South Carolina and its football recruiting efforts appear to have ruffled some feathers at an Atlanta-area high school the Gamecocks have a history of success with.
"Stephenson LB Tra Wilkins is reopening his recruiting and South Carolina is no longer welcome at Stephenson High School!!!" Stephenson assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Corey Johnson announced Friday night in a tweet that has since been deleted.
Wilkins, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound Class of 2019 linebacker, tweeted a commitment to USC on April 13, but USC coach Will Muschamp never publicly acknowledged that pledge with his signature "#SpursUp" tweet. (Muschamp or any FBS coach cannot publicly comment about a recruit.)
A source close to the program told The State that Wilkins "tried to commit but never was a take."
Johnson, in an interview Friday night on SportsTalk radio, said he personally spoke with two USC coaches involved in the recruitment ahead of Wilkins' announcement last month and was led to believe Wilkins was indeed a "take," or recruiting lingo that a school will accept that verbal pledge. (He declined to name those coaches.)
According to Johnson, Muschamp "wanted us to put it on hold" in order for USC to first see Wilkins at practice.
"We got a call the next day saying Coach Muschamp wanted his assistant coaches to come down and meet with him," Johnson said. "Tra had a wrist injury and he wanted them to come down to see it and make sure the kid had healed properly, he didn't want to get burned. I understand that."
Coaches were at Stephenson's spring game Thursday, Johnson said.
"They came by for a couple of minutes and they gave me a call and told me what their intentions were," Johnson said in the radio interview.
Wilkins, a three-star prospect according to the 247Sports Composite ranking, followed up Friday with his own tweet: "My Recruitment Is 100% Open."
Running back Mike Davis, defensive back Kadetrix Marcus and current Gamecock defender D.J. Wonnum are among the USC signees to hail from Stephenson.
Johnson brought a group of his football players to USC's campus this spring, he said, with eight landing offers from the Gamecocks. Wilkins was among those, he said.
It's common for all college football programs to extend more offers than there is room in any single recruiting class, and an SEC school cannot sign more than 25 prospects in a given year. According to the 247Sports offer database, South Carolina has extended 219 offers for the 2019 recruiting cycle. That compares to 210 for LSU; 256 for Georgia; 263 for Alabama; and 376 for Kentucky,
"Either a kid has an offer or he doesn't," Johnson said. "If a kid doesn't have an offer, don't say it. There's no such thing as committable or non-committable."
Johnson, in the radio interview, stood by his original tweet.
"If I felt that South Carolina is not right in terms of what they're doing and what they've done, it's my responsibility to turn around and shield my kids from that," he said Friday night. "It's nothing against South Carolina. At the same time, I've got to look out for my kids."
After the radio talk, Johnson followed with another tweet that was quickly deleted: "I have been advised that Stephenson is a public school and South Carolina is always welcome to visit!!!"