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Elite LB Prospect Larenz Bryant Commits to South Carolina

As you've probably heard by now, South Carolina notched a verbal commitment yesterday from Larenz Bryant. The Zebulon B. Vance, Charlotte, NC prospect is 247 Sports's 42nd-ranked national prospect with an overall grade of 95. That makes him Carolina's highest-rated commitment to date according to this service. 247 also rates him as the nation's fourth-best OLB prospect, as well as the top prospect out of the state of North Carolina. He comes at 6'1", weighing 203 lbs, and running a 4.58 second 40. Carolina beat Clemson, Georgia, Florida and Texas A&M, among others, for Bryant's services.

Here are some of Bryant's junior highlights:

Larenz Bryant Junior Highlights (via UltimateProspects)

This clip should give you a taste of what Bryant brings in terms of speed, athleticism, instincts, ability in pass coverage, and tackling. You'll also notice that he's an accomplished running back, and while he won't be lining up in the offensive backfield at Carolina, the vision, balance, and hands he shows as a running back are part of what makes him such an excellent defensive prospect. The only thing holding him back from being a five-star prospect is that he's a little undersized at under 210 pounds. Otherwise, he's the total package.

SB Nation's recruiting expert Bud Elliott had this to say about Bryant: "South Carolina has had excellent success with undersized, active linebackers. That perfectly describes Bryant. He has excellent instincts, athleticism and speed, but is not very big at 6'1" and 210 pounds. Those attributes should help Bryant to see the field early in special teams, and perhaps some in the base defense as well." Elliott is right to point out that Bryant is undersized and athletic, but I'm a bit more sanguine about him getting onto the field early. All of Carolina's starters at linebacker in 2012 will be seniors, and that may even be true of all of our linebackers seeing significant playing time. Bryant will be walking into a situation ripe for early playing time. Whether he beats out the competition will depend on whether he can speed up to the college game and put on a few pounds of muscle, but the opportunity is there.

There are two additional things I want to note about this commitment. First of all, after Jay Graham departed from our coaching staff, many worried that our recruiting in North Carolina would suffer, particularly in the Charlotte area, where Graham had built some solid relationships. Those worries were exacerbated when Bryant briefly soured on Carolina. However, Shawn Elliott has come in and reestablished Carolina in the Charlotte area, as this commitment attests. Elliott is doing a fantastic job on the recruiting trail, as he is with his offensive line. Behind Ellis Johnson, I believe Elliott is Steve Spurrier's best coaching hire to date and I'm glad we have him going forward.

Second of all, even more so than being ranked in the top ten overall, what's really impressive about this class is how balanced it is. Carolina is methodically addressing its major needs. As stated, we're going to be thin at linebacker in 2013, but the staff has remedied this problem by bringing in Bryant, Matt Rolin, Brandon Golson, and Gerald Turner. Carolina has also addressed needs along the lines. If it can pick up a couple more high-quality recruits in the defensive backfield, this has the makings of the strongest class Spurrier has recruited to date.