Speculation has risen over the last few days as to whether or not local uncommitted All-American recruits Na’Ty Rodgers and Yannick Ngakoue will wind up being a package deal for some lucky university. The pair have the same final group of schools still under consideration in Maryland, South Carolina and to a lesser extent Florida State. This weekend the pair of coveted recruits are taking their official visit to Columbia, South Carolina.
First, lets break down what we know about the pair’s recruitment so far:
1) Maryland and South Carolina are considered to be the leaders for both.
2) This marks Rodgers fifth trip to South Carolina since April 14, 2012.
3) Ngakoue only previous trip was an unofficial visit to South Carolina in July while still committed to Maryland.
4) Over the course of the recruiting process Rodgers and Ngakoue have admittedly become close friends.
5) Terps commit, and fellow All-American Derwin Gray has been actively recruiting both to join him at Maryland.
6) Ngakoue took his official visit to Maryland on December 7th, Rodgers took his one week later on December 14th.
7) Ngakoue is high school teammates at Friendship Collegiate Academy with Gray and two other Terps commitments Cavon Walker and Jermaine Carter.
8) Since delaying his decision at the Under Armour All-American it has been widely speculated that Na’Ty Rodgers would’ve chosen the Terps had an issue with having all family members in attendance on stage with him postponed the announcement.
9) From November 10th through December 11th South Carolina decided to turn up the pressure on Rodgers after his unofficial visit as recruiter G.A. Mangus made two in-home visits before Steve Spurrier made the trip up to conduct an in-home visit himself. This shows how much SC felt they needed to ramp up their recruitment as Spurrier delegates the vast majority of recruiting duties to his staff. Needless to say, a recruiting trip to Washington D.C. two weeks before Christmas isn’t the norm for the Head Ball Coach.
10) Both have one other official visit scheduled next weekend to schools to be considered to be less involved as Rodgers is scheduled to visit FSU and Ngakoue scheduled to visit Miami.
Since this appears to clearly be a two-horse race between Maryland and South Carolina lets compare what each school offers Rodgers and Ngakoue.
1) Ability to play in front of family and friends: Even with the move to the move to the Big 10 on the horizon Rodgers and Ngakoue would be able to play in front of their loved ones over the course of their careers. This would not be the case as in the SEC teams, as a habit, rarely leave the southeast to play football games.
2) Being the “Big Man on Campus”: Were Rodgers and Ngakoue come to the University of Maryland they would heralded, like Stefon Diggs has been, as the All-American players who chose to reject overtures from other schools to help bring the home town school to prominence. They would receive the usual athlete treatment at South Carolina as well but in Columbia they would just be another good football player, in College Park they stand the chance to turn into local legends.
3) Playing time: Both Rodgers and Ngakoue should have ample opportunity to get on the field early on in their freshmen years at the University of Maryland. The Terps offensive line was down right offensive at different points in time this season and Rodgers would be a massive help there. With the losses of Kenny Tate, Demetrius Hartsfield and Darin Drakeford to graduation Maryland could use a player with a college football ready body like Ngakoue to step right in and make plays as well.
1) The SEC: Lets face it, the conference has produced the last seven BCS National Champions for a reason. The best players want to go where they can contend for a title and no one has been able to make a better claim as to being the ticket to getting you there than the SEC this decade. Since Rodgers and Ngakoue have been 11 years old all they have seen are SEC teams playing for, and winning, championships its a tough thing to ignore.
2) Getting away from home: As much as all Terps fans want both Rodgers and Ngakoue to stay a college commitment is a two-way street and unfortunately, whether it be to schools that historically dip into Maryland like Penn State or more recently with Alabama, a lot of times blue-chip recruits are swayed into leaving the area altogether. While both players seem to have legitimate interest in staying home and attempting to help build something in College Park the appeal of leaving has been strong enough for both to take multiple visits to other schools, including the University of South Carolina.
3) Williams-Brice Stadium: While it might not be the most aesthetically pleasing of the stadiums in the SEC there is something about playing in front of 87,500 people who will lose their mind at the drop of a hat due to the song “Sandstorm” being played that is appealing. Granted, I am an alumnus of South Carolina and my opinion of the in-game atmosphere at Williams-Brice might be biased, but they love their team and sell out every game. Players want to play in front of a raucous environment like that every Saturday. Currently, the experience of a game at Byrd Stadium isn’t the same but that is also a result of the poor product that has been on the field as of late.
What will their official visit to South Carolina entail?
It will be a typical official visit – food, entertainment, hanging out with other recruits and players in town. Tomorrow Rodgers and Ngakoue will attend to the basketball game as the Gamecocks take on Vanderbilt. Later, they will meet with coaches to outline what the plan for each player on the field would be. They will also meet with academic people and tour the Dodie so that they can see how that side of things would work in Columbia. Finally, they would meet with Coach Spurrier in his office.
Where will the pair of All-Americans choose to attend college?
Going into their official visit to South Carolina this weekend the Terrapins are being looked at as a legitimate “threat” according to many Gamecocks insiders. It is hard to project where things will stand come Sunday once their official visit in Columbia has wrapped up but being as both Rodgers and Ngakoue have been to the campus before, especially in Rodgers case as he has now visited five times in the past calender year, there might not be much more that South Carolina can offer them that they haven’t previously seen.
While it isn’t set in stone that they will be a package deal, it is something which they have discussed and acknowledged publicly. These decisions will inevitably come down to signing day on February 6th, as battles for recruits of this caliber tend to do. If the Terps can hang their hat on anything it is that they already closed what was perceived to be a one-time major lead by the Gamecocks for Rodgers and, recruiter extraordinaire, Mike Locksley is on the case for both Rodgers and Ngakoue and he’ll have another 16 days to lock up their commitments.