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South Carolina recruiting notebook: Three 5-star players visiting for ECU

Some big names are headed to Columbia this weekend.

Xavier Thomas is one of three five-star recruits visiting South Carolina this weekend when they take on ECU.
Student Sports

South Carolina’s recent success on the recruiting trail has turned some heads, not just within Gamecock Nation and the SEC, but nationally as well. This big upswing in recruiting momentum is expected to have a positive impact on the dynamic 2018 class for the Gamecocks, and if this Saturday’s visitors list for the home opener is any indication of what’s in store, South Carolina fans should be very excited.

Not only will the nation’s number one overall player for the class of 2018, in-state 5-star DE Xavier Thomas, be in attendance, but he will be accompanied by another 2018 5-star DE in KJ Henry of Clemmons, North Carolina, as well as the nation’s number one running back in the 2018 class, Zamir White of Laurinburg, North Carolina.

It’s still very early in the process for all three guys at this point, but nonetheless, having them at the opener against ECU on Saturday sends an enormous message. All three players are game-changing recruits, in the mold of Gilmore, Lattimore, Clowney, etc. These guys are the kind of players South Carolina was landing when the Gamecocks reeled off three-straight 11-win seasons, and these are the kind of guys that would be program-changers for Will Muschamp as he tries to get Gamecock football back to that level again.

South Carolina is in very good position with Thomas right now, as has been reported several times, so having him back on campus once again just continues to keep the Gamecocks where they need to be with him. Many feel that South Carolina is his leader at the moment and ultimately is the team to beat.

KJ Henry is being pursued by some of the absolute top programs in the country. He already holds 25 offers, including the likes of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and others. Clemson is a factor with him, as is home-state North Carolina, but don’t count out the Gamecocks for him just yet. You’d have to assume, with Thomas in attendance as well this weekend, that the South Carolina staff might try to sell them both on being bookends of the Gamecock line for the next 3-4 years.

If you’ve watched the first two games of the 2016 season, you know that the Gamecocks’ running back situation is in dire-straits. AJ Turner is doing about everything he can do at the moment, but USC needs a bell cow in order to compete again in the SEC, and that is exactly the kind of player you’d be looking at getting with Zamir White. His talent is through the roof, and some believe, were he to come to South Carolina, he could have a Lattimore-like impact almost from the get-go. “Lattimore-like” isn’t an expression we Gamecocks throw around lightly, either. He’s really, really good. Clemson and UNC are factors, just like with Henry, but South Carolina is believed to be in that top group for his services, and having him at a game this early in the process is a promising sign for the Gamecocks. Keep and eye on this one for sure.

One thing working in the Gamecocks’ favor with both Henry and White (and really any of the best players in North Carolina) is just how well South Carolina has recruited that state this past cycle. You’d better believe that top in-state players from North Carolina notice when South Carolina pulls guys like TJ Moore, Hamsah Nasirildeen and Sherrod Greene out of state. Those are some of the absolute top players in North Carolina, and the Gamecocks landed them. That sends a message to North Carolina recruits, so don’t be surprised to see guys like Henry and White taking a hard look at USC going forward.

It also doesn’t hurt the Gamecocks that they can HEAVILY pitch early playing time to guys of this caliber. We’ve already seen players like Jamyest Williams, OrTre Smith and Nasirildeen decide to come play for South Carolina because of the impact they feel like they can have early in their careers. All three of these players would be instant-impact performers, so be sure to keep an eye out for how their visits this weekend go.

Three more really good reasons to #BeatECU.