Whenever Will Muschamp lands a commitment, the South Carolina coach drops a #SpursUp on Twitter. Come to SEC Country for the latest news, notes and observations in South Carolina recruiting.
Football, basketball, softball and track — take your pick. Cynthia Johnson, the mom of South Carolina’s most recent commitment, played all of ’em.
“My mother was really fast when she was younger,” he said. “She’s actually still fast, but when she was younger, she was really, really fast, so that’s where I get it from.”
At LSU’s camp in June, Valentine ran a laser-timed 4.34 seconds in the 40. In the spring, he won the Florida 4A 100-meter state championship in 10.61, but his best time of the season was 10.44.
Former North Carolina running back T.J. Logan, a fifth-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2017 NFL Draft, ran 4.37 at the combine.
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“There’s actually only one running back that was faster than me in the last three NFL drafts,” Valentine said.
We’ll take it a few steps further.
Since 2010, only two running backs have clocked faster 40 times at the combine than what Valentine ran last month in Baton Rouge. Dri Archer hit 4.26 in 2014, followed by Keith Marshall at 4.31 in 2016. Valentine’s time matched Onterio McCalebb (2013) and Da’Rel Scott (2011).
Valentine, a 3-star recruit from Melbourne (Fla.) Central Catholic, is ranked as the No. 13 all-purpose running back in the Class of 2018, according to the 247Sports composite.
Why South Carolina?
Just more than three months since he was on campus for the Garnet & Black spring game, Valentine went public with his decision to commit to the Gamecocks. It was the conversations he had that day with Muschamp and running backs coach Bobby Bentley that ultimately led him to the decision to commit to South Carolina from offers that also included Florida, Louisville, LSU, Notre Dame and Southern California.
“[South Carolina] never said to me, ‘You need to go ahead and commit or you’re going to lose your spot,’ ” Valentine said. “Nothing like that — the coaches were just telling me, ‘However long you want to take, you take,’ so that’s how I knew that the coach was all for me and wanted me to be a part of that team.”
It certainly helped the Gamecocks’ efforts that Muschamp and Bentley were in contact daily.
“When I met [Muschamp], he was all for me. … I saw him out there building the new football building on the video or whatever and I was like, ‘Wow. I’ve never seen a head coach do that,’ ” Valentine said. “I’m like, ‘OK, he really cares about his players. He wants to get something done. He wants to build South Carolina as a program.’ That’s what I really like about him. He’s really down to earth.”
Bentley, Valentine added, has “always been real.”
“He hasn’t sugarcoated anything,” Valentine said. “He’s always told me, like when [Deshaun Fenwick committed], he said, ‘I want you. I want you to be the running back at South Carolina. There are so many ways I can use you.’”
The family feel
On his father’s side of the family, Valentine has relatives “all over” the state of South Carolina, but they’re primarily in Aiken, Edgefield and Johnston. It was the family feel at the spring game in April that helped the Gamecocks land his commitment.
“The one thing I can remember is when the parents of a running back at South Carolina were talking to Coach Bentley, I could tell that they talk every day because of the way that they were talking,” Valentine said. “I can tell he communicates with them. That’s what I like because he’s not going to make any decisions without talking to your parents or anything like that. It felt like a family, it really did.”
And it helped that the coach genuinely wanted him.
“When Coach Muschamp had sat me down, they were ready to go out to the spring game and he just talked to me. He was like, ‘I really want you to be on the team. I really like you.’ I really felt where he was coming from.”