Elite in-state DE takes in USC junior day

Richland Northeast (Columbia, SC) 4-star defensive end Chris Bonds will be one of the top overall prospects in the Palmetto State's class of 2009 next year, and the local standout was on hand Saturday for South Carolina's annual junior day event. Did Bonds enjoy his time at USC, and where do the Gamecocks stand early on in the race for the elite lineman's services? Read inside to find out.

Chris Bonds, who measures in at a solid 6'3" and 250 pounds, made the short trip to USC on Saturday to take in Carolina's junior day event, and he met with several coaches and learned more about the Gamecocks' facilities plans that will take shape in the coming years.

"It was good. It was fun," said Bonds. "I talked to the new defensive coordinator (Ellis Johnson), and I talked with Coach (Brad) Lawing. He's usually the first guy I look for when I go to Carolina because he's a really cool guy and I look up to him. I talked to Coach (David) Reaves, and he's a real cool guy too. We talked about academic stuff and about the new academic facility that they're building along with all that other stuff. They're building like $300 million worth of facilities that are supposed to be completed by my freshman year. Coach Reaves took my parents to meet Steve Spurrier for the first time, and he talked about some of the stuff that he expects out of the upcoming classes. It was a good experience."

According to Bonds, the Head Ball Coach met with the prospects that were in attendance and shared his vision for the South Carolina program.

"Steve Spurrier took us in the team meeting room, and he addressed us as a whole about what he wants this team to be. He told us what he thinks this program is capable of, but he said in order to start a legacy the next couple of classes are going to be very important to the tradition of South Carolina football."

The RNE standout has been to multiple USC home games over the years and was already familiar with the Gamecock football program, but he said that he learned more in-depth about Carolina's academics and USC's vision for the future while at junior day.

"I've gone to most of the home games to watch the games and talk with the players, but today was more about their academic pitch. Mostly I learned about how in-tune they're going to be over the next couple of years. Coach Spurrier said it will be an exciting time in the next couple of years at USC because of all the stuff they're trying to build and all the things they're trying to accomplish."

Bonds, who is a friend and former teammate of current Gamecocks Rodney Paulk and Mark Barnes, said that he has a very positive, overall impression of the South Carolina program.

"Coach Spurrier told me, 'Right now we're not at a point where we're as good as we can be.' I believe that too because USC can be a very good football team. These next few recruiting classes will be very big. As a whole, the program is very solid. I love their strength and conditioning coach (Mark Smith). His presence is very powerful. There's just something about him, and he provides a great atmosphere. His staff is just top of the line. Some of them have been head strength and conditioning coaches at other programs. I really see everything coming together in the next couple of years for South Carolina."

Although he has offers from major programs all around the country, Bonds said that two teams are emerging as the early frontrunners in the race for his services.

"Right now I'm kind of torn between Southern Cal and South Carolina. Pete Carroll is a very prestigious coach like Steve Spurrier, but then I also want to stay here and be in my home town. That's a real tough decision I'm going to have to grapple with in the next couple of months. I'm also looking at schools like Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, LSU and Michigan."

Bonds plans to visit several schools in the coming months and hopes to have a decision made by the end of the year.

"This year I'm going to do a lot of traveling. I'm going to Georgia's junior day in a couple days and Virginia's junior day on the 24th. Then when the season hits, I just want to take my officials and hopefully by December I'll really know where I want to go. I don't want to be tossing a coin the night before Signing Day trying to figure out where I want to go."

The elite Palmetto State prospect will consider several factors when ultimately deciding on the school of his choice.

"The head coach is one of those things that impacts everybody. Like Steve Spurrier, I know he's a winner. He just looks like it, and you can tell when you shake his hand he's a winner. He has all those championships and the Heisman. Then a coach like Pete Carroll has tradition and everything. Then the atmosphere on game day is something that will be real big. Like at Carolina, for miles around you know it's game day because everybody's wearing garnet and black. Then maybe the surrounding areas. I like it in South Carolina because the stadium is downtown. I went to the Rose Bowl when Southern Cal played Illinois, and their atmosphere and stadium are nice. Academics are pretty much the biggest factor. Carolina said today that their academic facilities will be top of the line in a couple months. My mom has been drilling it into me about looking at graduation rates for athletes at the schools. Those are the things that I'll be looking for."

Bonds, who suffered a severe knee injury in his junior season, said that his rehab is going very well and that he'll be back to full speed by the fall.

"I'm just rehabbing and doing what the doctors are telling me. Right now my flexibility is very good. I can jog and plant and stuff pretty good. I'll be good to go for next season."

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