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South Carolina offers junior college LB Strong

Phil Kornblut
Posted 2/27/20

The University of South Carolina was the first Southeastern Conference program to offer linebacker Navonteque Strong (6-foot-1-inch, 230 pounds) of Forest, Miss., and Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College.

Strong will be going into his second …

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South Carolina offers junior college LB Strong

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The University of South Carolina was the first Southeastern Conference program to offer linebacker Navonteque Strong (6-foot-1-inch, 230 pounds) of Forest, Miss., and Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College.

Strong will be going into his second season with MGC and is on track to graduate in December with two years to play on the next level. With the attention he's getting from USC head coach Will Muschamp, Strong plans to keep USC in his plans.

"He said he liked my film, and he liked how I run and stuff, and then he offered," Strong said of his conversation with Muschamp last month. "He said he liked how I ran and tackled and how I get to the ball."

Strong was a standout for MGC last season in his freshman campaign, totaling 104 tackles with 17 1/2 tackles for loss and 8 1/2 quarterback sacks. He also broke up three passes, had one interception and recovered two fumbles. Strong is just starting to build his relationship with USC, but he likes what he's learned thus far.

"I think they are a good school, and they can help me get to where I want to be," Strong said. "Playing in the SEC, that's the dream. It's the best of the best. Everything is really neutral. It's my first SEC offer, and I think it's really big." Colorado recently offered Strong prior to the coaching change there. He also has offers from Troy, Alabama-Birmingham, Arkansas State and South Alabama.

He did not take any January visits but plans to get out this spring. Muschamp has invited him to visit and he plans to do so. After his visits, Strong will work on his favorites list.

"I feel like they will be in my top five," Strong said of USC. As for any other SEC teams showing interest, Strong cited Tennessee.

Three-star wide receiver/cornerback Simeon Price (6-0 204) of Pensacola, Fla., got a call recently from USC recruiter Bobby Bentley, who delivered an offer to Price based off what he and Muschamp had seen of his film. Apparently, what they saw was a 2-way prospect who reminded them of a pair of USC all-time greats.

"First thing they talked about was my versatility," Price said. "I pride myself in being a smart player, being able to read body languages and really just make plays all over the field. We talked about using me as maybe like Deebo Samuel when he was at South Carolina. He also mentioned if I happen to be on the defensive side of the ball I'd be a Nickel guy, kind of like Stephon Gilmore."

USC. at this point, is very much in the mix.

"It's definitely a top five school," Price said. "It did nothing but put a huge smile on my face when I got the text from Coach Bentley. It's a great atmosphere up there. It's just like an everlasting legacy, the players that have been there before, I want to play for them also." Price has not visited USC, but he plans to as soon as he can. He visited Florida State in January. He said other schools standing out with him early on are Oklahoma, Virginia, Tennessee and Nebraska.

Price said he won't rush the process, and he does not plan to sign with a school until next February. And he's got a good idea of what he'll be looking for in his college choice.

"I look to major in broadcast journalism or sports medicine," Price said. "Definitely the relationships with the coaches. And when I get to college, the opportunities for graduating early, declare for the (National Football League) draft and leave after your junior year. It's things like that that will stand out to me."

USC jumped on running back/CB Kamarro Edmonds (5-11, 190) of Havelock, N.C., very early in the recruiting process and has kept up daily contact with him. Edmonds has made multiple visits to USC with more to come.

USC's hard work earned it a place in what Edmonds calls his Elite 8.

"They just tell me every day to be a Gamecock," Edmonds said. "They love my film and think I'm a great player, I'm a great athlete, and they think I'm a great leader. They think I can be at their school and become a great player there. They like me for both corner and running back. They like me when I play corner because I'm very physical, and they also say I'm very versatile because I can go both ways."

Edmonds was on hand for the Alabama game last season, a strong effort by USC, but nonetheless one of the eight losses USC suffered. USC has to overcome the stigma of a losing season in recruiting a player of Edmonds' stature.

"Everybody has bad seasons, you know," Edmonds said. "I love the Gamecocks. It's a great school. I love the coaches there. I love Coach T-Rob (defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson). I love Coach Muschamp. They text me every day. They check up on me to make sure I'm doing good in school, make sure I'm staying out of trouble."

The seven other schools to make the cut with Edmonds were Wake Forest, Tennessee, Louisville, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Missouri. He wants to continue with his visits and evaluations before cutting his list again.

"Right now I'm just taking my time looking at each school," Edmonds said. "Try to take more visits. Probably wait until my senior year to commit. Just taking it slow, not rushing anything." USC has strong ties to the Havelock program. One of their all-time greats, Pharoh Cooper, is a Havelock graduate.

USC is keeping up the hot pursuit of hot offensive lineman recruit Jakiah Leftwich (6-6, 302) of Atlanta. Leftwich visited for the Florida game, and he was back for a junior day in January.

Leftwich said every morning he's greeted on the phone by a text message from Muschamp or OL coach Eric Wolford. On some days, both hit him up. "Their message is they want me there, they like me, and they want me there, and they like my film," Leftwich said. "I'm thinking about coming in for their spring game in April. I really love the Gamecocks right now. They are high up there."

Leftwich has had USC and Georgia Tech high up on his list. He said Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Tennessee also are recruiting him hard at this point, and each has offered. Indiana and Florida State also are factors in his recruiting. Leftwich said he will visit Vandy on March 27 and Mississippi State the first week in April. He will take some official visits this summer and one will be to USC. His plan is to make his decision before his season and sign early.

USC offered RB LJ Johnson of Cypress, Texas. He's rated a 4-star prospect by 247Sports composite and the No. 4 RB in the country. USC also offered athlete Sam Reynolds of Alabaster, Ala., ATH Javin Burke (6-0, 194) of Cleveland, Tenn., , 2022 RB Antonio Martin of Fairburn, Ga., and '23 defensive end Derrick Leblanc (6-5, 225) of Kissimmee, Fla.

USC RB target Jaylin White of Dothan, Ala., picked up recent offers from Penn State, Louisville and UAB.

USC WR target Adonai Mitchell of Antioch, Tenn., picked up offers from VT and Kansas.

USC OL target Dylan Fairchild of Cumming, Ga., was offered by FSU, Minnesota, Texas A&M and VT.

USC DE target Kelvin Gilliam of Highland Springs, Va., was offered by Arkansas.

WR Payton Mangrum of Eastside High School in Anderson accepted a preferred walk-on offer from USC. Mangrum had 55 catches for over 1,100 yards and 19 touchdowns last season.

CLEMSON

CB Philip Riley (6-1, 190) of Valrico, Fla., wasn't making a whole lot of noise on the recruiting scene until he picked up an offer from Clemson earlier this month. Boston College, Maryland and South Florida were some of his best offers until he was contacted by Clemson and offered by CB coach Mike Reed.

"He and my parents talked on the phone for about an hour," Riley said. "We were just talking about life, life after football, how to help me grow into a man there and what Clemson had to offer me as a culture and a program."

Riley was blown away by the offer.

"It was really emotional, I almost started crying," Riley said. "It's a dream school of mine."

Riley had 28 tackles and one interception last season. He had three interceptions as a sophomore.

His ability to play press man coverage, Riley said, is what Reed has told him he likes about him.

"My technique," Riley said. "He loves how I play man, pressure man, and that I'm a really smooth player. I like to cut guys a lot. That's what I mostly hear from college coaches, how good my press technique is, and getting in and out of breaks."

Riley plans to visit Clemson for the junior day on March 7. He also visited last season for the Charlotte game but didn't get the chance to meet the coaches, so the visit next month will be big for him. "I want to see where I fit in with their coaching and what they've got to offer me," Riley said. "I'm still taking my recruitment really slow, and it's starting to speed up for me."

Riley said USF, BC, Maryland and Florida International are some of his other offers standing out right now. He also picked up offers last week from Southern California and FSU.

Safety Derrick Davis (6-1, 194) of Monroeville, Pa., is slated to visit Clemson on April 6, according to Gus Ramos of NBCSports/All American Bowl. Davis is a 4-star prospect and is rated the No. 2 safety in the country in the 247Sports Composite and the No. 2 prospect in Pennsylvania. Notre Dame, Penn State, Ohio State and Alabama also are among his offers.

OL Gunner Givens of Daleville, Va., plans to visit Clemson for a spring practice on March 9.

OTHERS

Sumter High DE Justus Boone was offered by Mississippi

Blythewood High WR Joshua Burrell was offered by FSU and Indiana.

Missouri offered OL Thornton Gentry of Chapin High.

Gaffney DL Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins was offered by FSU and NCSU, while Dillon High WR Ahmari Huggins was offered by Texas Christian.

BASKETBALL

Clemson signed the state's top basketball prospect in the '20 class in 6-9 PJ Hall of Dorman High in Roebuck. Now, Tiger head coach Brad Brownell has his sights set on 6-9 forward Cesare Edwards of Hartsville High, who will be one of the top prospects in the state for the '21 class.

Edwards, his coach and his parents visited Clemson for the Louisville game, and Brownell personally offered him on the spot.

"They had been in and out of practices and Coach Brownell came to the school a couple of times to see him when we were just working out in the offseason before the season started," Hartsville head coach Yusef English said. "Coach Brownell said he wanted him to come up for the Louisville game. Got up there and they did a little photo shoot for him, and then he got in the office with Coach Brownell. Coach Brownell offered him in person, said he likes the progress and is excited about where he's headed, and feels very confident Cesare can be something special for Clemson." Edwards also holds offers from Xavier, Virginia Commonwealth, A&M, College of Charleston, Presbyterian and Western Carolina. According to his coach, Clemson is one of Edwards' favorites now, though the process will continue. "They are in the top two with Xavier," English said. "At the current moment, he's open to everybody. I know he has not made up his mind. He's very appreciative of Coach Brownell and everything else. He likes them. He likes the coaching staff. He really enjoyed the game. He got the opportunity to talk to the (university) president (James Clements). It was a really good experience for him."

Edwards also is drawing interest from USC head coach Frank Martin. Edwards went to a game at USC and Martin, who recruited current freshman guard Trae Hannibal from Hartsville last year, has been down to check out Edwards. "Frank has been by," English said. "Same process they did with Trae. They are pretty much handling it the same way. He's been in for a football game and a basketball game. I'm not sure where it is with that particular part of the process because with Trae, we were kind of unsure all the way through. Frank likes to dot his Is and cross his Ts.

"They are looking to see more consistency. There are a couple of schools that are looking at consistency from Cesare. I think some people are going to look more toward springtime when they have time to come in for the workouts. I look for his recruitment to pick up a lot more. I just think Clemson was really excited about him. Not to say Carolina is not. Frank has a way of doing things, a process in recruiting. There's a difference in the way they do it at Carolina and the way they do it at Clemson. Not that one is better than the other, because remember, Clemson didn't offer Trae."

English said Edwards has visited Clemson, USC and College of Charleston. He's planning to take visits to VT, VCU, Xavier and FSU over the next several weeks, spilling into his offseason.

Amare Hayne, a 6-2 '22 recruit from Kannapolis, N.C., visited Clemson for the Louisville game.

Perry Smith Jr., a 6-9 '22 recruit from Legacy Charter in Greenville, made an unofficial visit to USC on Saturday.

Jordan Butler, a 6-9 '23 recruit from Christ Church in Greenville, was offered by GT earlier this month. He is the younger brother of 7-0 '21 rccruit John Butler.