Gamecock roster filled with Fla. natives

When South Carolina plays host to the Florida Gators on Saturday night, there will be a lot of emotions running high on the Gamecock sideline. Aside from Coach Steve Spurrier's obvious ties to the Florida program, eighteen scholarship players on USC's roster hail from the Sunshine State and look forward to this matchup each year.


When Steve Spurrier took over as Head Coach at the University of South Carolina in November of 2004, it was only a matter of time before the Head Ball Coach's Florida ties got him in the homes of Florida blue-chip talent. However, despite the Spurrier legend still fresh in the minds of Florida-native players, it was still going to be tough to pull top prospects the "big three" wanted from the Sunshine state. In his first recruiting class, Spurrier shocked many and brought in his first big-time Florida wideout, OJ Murdock, a four-star playmaker according to Scout.com from Tampa, FL. Murdock would not pan out as a Gamecock, but he would not be the last Florida star to make his way north to the Palmetto State.

When South Carolina takes the field to battle with the Gators on Saturday night, 18 players from Florida will lace South Carolina's 85-man scholarship roster.

Two Gamecock starters looking to make a big impact on the outcome of the game will be safety Emanuel Cook and wide receiver Dion Lecorn. Both were standout performers during their prep years and were courted by Florida, but neither garnered a firm offer from the Gators.

Cook has been a physical playmaker in the Gamecock secondary this season and is the team's leading tackler with 76, including seven tackles for loss. The 5-9, 200 pound headhunter hails from Palm Beach Gardens, FL where he was named Player of the Year by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Cook rushed for 2027 yards and 27 touchdowns as a senior while leading his team to their first Class 6A state title. Despite the huge numbers, the three-star athlete was not offered by Florida, Florida State, or Miami. The sophomore sensation has been a big part of USC's defensive success this year, and he is expected to play through a sprained ankle against the Gators this weekend.

Lecorn was not much of a factor for the Gamecock offense until just recently. The 5-11, 208 pound freshman burst on the scene against Arkansas to catch a career-high 8 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. The Ocala, FL native has now firmly solidified himself as the team's number two receiver just in time for Florida to come to town. For much of the recruiting process, it looked as if the Gators were going to offer Lecorn, but the offer never came and Lecorn, along with teammate Antonio Allen, who will likely join the Gamecocks in the spring, signed with South Carolina. Lecorn is one of two freshmen on the roster to avoid a redshirt from the Gamecocks' 2007 wide receiver class that many considered to be one of the tops in the nation.

Lecorn's senior season saw him catch 57 passes for 1108 yards and 14 touchdowns as the favorite target of now-Florida Gator quarterback John Brantley. The sure handed receiver has been a big part of the Gamecock offense as of late and will likely be looking to make a big impact against his home-state school.

Also in the starting lineup is Jacksonville, Fl native Marvin Sapp, a junior and USC's starting middle linebacker. Sapp has filled in for All-SEC linebacker Jasper Brinkley since he injured his knee against LSU. The former backup has 51 tackles on the season in Brinkley's absence and will need to have a big day against Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and playmaking wide receiver/running back Percy Harvin.

Cook, Lecorn, and Sapp are not the only Gamecocks hailing from Florida who will have an impact on Saturday's game. Freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia is from Tampa, FL and did receive a Florida offer when he was courted by many programs around the Southeast during the 2007 recruiting season, but he spurned the Gators to play in Spurrier's offense. The 6-2, 212 pound signal-caller was rated the No. 18 quarterback in the country according to Scout.com. The playmaking, dual-threat quarterback is redshirting this season, but he is playing the role of Tim Tebow on the Gamecocks' scout team this week. Garcia will look to imitate the large lefty in practice to better prepare USC's defense to stop the highly touted Gator QB.

The Gamecock offensive line also features back ups from the Sunshine state. Clearwater, FL-native Seaver Brown and Orlanda, FL-native Lemuel Jeanpierre have both started at guard at times this year. They proved not to be quite ready for the rigors of the SEC, but have the potential to turn into good players with time. Backup guard Kevin Young has not seen time this year but is also a Clearwater, FL native who the coaching staff is high on.

Fullback Patrick DiMarco and wide receiver Larry Freeman are two other players on the USC offense who played their prep ball in Florida. Spurrier surprised many when he offered Dimarco shortly after he completed his senior season. The little-known athlete from Altamonte Springs, FL has proved it was a smart decision, as the hard nosed freshman has logged significant time as the team's back up fullback where he has caught 4 passes including 1 for TD against Kentucky. Freeman joined the team as a JUCO transfer from Pearl River Community College in Mississippi, but before that played his high school ball in Fort Meade, FL.

The rest of the USC roster does not lack Florida-natives either. 6-5, 327 pound redshirt freshman Kenrick Ellis hails from West Palm Beach, FL. The mammoth defensive tackle was rated a four-star by Scout.com and has seen his snaps increase recently. Tampa, FL-native Stoney Woodson, a redshirt junior, has played a lot at both safety and cornerback over the last two seasons. The versatile defender has battled a hamstring injury as of late, but is expected to be close to full speed against the Gators. Also battling injury is Jacksonville, FL-native linebacker Gerrod Sinclair. The sophomore was coming on strong as a weakside linebacker before spraining his left knee against Kentucky. Sinclair is expected to play in a reserve role against the Gators. Senior Belleview, FL-native Cody Wells has also logged significant snaps at linebacker and on special teams throughout his career. He is one of the few holdovers from the Holtz era to still earn snaps on defense.

Most of the South Carolina players listed did not have Florida offers and will have something extra to play for against the Gators Saturday, as the Gamecocks try to get back to their winning ways.

As long as Spurrier is coaching at South Carolina, don't look for the Florida pipeline to end anytime soon. Current 2008 Gamecock commitment Shaq Wilson is an aggressive tackling machine from his outside linebacker spot at First Coach HS in Jacksonville, FL. While USC does not currently have any other commitments from Florida prep players, they do lead for three-star, Lakeland wide receiver T.J. Lawrence, who many consider to be one of the top receivers in the southeast. They have also put themselves in good position with 6-6 Miami wide receiver Tommy Streeter, St. Augustine safety Carlton Lewis, and Tallahassee offensive lineman Steven Robinson. They also remain factors with four-star running backs Jamie Harper and Florida-commitment Franklin Green as well as Delray Beach, four-star safety Karnell Hatcher. The South Carolina coaching staff has placed itself in prime position for another strong haul of talent from the Sunshine state.


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