"I wanted to play in the SEC. It was easy," Clowney said. "I knew a week ago. I just tried not to tell anybody."
Clowney's signing marks another in-state victory for Coach Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks. For three consecutive years, South Carolina has signed the top prospect in the Palmetto State. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, a high school teammate of Clowney's, signed in 2009 and has started for two seasons. (Receiver Alshon Jeffrey, a Top 100 prospect from St. Matthews, S.C., also signed with South Carolina in 2009.) Last year, tailback Marcus Lattimore of Duncan, S.C., signed with South Carolina and finished third in the SEC in rushing with 1,172 yards and scored 17 rushing touchdowns.
Like Lattimore last year, Clowney is considered a prospect who can make an immediate impact. He finished his senior season at South Pointe with 32.5 sacks and seven defensive scores. One of his most popular senior highlight videos on YouTube is a 12-minute series of jaw-dropping plays.
Clowney will face questions about whether he'll meet the NCAA's initial eligibility standards. Last week, the New York Times quoted Hargrave Military Academy coach Troy Davis, who said he has seen a copy of Clowney's transcript, as saying Clowney would have to work to get his grade point average high enough to play college football in the fall. "A lot of D's on there," Davis told the Times.
The day before South Carolina faced Auburn for the SEC title in December, Spurrier discussed the need to lock down the state's best recruits for the Gamecocks to be competitive in the SEC.
"All of us that are in states where they play excellent high school football need to try to get our best players from that state and not let them leave the state," Spurrier said. "So we've been able to get a lot of the best players the last three years, with Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffrey, Stephon Gilmore, two of those guys were the Mr. Football in the state the last couple of years. Prior to that, most of the players were going to Georgia, somewhere else. Tennessee used to get a bunch of them.
"So we're starting to keep a lot of the good players in state. It's very helpful."