Sunshine State OL enjoys trip to USC
The 6'4", 285 pound Harding, who is ranked by Scout.com as the no. 45 offensive tackle prospect in the country this recruiting year, thoroughly enjoyed his visit to South Carolina over the weekend and talked extensively with GamecockAnthem.com about time his time in Columbia.
"It went really well. I was up there for about six hours on Friday, and I liked it a lot. I was impressed with what I saw. It's definitely a big football school, and I got to meet with the coaches. My mom and dad who were with me got to meet them as well. We took a tour and met with the academics advisors. I was just really impressed with everything," said Harding. "I learned a lot, a lot of intangibles. I had never been there before so it was really good to see the campus and what that's like. I talk with Coach (John) Hunt quite a bit, but to see him in person and to chat with him face to face was really good. I got to learn more about their International Business program. That's something I'm interested in, and they have a really good program up there."
Harding received plenty of individual attention from the USC coaches while on campus, and he came away from the visit with a better idea of how he could fit into the Gamecocks' plans on the offensive line.
"They just told me they're trying to sign a bunch of o-linemen this year and that they'd love to have me as one of them," he said. "They see me as playing multiple positions on the line, which I like. It's good to be able to jump in at guard or tackle, especially early. If you have a wide variety of positions that you play, the chances of playing early increase."
While the football aspect of college is important to Harding, he's equally as interested in finding a strong academic institution. According to Harding, who boasts a sterling 4.3 GPA, what he learned about South Carolina over the weekend put them right up there with the top schools on his list from an academic standpoint.
"They were definitely up there academically. They have a wide variety of things to major in. I was impressed with that and was able to meet with the head academic advisor. She was just really knowledgeable and let me know they're there to help. I feel like I could definitely go to South Carolina and get a good degree while playing some big time football. That's real important to me - getting out with a degree."
Overall, Harding said that two factors about USC stood out to him the most during his time in Columbia.
"I really liked the weight staff at South Carolina and also the fact that Coach Spurrier definitely knows how to win and how to get programs going in the right direction. I believe he's doing that at South Carolina."
Following his visit to the Palmetto State, Harding admitted that the Gamecocks made quite an impression on him and are currently at the top of his list, along with two other suitors.
"I like South Carolina a lot. They're definitely toward the top of my list. There's a couple others that are right up there with them," he said. "The three schools that are really standing out to me are South Carolina, Duke, and UCF. They're all pretty neck and neck. Once I can find something to help differentiate between them, that's when I'll make my decision."
The versatile lineman took the time to describe what he likes about the Blue Devils and Knights as well.
Duke - "I've had a good relationship with the coaches for a long time now. They were one of the first (schools) to offer me. I have one friend that's already playing for them and another one that's committed to them this year. I think that Coach Cutcliffe has definitely got the potential to turn that whole program around. That's something to be excited about and something that I wouldn't mind being a part of."
UCF - "They're like twenty minutes away from my house, and I have a good relationship with all their coaches. I'm able to go out and look at practice whenever I really want to. Staying in my hometown is kind of appealing to me, and also the academics are good. It's definitely not a place to think lowly of. It's got some academic clout, which I like."
With three finalists on his mind, Harding is nearing a final decision and would like to make a commitment at some point in the next two weeks.
"Ideally, I'd like to make a decision before my season starts. We've already started practice, but I'd like to make it before my first game, which is in two weeks. I'd like to make a decision before then, ideally. I think I'll just call the coaches and inform them when I've decided."
Harding, who said that distance from home won't play a big factor in his decision, closed by discussing how he'll decide which school is right for him.
"Out of the three schools I'm really looking at, I've got good relationships with the coaches at each one. That's kind of been put aside in impacting my final decision. I think it's going to come down to my overall gut feeling. They all have good football potential and the potential for me to play. Also, the academics are good at all of them. It's just going to come down to what I really feel best about."
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