T-Bred stars continue to open eyes
The South Aiken High School football team has been busy since the end of the school year. The Thoroughbreds have competed in a number of 7-on-7 passing camps – participating in events on their own home turf, one hosted by the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and another at the University of South Carolina.
“It’s good to have the quarterbacks working on their timing with the receivers and get work for the running backs and the defensive backs,” South Aiken head coach Jeremy West said of the offseason work. “It’s set up for offensive shootouts and is good for the skill guys. But it takes all 11 in a game, and that’s when we’ll see if we’ve improved.”
The Thoroughbreds are coming off back-to-back 2-9 seasons, so West is definitely looking for better results. The offseason work can help in that regard, especially in getting the pass offense installed in preparation for the upcoming 2013 season.
Having a healthy Bo Baldwin at quarterback will go a long way in determining the success of the T-Breds’ offense, if not the overall team. The highly touted quarterback has missed significant playing time that past two seasons because of injuries. In 2011, Baldwin suffered a broken collarbone and missed the final seven games of the season and sat out five more games during his junior season after breaking his right hand – his passing hand – in the season opener.
Baldwin returned for the end of last season and played a key role in a good finish for South Aiken. That also helped him establish his capabilities to the many college football programs interested in potentially recruiting Baldwin.
He further improved his stature at the 7-on-7 event at the Williams-Brice football complex in Columbia last Saturday. Baldwin guided South Aiken to a 2-1-1 mark in the event that featured 28 teams and caught the eye of scouts and recruiting gurus during the process.
“He had a real good day. I was real pleased, and I think he opened some eyes,” West said of an audience that included Gamecocks quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus, who he said had positive things to say. “Coach Mangus was watching along with lots of internet guys, and they saw (Baldwin) had a good day.”
West said Baldwin’s receivers contributed to the rising senior’s success by running good routes and catching the ball. But Baldwin displayed a good handle of intangible skills to go along with his powerful throwing arm.
“I was pleased with the way he checked down and progressed through his routes,” West said of his quarterback, who has been invited back to South Carolina for a Showcase Camp in July. “He had poise and threw well and was reading the coverages. He was taking what the defense was giving.”
Not only did Baldwin’s big day earn him an invite back for the showcase but could pay off in a possible scholarship. West said the showcase could lead to an opportunity to play for head coach Steve Spurrier and South Carolina. Baldwin currently doesn’t have any official visits planned this summer, nor does he have any scholarship offers.
The T-Bred coach chalks that up to two primary factors:
• Lack of playing time
• South Aiken’s struggles the past two seasons
“We’ve been 2-9 the last two years, but Bo’s not 4-18,” West said in defense of Baldwin. “He’s 4-4 (in games he has started and finished). When he plays, he brings something to our team. It’s really just a lack of film.”
West said Baldwin’s a little frustrated at his situation but has a good support system in place to keep it from being a problem.
“I told him to enjoy the summer, just go out an play football and everything will take care of itself,” said West, who added that some colleges have shown interest at Baldwin, but are looking at moving him to another position. “There’s some talk to play him at tight end in college. He’s 6-foot-5½, 233 pounds and runs a 4.7 40, so its understandable, but I think most are interested in him at quarterback.”
Another T-Bred with impressive physical attributes has caught the eye of several college recruiters. Rising junior Rasool Clemmons was also at the event at USC, but unlike Baldwin, he already has some significant scholarship offers.
Florida State, Clemson and Virginia have all made official offers to the 6-6, 195-pound defensive lineman. Clemmons has appeared at the 7-on-7s because of his emergence as a two-way player. He’s been working with South Aiken’s receivers and was one of the pass catchers West said did a good job helping Baldwin have a standout performance. But Clemmons’ future at the college level will likely be as a defensive end.
“Last year was his first year playing football, so he has a high ceiling,” West said of Clemmons who has attracted so much attention because of his athletic ability and impressive frame. “He’s long and lean and uses great leverage with those long arms. He’s constantly in motion and doesn’t stop, and he did that as a sophomore.”
Like Baldwin, Clemmons doesn’t have an offer from the Gamecocks. But just like Baldwin, that could change. West said he believes Baldwin will get an offer in the near future, likely before the start of the season. Until then, he’ll guide his team in some more 7-on-7s, with another to be held at South Aiken on Thursday. Other schools sending squads include Midland Valley, Ridge Spring-Monetta, Wagener-Salley, Williston-Elko, Butler, Barnwell, Bamberg-Ehrhardt and Cross Creek. Action is scheduled to get underway at 9 a.m.
Following that and another 7-on-7 next week, West’s plans for his team are simpler for the duration of the summer.
“We’ll be lifting weights and getting in shape,” West said. “We’ll get ready for August camp.”
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 14 years after graduating from Syracuse University.