Gamecocks land 4-star linebacker

Recruiting athletic playmakers at linebacker has been a priority for South Carolina throughout the 2009 recruiting cycle, and the Gamecocks picked up a big commitment from Georgia Military 4-star linebacker Tony Straughter on Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of his official visit to USC. Read inside as Straughter discusses his decision to become a Gamecock and much more.

The 6'1", 210 pound Straughter, who runs a 4.5 second forty yard dash, committed to head coach Steve Spurrier at the conclusion of his official visit to South Carolina on Sunday afternoon. According to Straughter, several aspects of the USC program stood out to him during his time in Columbia and helped him decide to put an end to his recruitment.

"I committed to South Carolina just a few minutes ago," said Straughter. "This was my first trip to South Carolina, and it was great. The fan support, the academics, and the depth chart really stood out to me."

Straughter got to hang out with a few of the current Gamecocks on his visit, including Jasper Brinkley, a former Georgia Military great that has become an All-SEC performer at South Carolina.

"I got to hang out with the guys and tour the campus. A linebacker named (Gerrod) Sinclair really made me feel at home, him and Jasper (Brinkley). Jasper graduated from Georgia Military two years ahead of me, so him coming through South Carolina kind of made me want to go too. I feel like him and his brother (Casper Brinkley) opened the door for me to come in and play."

The athletic JUCO prospect also met extensively with defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson during his visit, and he believes he'll be a good fit on the Gamecock defense.

"I met coach Ellis Johnson, and we talked a lot about football and how he's going to use me. They like me at either the MIKE or WILL linebacker spot. They're running a 4-2-5 scheme right now, but they're trying to get back to a 4-3. They want fast linebackers, not big bulky guys like Jap. Jap is a great fit for the 4-2-5 scheme, but they want guys more like me and Josh (Dickerson) that can get out and run."

While Straughter enjoyed several aspects of his visit to Columbia over the weekend, it was the fan support at USC's game against Wofford on Saturday night that made the biggest impression on him.

"The fans are really what made the game seem way better than what it was. South Carolina was playing a Division I-AA team, and the stadium was still sold out. You don't see that at any other schools. You don't even see that at schools such as Florida or Southern Cal. You don't see the whole stadium packed, and they were playing Wofford. Nothing against Wofford, but that really impressed me," he said. "I can recall when I took an unofficial visit to Florida my senior year in high school, and they were playing Western Kentucky. It wasn't sold out. You could see empty spots in the stadium. But South Carolina was sold out."

Straughter is excited about the direction of South Carolina's program, and he believes that he can be a strong addition to the Gamecock defense next fall.

"South Carolina is on the rise. Just look at how hard they played Georgia, 14-7. Then Georgia goes and blows out Arizona State. That says a lot about South Carolina. We just need a few more playmakers here and there," he said. "I'm looking forward to being a part of it. I think I can bring speed, aggressiveness, and enthusiasm to the defense. I'm very talkative out there. I'm a sure tackler. I'm not much of a big hitter, just a sure tackler. My instincts are real good on reading plays such as catching pulling guards, down blocks, zones to me and zones away from me, and stuff like that."

The former Madison County High School standout chose South Carolina over offers from Tennessee, Ole Miss, Kansas State, TCU and others. However, there are a few schools which Straughter chose not to name that he's especially looking forward to playing on USC's schedule next fall.

"I'm looking forward to playing against some of the schools that didn't give me a chance. South Carolina's been with me since I went to GMC, and that really stood out to me. I'm looking forward to playing the schools that didn't give me a chance coming out of high school or when I was at GMC. I want to let them know they missed out on a good guy and a great player."

Straughter made the visit to USC with his good friend and GMC teammate Josh Dickerson, and he believes the Gamecocks have a strong chance at landing Dickerson as well.

"I think Josh just wants to look around and see his options, but he did get a good feel from South Carolina. He told me if he had to rate the visit, he'd rate it a '9.' He said he can really see himself coming there with me," said Straughter. "Josh is like my brother on and off the field. We hang out all the time, even more this year than last year. On the field, I know he's got my back. If I go in to take the fullback on and push it back to him, I know he's going to make that play. If I'm blitzing, I know he's back there holding that coverage so I can get to the quarterback. We play very well together."

Straughter, who will have three years to play two at South Carolina, is on track to graduate from GMC in December and enroll at USC for the spring semester. He becomes the fifteenth commitment in the Gamecocks' 2009 recruiting class.

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