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Why did South Carolina win the chase for Gunner Stockton?

Gunner Stockton: The day after the 5-star QB chose South Carolina

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry shares a few thoughts about why South Carolina was able to win big recruiting battle with Georgia in the commitment of 5-star QB Gunner Stockton

Gunner Stockton was looking for something special with his college decision.

The in-state 5-star QB chose South Carolina on Thursday evening with an impromptu tweet. Georgia finished as the runner-up in his recently established final 2. 

He had his eyes downfield for something specific. Stockton, much like his prolific high school career that has yielded 113 career touchdowns up to this point, found what he was looking for.

  • It wasn’t an express lane to a starting quarterback job in big-time football.
  • It wasn’t a school necessarily bound to win multiple national titles in his time there
  • It wasn’t going to be where everyone around town or the state expected him to go.
  • It was a connection that changed rapidly since the last time he played a football game in 2019.

Stockton wanted to find a relationship with his future college coaches like the ones his father, Rob, had when he starred at Georgia Southern. That would be men integral in his life during his early 20s and still consider them as good friends and mentors long after his playing days were over.

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He would want to win for those guys the same way he does now for his head coach Jaybo Shaw at Rabun County. To put it simply, he wanted to love the men who would be in charge of his college career and football future.

And he wanted to know they loved him for more than his 113 touchdowns in two varsity seasons, too.

Gunner Stockton: Was it a business decision to choose USC?

Relationships. Plural.

That’s why he chose South Carolina. The only thing that doesn’t feel right about that commitment graphic is the phrase “business decision” at the bottom of the edit.

That’s the clever graphic hashtag for South Carolina recruiting for its entire 2022 class. Georgia fans will recall the hashtag #SicEm17 that was in wild use when the staff needed clever hashtags to help woo elite players.

For Stockton, his decision was never going to be business. It was set to be one made from the bottom of a Northeast Georgia country boy’s heart.

Credit the Gamecocks on this one. They created that connection with the hiring of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Mike’s father, George, was once the offensive coordinator at the Rabun County program that Stockton now stars for. George Bobo has also been the head coach at Thomasville, too.

George Bobo was the one who trained young Stockton to throw the football when he was young. That set him on a path to becoming the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat QB and No. 24 overall prospect (247Sports Composite) for 2022.

Stockton was a big-boy recruit in major college football for the 2022 class. Marquis Groves-Killebrew, the leader of the 2022 Georgia class, wanted to play with Stockton. Those two grew up together playing on various select and All-Star and 7-on-7 teams coming up.

Groves-Killebrew knows what Stockton can do. He’s seen it over and over as they have grown up.

South Carolina kept playing the big-boy chess game to enhance its chances. They hired Shaw’s brother, Connor, as a player personnel staffer inside their football program. Shaw had also starred under the lights in Columbia, too.

Muschamp was busy getting his pawns down the board and turning them into pieces to make this recruitment much more personal over the last 10 months. South Carolina has been revamping its facilities over the last few years, but nothing the program has cast in brick-and-mortar meant as much here as the additions of Bobo and Shaw.

Georgia, on the other hand, was conducting the transactions necessary to make a stout run at the SEC and the national championship every year. The program is in a different place than the Gamecocks are right now.

The Bulldogs replaced their offensive coordinator with a new veteran play caller from the NFL. It meant a new football coach for Stockton to get to know first. Not a life-long family friend.

The Bulldogs added 5-star QB Brock Vandagriff in the 2021 class and then another former 5-star QB in one-time USC starter J.T. Daniels.

Those things weren’t going to sway Stockton. Not if he felt that great fit. He’s not one to veer away from a depth chart or competition. He’s told me that several times dating back to the spring of 2018.

I don’t feel that ever changed up here. Not as much as the warmth every time he now thought of a future at South Carolina. The only surprise here is that he placed such a big vote on confidence in the Carolina staff prior to what could be a rocky 2020 season.

The timing of the move shows he didn’t really care. He believes in Bobo and Will Muschamp and that they will still be there when he enrolls in January of 2022. This move throws his full support behind those men and the entire Carolina program.

Stockton is a first-class young man that comes from a great family. He was a piece that would have done very well in Athens. But he will also carve out his own history in Columbia, too.

He’s going to be great one. And yet Georgia has also had its eye on another great one for 2022.

This Stockton story is an example of two things. The first is how quickly things can change in recruiting.

If I was in the prediction business, I’d have said Stockton was going to be a Bulldog last November. There is a lot that changed for both Georgia and South Carolina since then.

The final thing to note is something that will always matter on the trail. Relationships are everything in recruiting.

That’s how South Carolina also managed to overtake UGA on its home turf with this one, too.


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