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The Crootin’ Notebook: An introduction to South Carolina’s first 2018 football commits

The inaugural post of The Crootin’ Notebook takes a look at the first five commits of the Gamecocks’ 2018 class.

Western Carolina v South Carolina Photo by Todd Bennett/GettyImages

Welcome to The Crootin’ Notebook - Garnet and Black Attack’s first and foremost compendium of all things Gamecock recruiting.

As TCN grows through a collection of profiles, interviews, news and analysis, it is our hope that you - the fans - gain a deep understanding of the recruitment process as a whole and a stronger sense of the future of South Carolina football.

Crootin’ season is in full effect.

Not even three months into the 2018 recruiting cycle, and many of the nation’s top prospects have committed to their school of choice, with several more having announced their intentions to do so in the near future. Highlighted by Xavier Thomas’ regrettable decision, the Gamecocks have already missed out on a few of their top targets.

Regardless, South Carolina’s 2018 class of commits is beginning to take shape. While Will Muschamp and Co. are still in search of their headline addition, they have received commitments from a promising group of three-star recruits that includes a former 2017 signee, a local lineman and one of South Carolina’s most prolific athletes.

Here is a first look at the newest Gamecock commits:

LaMarius Benson | OG | Eastside (GA)

When LaMarius Benson announced his verbal commitment on March 12th, the mammoth Eastside guard became the second member of South Carolina’s 2018 class.

As you can see in the picture on the left, the first thing that stands out about LaMarius Benson is his immense size. Listed at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, he was able to quite literally manhandle smaller opposition throughout his junior season. The few times he was faced with a lineman that could hold a candle to his size and strength, Benson showed that he does not rely on his mass alone to win.

Even more impressive than Benson’s size is the athleticism displayed when he is asked to pull and make accurate blocks in space. There are strides to be made as far as body control and footwork, but he has the raw athletic ability that will translate to the college level.

The most promising aspect about Benson may be that he is still very early in his development as an offensive lineman. Before the 2016 season, he primarily played at defensive tackle for the Eagles. Offensive line coach Eric Wolford has to be excited about Benson’s upside.

Tyreek Johnson | SDE | Lakewood (SC)

When Will Muschamp and his staff arrived in Columbia, Lakewood defensive end Tyreek Johnson was one of their first targets. He initially signed with the 2017 class, but after tearing his labrum at the end of his senior season, Johnson required shoulder surgery and decided to grayshirt.

Johnson will now arrive on campus in January 2018, essentially becoming an early enrollee for the 2018 class.

For a team that is in desperate need of pass rushers, his arrival cannot come soon enough. Johnson’s first step off the line is as impressive as you will find at the high school level, allowing him to burst past offensive lineman before they are even able to get into their stance.

He caused havoc at multiple positions on the line for Lakewood and intends to do the same for the Gamecocks. Johnson said in January that depending on how big he gets, coaches have told him he could spend time at outside linebacker or even defensive tackle, in addition to defensive end.

Hank Manos | OC | Chapin (SC)

The Chapin - USC pipeline is real.

When Hank Manos announced his verbal commitment to the Gamecocks on March 28th, he became the third Chapin product to do so in the past five years.

From the center of the Eagles’ offensive line, Manos consistently frustrated opposing - and often larger - defensive tackles. He has the fight and tenacity that coaches love, and it is easy to see why Coach Wolford chose him as the sole center to recruit for the 2018 class.

Regardless of the direction of the play, Manos takes on his assignment full steam with the intent to dominate. His feet never stop moving, which allows him to gain momentum against defensive lineman of all sizes, even if he does not land his block with perfect placement.

In the instance that he does not have an assignment at the line of scrimmage, Manos is quick to get to the second level and pick out a target. Once locked on, he has the hands and upper body strength to keep defenders engaged until the final whistle. By the time the play is called dead, his opposition is often either pushed ten-plus yards downfield or lying on the ground, smothered by the 280 pound center.

Maxwell Iyama | OT | Siegel (TN)

When Maxwell Iyama announced his verbal commitment to South Carolina in early April, he chose USC over offers from Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi State and Louisville, among others.

Largely thought to be a lock to Tennessee, the 6-foot-5, 299 pound offensive tackle is a huge get for running backs coach Bobby Bentley, who is leading recruiting efforts in the state.

The anchor of the left side of Siegel’s offensive line, Iyama hopes to continue to play left tackle when enrolls at USC, even if he does not immediately compete for a starting position. With his large, athletic frame and long arms, he certainly fits the tackle prototype.

Iyama has the speed to hold off edge rushers, and already playing at nearly 300 pounds, he will only get stronger throughout the course of his senior year. There are certainly aspects of his game that need development, but Iyama checks the boxes of what scouts look for in offensive tackles.

With Benson, Manos and Iyama, Coach Wolford is locking in key pieces for the future of the offensive line early on in the recruitment cycle.

Darius Rush | WR | C.E. Murray (SC)

Darius Rush has always said he wanted to play for South Carolina, so when Muschamp extended an offer, he was quick to accept, becoming the first member of the 2018 class.

During his junior season at C.E. Murray, Rush filled roles as receiver, quarterback, running back, corner back, safety and return specialist. He scored touchdowns while playing at least five of these positions, if that speaks at all to his playmaking ability.

Simply put, Rush is a dynamic athlete. When given the opportunity, he has the vision, agility, burst and long speed to score from anywhere on the field. His physical ability is further displayed on the track, where he won state championships in both the high jump and the triple jump.

As a wide receiver, where he will be expected to make his mark at USC, Rush’s sample size is limited, but promising. He only had 14 catches over the course of the season, but averaged over 16 yards per reception and found the end zone three times from the position. On a team without even a semblance of pro style quarterback, those numbers are not half bad.