COLUMBIA, S.C. – It’s 19 miles from Channing Tindall’s house to Williams-Brice Stadium. But the highly-touted freshman linebacker will be taking a 3½-hour bus ride to play there on Saturday.
That’s because Tindall is playing for the Georgia Bulldogs rather than the South Carolina Gamecocks. The two teams will be facing off in a nationally-televised, Top 25 matchup Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (CBS-TV, 750-AM & 95.5-FM). The fact that Tindall will be wearing road whites of No. 3 Georgia rather than the home garnet of No. 24 South Carolina really raises of the ire of some of the good folks who live around Spring Valley High School, where Tindall starred in football and track the last four years.
“I’ve never had anybody say anything really mean to me to my face but, of course, on social media I’ve had people telling me they hope I tear my MCL and whatnot,” Tindall, a consensus 4-star linebacker who was the South Carolina defensive player of the year in 2017, said late last spring. “But I don’t get all wrapped up in that. Most people are, like, ‘I wish you would have went to the Gamecocks, but I wish you the best of luck.’ Mostly, I just feel love from everyone around here.”
Let’s be honest, at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, there aren’t many people who would walk up to Tindall and say anything mean to him in person. But at the time he was being interviewed, Tindall was sitting in the bleachers at Spring Valley High just days away from his departure to UGA.
So, he completely understood that there were going to be some hard feelings toward him. Pretty much everybody in his neck of the woods are huge South Carolina fans, and they know their Gamecocks let a really good football player slip out of town. That he ended up with the rival Georgia Bulldogs just added to the disappointment.
Despite living so close to the University of South Carolina, Channing Tindall drew up a Georgia football fan. (Chip Towers/DawgNation)
Tindall was already thinking about Saturday’s matchup in late May. Growing up around the corner from the state university, he knows all there is to know about South Carolina. He has been to more games at Williams-Brice Stadium than any other place. As a result, he knows exactly what to expect on Saturday.
“Oh, yeah, Tindall said. “They’re going to play (2001) Space Oddysey and Sandstorm and everybody’s going to get real loud. I’m just excited. I have a few friends at South Carolina and some of them are on the team right now. So I’m looking forward to going against them.”
What Tindall’s role will be against his hometown team is unclear right now. He remains third on Georgia’s depth chart at inside linebacker. He has been playing alongside fellow freshman Quay Walker behind starters Monty Rice and Juwan Taylor and backups Tae Crowder and Natrez Patrick.
So the odds of Tindall getting many defensive reps against the vaunted South Carolina offense are fairly low. But his size and speed has him playing special teams’ roles on Georgia’s coverage units. Tindall played in the Bulldogs’ opener against Austin Peay and recorded his first career tackle.
It’s fairly likely that Tindall’s friends will get see him on the field wearing his No. 41 Bulldogs’ jersey. Tindall also wore 41 for the Spring Valley Vikings.
“I think it’s special anytime you go back home and play in front of your hometown and your family,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of Tindall this week. “That’s going to be a special moment for him.”
When it came to recruiting, Tindall knew he had a to make a decision for himself, not for all those people he grew up around. He was holding scholarship offers from pretty much every major football program in the South – and beyond – so he was basing his decision on a lot of other factors beyond popularity and convenience.
Robin Bacon, his coach at Spring Valley High urged Tindall to make a spreadsheet to help him sort out all the positives and negatives of the football programs he was considering. An A student, Tindall is considering a career either in business or sports medicine after football.
Tindall ended up choosing the Bulldogs over South Carolina and Auburn last December because UGA G” fit all the check marks that I needed,” he said. It was also a positive that Georgia was three hours away rather 15 minutes.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” Tindall explained. “I’ve been on vacations to different places, but this time I’m really moving out. So, I kind of wanted to be on my own and independent and be a in a new area. I’m just branching out, being independent, learning how it would be just by myself.”
As for the Georgia-South Carolina battle, that was a really difficult decision, because Tindall was getting it from all sides. T.J. Brunson, the Gamecocks’ star inside linebacker, is one of his good friends and was recruiting him for South Carolina. Brunson played for Spring Valley’s arch rival, Richland Northeast. Meanwhile, mother and stepmother both attended the University of South Carolina.
But Tindall’s stepfather, Edward Dimes, is from Augusta and is a huge Georgia fan. Tindall’s very close to his biological father, Douglas Tindall, but he lives in Charleston and Tindall doesn’t see him as often. Meanwhile it was Dimes who introduced him to football as a kid at Polo Road Park.
So early on, Tindall’s football heroes mostly wore red and black.
“I grew up a Georgia fan,” Tindall said. “Leonard Floyd used to be my favorite player. My father would talk about the different Georgia greats, like Herschel Walker and Knowshon Moreno. He was always, ‘Georgia, Georgia, Georgia.’”
Tindall was able to play a good bit for the Bulldogs in his first game this past Saturday against Austin Peay. (JIm Hipple/UGA)
In the end, though, it was Georgia’s Glenn Schumann who ultimately won over Tindall. Tindall attended camps of all his finalists and he really liked the coaching style of Georgia’s young inside linebackers coach. He also liked the development he saw in Roquan Smith under Schumann’s direction.
“He was good when Mark Richt was there, but when Coach Schumann got there, he took it to another level,” Tindall said. “That’s when he became the beast that he is now.”
Smith left Georgia after his junior season last year. The Butkus Award winner and consensus All-American was the No. 8 pick of the Chicago Bears in the NFL draft.
Tindall said he got to know Smith during recruiting and still talks to him from time-to-time.
“He tells me that I’ll be like him if I just listen to Coach Schumann,” Tindall said. “So I’m just going to take his words and listen to Coach Schumann and all the linebackers at Georgia like Monty and Tae and J.T. I’m just trying to get on their level.”
Based on Smart’s comments during preseason camp, he believes Tindall will get there eventually. He said the freshman has “excellent speed” for his size and “likes to hit.” He said his only issue at this point is mastering the Bulldogs’ defensive system, which can be even more difficult while having to call shots from inside linebacker.
But learning the ropes while playing for a perennial championship contender is ultimately why Tindall be on the Georgia sideline Saturday rather than on the home side with the Gamecocks.
“If he had stayed at home, I think he would’ve been on the field a little bit earlier just because of South Carolina’s depth versus Georgia,” said Bacon, his high school coach. ” Obviously, Georgia does a great job with its linebackers with guys like Roquan and those others. They’ve got great depth and tradition and I know Channing wanted to be a part of that.”
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