Giving thanks for Skai Moore and 2 undefeated hoops programs in SEC play
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Back for Moore
The Gamecocks locked up arguably their biggest commitment of the offseason over the weekend — All-SEC linebacker Skai Moore.
Moore, who missed all of 2016 with a neck injury, was reportedly considering entering the 2017 NFL Draft. Alas, the man they call “Flipper” (Will Muschamp) was able to keep the quarterback of his defense in Columbia for another year.
The Cooper City, Fla., native gives the Gamecocks a much-needed leader in the middle of their defense — giving a major boost to the team’s run-stopping ability, one that must improve in 2017.
With Moore back, look for an improved middle of the defense in 2017, with the linebacker’s impact being felt all over, especially in communication with defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson and the on-field unit.
Men’s hoops keeps winning
W, W, W, W.
The Gamecocks (14-3, 4-0) did it again as they topped Ole Miss 67-56 in the Colonial Life Arena on Saturday night.
“The one good thing, other than winning, that I take from today’s game … we rebounded the ball,” said coach Frank Martin after the game. “It never took away the steam and effort with which we played defense. … We got to the free throw line — as poorly as we played on offense, we got to the free throw line.”
With the win, the Gamecocks improve to 4-0 in conference play — having won all four contests since star guard Sindarius Thornwell returned from suspension.
— Gamecock MBB (@GamecockMBB) January 15, 2017
The undefeated conference mark sets up two major, major clashes for the Gamecocks this week — hosting No. 23 Florida on Wednesday and visiting an uber-talented No. 6-ranked Kentucky team on Saturday.
Lady Gamecocks roll
Not to be outdone, the No. 5 Lady Gamecocks (15-1, 5-0) added another impressive road victory to their resume on Sunday — knocking off LSU, 84-61.
The Gamecocks did it without their all-everything forward A’ja Wilson, who missed her second consecutive game, still nursing a sore ankle she suffered on Jan. 8 against Florida.
With Wilson out, center Alaina Coates picked up much of the slack — going off for 24 points and 11 rebounds.
30 Mins pic.twitter.com/iipNieshUE
— Coach Bill (@NYcoach) January 16, 2017
Before a colossal SEC clash with No. 4 Mississippi State on Jan. 23, the Gamecocks first must get past Ole Miss on Thursday, potentially doing so without the talented Wilson.
If Dawn Staley continues to get production from her team while Wilson rides the pine, we could see another star emerge over the next few games — only boosting the team’s championship chances when their superstar forward returns.
We’ve already seen this happen once this season in the CLA with G PJ Dozier thrust into the spotlight in Thornwell’s absence. Perhaps we’ll see it again with Coates, who’s already an outstanding talent in her own right.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 15, 2017
Recruiting weekend recap
South Carolina hosted several of its top recruits and remaining targets for the 2017 cycle over the weekend.
RELATED: Official visit weekend updates
Four-star prospects DE Brad Johnson and OL Tony Gray were two of those top uncommitted players in Columbia.
“It was a nice visit. It was a nice official. It was good to chat with Coach (Will) Muschamp, Coach (Bryan McClendon), (Travaris Robinson) and all them guys, and the new offensive line coach, Coach (Eric) Wolford,” Gray told Phil Kornblut. “I hung out with a lot of the guys on the team, stuff like that.”
More than just securing new commitments, this weekend was about cementing the pledges of others, like 4-star safety Hamsah Nasirildeen. Nasirildeen committed to the Gamecocks last August, but is currently being heavily courted by FSU.
With signing day just three weeks away, the Gamecocks are right in the mix with several top prospects — with a real possibility to finish with a top 15 class.
Four-star safety commitment Hamsah Nasirildeen said his official visit to South Carolina was "great." #Gamecocks
— Hale McGranahan (@Hale_AJC) January 15, 2017
The recruiting weekend closed with a bang, or rather, a #SpursUp to be specific — with offensive tackle Jordan Rhodes committing to the Gamecocks at the end of his official visit.
“His potential is tremendous,” Rhodes’ high school position coach, Webster Bumpers said. “He’s very green, at times. Right now, he’s not even playing the position right, like I would like him to. … Once he gets to the college of his choice, those guys are going to get him to where he needs to be. I have no doubt. He has a very, very bright future, not just because of his size.”
Rhodes is Gamecocks’ fourth offensive line commitment of the 2017 cycle — giving new OL coach Eric Wolford plenty of young talent to work with and develop in his first year as part of Will Muschamp’s staff.
Though many services have him rated as a 3-star prospect, Rhodes has earned high marks and praise for his raw athleticism and ability.
Don't be fooled by lack of high ranking for OL Jordan Rhodes. That is a nice pickup for #Gamecocks in terms of adding athleticism up front.
— Wes Mitchell (@WesMitchellGC) January 15, 2017
Though his team didn’t get the W, former Gamecocks DE Jadeveon Clowney shined as the Houston Texans fell to the New England Patriots 34-16 Saturday night.
Clowney harassed QB Tom Brady much of the night, helping the Texans keep it close and enter halftime down just four points, 17-13.
— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) January 15, 2017
He wasn’t able to lead his team to the conference championship game, but the Rock Hill, S.C., native accomplished a lot in 2016 — shaking the laughable stigma that he was a bust.
With a healthy J.J. Watt returning to the fold, expect big things from Clowney in 2017.
Cook steaks the show
Thanks to an incredible third-down sideline grab by Packers TE Jared Cook, you can lock it up that at least one former Carolina player will be in the Super Bowl.
FACT: It doesn't get any better than this Jared Cook sideline grab.
— NFL (@NFL) January 16, 2017
Thanks to the former Gamecocks tight end’s catch, the Packers put the Cowboys away with a walk-off field goal to win it.
The Packers are now set to take on the Falcons, and fellow Carolina alum FB Patrick DiMarco, next Sunday.
Cook’s best season in Columbia came in 2008, with 37 catches, 537 yards and 3 TDs — but at Chicken & Waffles, he’s best remembered for living in the same College Suites building as yours truly.