Spartanburg, S.C. – Throughout the week the juggernaut that is the North Carolina squad offense has taken center stage and while they are talented, the defensive backfield for the South Carolina team is equally as impressive. Through practices on Wednesday the most impressive player on the South Carolina squad is defensive back Jamie Robinson.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder will watch his stock and his rating increase after this week. He has also been elusive during interviews in tipping his hand, however, Rivals.com caught up with him on Wednesday and nudged some recruiting info out of him.
"Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech are my top three right now," Robinson said. "I don't really have a leader right now, but I am down to these three. I have a visit set with Florida State for January 7, and I have visits set with Virginia Tech and Clemson, but I am not 100 percent sure on the dates on those yet.
"I wouldn't really say that I have a leader, but in my mind I have somebody I'm thinking real hard about, but I'm not ready to say who. I think there is a chance that I could commit before I finish taking all of my visits if all goes well."
Laurens (S.C.) Laurens District 55 coach Doug Painter has the treat of coaching the talented stable of players that he has been given and had high praise for all of them, but there have been several that have stood out in his mind during workouts and they are the usual suspects.
"I tell you what, C.J. Byrd and Jamie Robinson have really stood out to me all week long," Painter said.
"Robinson is a big kid who can run really well and he has all of the necessary tools to be a great player. Byrd is playing free safety for us this week, but he could definitely play some strong safety as well, he's real versatile back there. I had never seen J.C. Neal or Haydrian Lewis before this week, but I had heard a lot about them and they have both really done well. Neal really picks up things quickly and is right up there in the category with Byrd and Robinson."
RECRUITING A HOT TOPIC
All-star games like the Shrine Bowl can often get interesting in terms of where prospects are going to school because the players have a chance to hang out all week and often times the committed prospects pitch their school to the uncommitted guys and sometimes even the committed ones. This week is no different many guys have been trying to round up a few teammates and others are hearing the pitch.
"I was looking at taking a visit to Alabama and maybe somewhere else, but now I am not going to do that," said Clemson commitment Rendrick Taylor. "I am real firm to Clemson now. I have even been talking to guys like Mike Davis, J.C. Neal and Jamie Robinson and telling them that they need to come to Clemson and play."
Taylor is not the only that has been talking to 5-foot-10, 212-pound Columbia running back, Mike Davis, as he is apparently a popular choice as a future teammate and has been hearing the recruiting pitches all week long.
"Oh man I have been hearing it all week from a lot of guys," Davis said. "A lot of these guys are already committed and I'm one of the few that isn't so I'm hearing it from all of them. The guys that are committed to Clemson and there are a bunch of them, are the ones I am hearing it from the most, but it's all cool because they know I'm going to look at all my options before I decide.
"Right now North Carolina, Clemson, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama and Auburn are my top seven and that is about as far as I have gotten it down as of now."
The star of the week thus far, Robinson, says he has been some recruiting talk during the week, but hasn't felt much pressure from his teammates to attend their school.
"A few guys have mentioned recruiting to me this week, but it hasn't been a huge topic for me," Robinson said.
"They have been asking me what schools I like and what schools I have seen and they will talk a little bit about the school they are committed to or what schools they are looking at, but no one has really been trying to get me to commit to their school or anything like that."
WHO'S THE BEST?
It's nice to hear who the media and the coaches have flagged as the players that have been impressive throughout the week, but no one has been a feel for who the top dogs are better than the players that are competing against one another. While there are a nice variety of guys mentioned, there were also a few guys that were mentioned by several of their fellow teammates.
"Mike Davis has really impressed me a lot this week," Neal said. "He is just out there running over people. He is short and stocky, but he is real elusive and a powerful runner all at the same time. A lot of people have been talking about Nathan Pepper and how good he is this week, but he is on the defensive line, and I am back in the secondary so I don't have the opportunity to see him in action much."
"Eric Huggins is the best wide receiver here in my opinion," said defensive back and South Carolina commit Mychal Belcher. "He is really tall, which makes him really hard to cover, and just has amazing athleticism. He also has great hands and doesn't miss many passes. You just really never know what he is going to do next out there."
What about the talk about Byrd being overrated?
"I had heard some people say that C.J. Byrd is overrated or whatever before I came up here," Davis said. "But let me tell you, there is definitely no truth to that. That boy is for real, I don't see how anyone could say that. He has really stood out a lot to me. This game is like getting a taste of what college will be like because the speed of the game is so much different. I can't make the same kind of cuts and stiff-arm people the way I usually do."
It's not just the heavily recruited and highly rated prospects that are drawing the rave reviews though. Guys like 6-foot, 185-pound Gaffney wide receiver Andy Srickland, 6-foot, 274-pound Charleston (S.C.) Timberland offensive lineman Ryan McLain, 6-foot-2, 235-pound Hanahan defensive end Mike Hill and 6-foot-2, 180-pound Ladson (S.C.) Stratford quarterback Devon Green have also been catching the eye of some of the game's biggest stars.
"I have really been impressed with Ryan McLain this week," Byrd said. "He is really athletic and he plays really hard and I like that about a player. He is out there giving everything he's got every play and that's all you can ask. I think he is going to be a really good player out there for us on Saturday. I have gotten to know him pretty well this past week."
"The quarterback from Stratford (Devon Greene) has done a great job running the offense this week," Davis said. "I was kind of worried about our quarterbacks for this game going into the week, but now that I have seen him and had a chance to work with him I feel a lot better. Mike Hill from Hanahan has also been really impressive this week."
"Andy Strickland has been doing really good this week," Taylor said. "He has been catching everything that gets thrown at him all week long. He is a lot faster than he looks like he is going to be and he runs really good routes. He has given some of the defensive backs some trouble out there."
COACH PLEASED WITH TALENT LEVEL
Many people that have been attending this game and following it for years have stated repeatedly that this could possibly be the best North Carolina team that they have ever seen, while the general consensus on the South Carolina squad is that the talent may be somewhat down from year's past. In other words, very few are giving the South Carolina team much of chance, but coach Bill Tate doesn't see it that way.
"Coming into the week I knew that we had two pretty good quarterbacks to lead our team," Tate said. "But to be honest I didn't really think they would be as good as they have been, they have exceeded my expectations. Both of those guys have really been impressive. Jordan Sorrells has pretty much already picked up the system and is running the offense very effectively."
This not the first time that coach Bill Tate has coached in a Shrine Bowl. Last time he coached in the game the South Carolina team had a load of talent and its star player is now a star in the NFL. Tate thinks this team could be just as talented as that team was.
"I coached in this game back in 1992 when he had Duce Staley as one of our running backs," Tate said. "I think from a talent standpoint this team is about the same as that team was in 92, but the difference in this team is that they are a lot bigger and stronger than that team in 92 was. Mike Davis reminds me a little of Duce. Neither of them are all that big, but they are real strong and run hard."
The North Carolina-South Carolina Shrine Bowl is an annual all-star game that pits the top seniors from both states. The game will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday. Rivals.com will continue to bring you coverage of practices and events leading up to the game.