A two-team race for New Orleans (La.) McDonogh 35 defensive tackle Stephon Taylor suddenly turned into a three-team race in the final hours before National Signing Day, as the South Carolina Gamecocks earned a pledge from the consensus four-star prospect over the Texas Longhorns and Florida State Seminoles in an announcement on Wednesday morning.
Though the final few days, the Gamecocks had been something of an afterthought despite receiving the final official visit from Taylor last weekend and potentially benefitting from the noted closing ability of new head coach Will Muschamp in the past. In part, that was because an interview following an official visit to Tallahassee made it sound like the 6'4, 292-pounder was down to the Noles and Horns. He backed off of that stance later, but the impression persisted.
The Longhorns managed to take over the lead at some point in December when Taylor cooled on the home-state Tigers -- or vice versa -- and a January official visit on the 15th seemingly put head coach Charlie Strong in a position that would be difficult to assail.
It got assailed, however, as nine 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions were placed for the Gamecocks between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Tuesday evening. That's, uh, quite a surge.
Fortunately for Texas, the Longhorns entered February with a longtime pledge from Destrehan (La.) defensive tackle Gerald Wilbon, added a commitment from New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine defensive tackle D'Andre Christmas-Giles on Tuesday evening, then started to clean up in the state of Texas earlier on Wednesday, landing Duncanville's Marcel Southall, Euless Trinity's Chris Daniels, and Houston Westside's Jordan Elliott.
All of the earlier action raises the question of whether or not Taylor simply ended up as the odd man out. His rankings might argue against that, as well as Taylor's prior relationship with Muschamp when he was the defensive coordinator at Auburn and the Tigers were a serious contender in his recruitent. Some guys are just hard to pull out of SEC territory -- in fact, that was the perception until the Texas made its big move.
Whatever the case, the Longhorns should be able to overcome missing on Taylor, as long as he doesn't prove to be the best defensive tackle of the group. In that area, however, the odds are stacked a bit against him by sheer numbers alone.
A consensus four-star prospect, Taylor is ranked as the No. 294 player nationally, the No. 29 defensive tackle, and the 19 player in the state of Louisiana, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. During his recruitment, Taylor picked up 45 offers.