who thinks they have a chance to sign him has offered a scholarship, including USC, Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan.
Brandon Shell, a 6-7, 290-pounder from Goose Creek, is one of the two best offensive linemen I have seen. The nephew of All-Pro lineman and former Oakland Raiders coach Art Shell, he has great feet, remarkable balance and great athletic ability. He plays center on the basketball team.
The best running back in South Carolina is 5-9, 195-pound Shon Carson of Lake City, who has attracted interest from USC, UCLA and all SEC and ACC schools. He averaged nine yards per carry last season and rushed for over 2,000 yards against good competition. He also is an outstanding center fielder on the baseball team.
Here's a strange thing that even has recruiters scratching their heads. There are two players in Rock Hill, both named Gerald Dixon Jr. Both have the same father, who also is named Gerald. They are half-brothers. One is a 6-2, 270-pound nose tackle at Northwestern High School and the other is a 6-3, 245-pound defensive end at South Pointe, the same school that Jadeveon Clowney attends. He has been offered by Michigan while his half-brother has interest from ACC schools.
A lot of people think it's one person but they are two different guys. It will be interesting to see how the recruiting process plays out for them--and how long it will take for some recruiters to figure out who's who.
Others to watch are 6-2, 190-pound quarterback/free safety Jeffery Shamier of St. Matthews, 6-3, 190-pound wide receiver Hakeem Flowers of Greenville, 6-4, 270-pound defensive lineman Phillip Dukes of Manning, 6-5, 280-pound two-way tackle Jason Rexroad of North Myrtle Beach, 6-3, 190-pound quarterback Justin Worley of Rock Hill, 6-5, 240-pound defensive end Rod Byers of Rock Hill and 6-0, 190-pound free safety Pat Martin of Greenville.
Most schools are recruiting Shamier as a quarterback but I like him as a safety. Flowers is the best wide receiver in the state. Notre Dame has offered him. Texas A&M is interested in Rexroad. Worley passed for 3,600 yards and 50 touchdowns last season.