Four-star Harris closing in on a decision

Lithonia (GA) four-star offensive guard Joe Harris is one of the top overall prospects in the Peach State's 2012 class, and the 6-3, 295 pound trenchman made an unofficial visit to South Carolina on Friday to get another up close look at one of his favorite schools. Following his trip to Columbia, do the Gamecocks now have an edge in the race for Harris' services? Read inside to find out.

Joe Harris, the nation's No. 12 rated offensive guard on, has been to the University of South Carolina on multiple occasions, and he already had a good idea of what the Gamecocks have to offer before his trip to Columbia on Friday. However, yesterday's visit was his mother's first chance to get a look at the USC program, and according to Harris, the Gamecocks did not disappoint.

"I took a visit to South Carolina yesterday. I had seen South Carolina a couple of times before, so this trip was really for my mom. I wanted her to look around and see what the University of South Carolina is really like and what they have to offer. She saw the academic program they have and the football program. They showed her all around what I'd be doing if I commit to South Carolina. It was really good," Harris said. "She was amazed. She was excited about everything that they have going on. She was overwhelmed. She met Alshon Jeffery, the wide receiver. She was very impressed with everything that they have to offer. She really liked it."

One of the biggest factors working in South Carolina's favor with Harris is the relationship that he has built with USC offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, who has been personally involved in his recruitment.

"I love Coach Elliott. He's a wonderful coach. He's the first offensive line coach that I've had a conversation with who came to tell me himself that they'd love to have me at the University and that I could be a difference maker for them. He's a great coach. He knows what he's doing. He knows how to coach. For his first year there, they won the SEC-East. That's real good, and I'm impressed by him. I love him."

Harris, who was born in Spartanburg, SC and lived in the Palmetto State until he was six years old, received the red carpet treatment on Friday from Elliott, recruiter Lorenzo Ward, and multiple Gamecock players that he interacted with on his visit, including former teammate and recent USC enrollee Cedrick Cooper. So what message did they all have for the premier offensive lineman?

"They told me to just come be a Gamecock, that's it. They let me know that they really want me there."

South Carolina has long been considered a contender for Harris, but following his time in Columbia, the prized recruit went on record naming the Gamecocks as his leader.

"You could say that South Carolina has an edge," he said.

While the Gamecocks are now the team to beat, Harris did mention that he is still looking at Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi State, and several other schools that he has offers from. With that said, the clock is ticking for other programs to make an impression, as Harris knows when he would like to make a decision.

"I'll probably make my decision at the beginning of my senior year or maybe a few games into my senior year," he said. "I'm looking at academics, tradition, and the opportunity for me to be successful as a student and as a player. I'll choose whoever has the best program for me, wherever I fit, and whatever environment I like the most."

Harris, who also competes in basketball and wrestling, does not have any dates set yet, but he noted that he plans on taking a few more visits before coming to a final decision.

Stay tuned to and for all the latest on this elite Peach State lineman.

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