Originally created 02/03/05

Isaac waits to debut for Gamecocks



When the papers announcing Brandon Isaac's intention to play football at the University of South Carolina were shipped out at about noon Wednesday, there was no hoopla, no fanfare.

No cameras rolled, no flashbulbs popped, no media members clamored around him for a quote.

Biology homework and a little nap, that was the Blackville-Hilda grad's signing day party.

"No, no party here," said Isaac, who is on track to be eligible after two years at Georgia Military College. "Signing is the easy part. Anybody can sign, but you've got to be able to follow through and play.

"Signing doesn't mean anything."

His celebration, he said, will be the day he snaps on his chinstrap for the first time, not when he makes a squiggle on a piece of paper.

"As soon as I get there and put on the pads," he said, "that's going to be a big day for me."

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Isaac will be a defensive back candidate, likely playing rover, he said.

And, yes, he's heard the Gamecocks have a new coach.

"Not too many people get to play for Steve Spurrier," Isaac said. "That excites me a lot. To get the opportunity to play for him, that's a big deal to me."

Isaac's former teammate, Hawks fullback Tharry Salley, signed with Furman on Wednesday to continue the Class A school's tradition of placing athletes in successful college programs.

Another Class A school, Wagener-Salley, might have started a tradition in its own right.

Channing Schofield signed to play with Wake Forest, making him the War Eagles' first ever Division I-A prospect.

Given the school's long-standing football struggles, a lot of people approached Schofield with the "Why Wake?" question.

In addition to its academic reputation, he reasoned that his choice seemed dedicated to becoming something more than a basketball school.

He said he noticed that commitment when he visited the college in mid-January.

"Everybody was thinking positively," said Schofield, who runs a 4.35-second 40-yard dash and was recruited to play cornerback.

"Everybody wants in. They're getting tired of moral victories."

And close losses, he said. The Deacons lost six of their seven games this past season by one touchdown or less.

"I want to help change things," Schofield said.

He might share that goal with North Augusta's Justin Wheeler, who signed Wednesday with Vanderbilt.

Wheeler's teammate, Georgia signee C.J. Byrd, might have been the area's no-brainer. Wheeler, however, could be considered its head-scratcher.

Basketball had always been his passion, but ironically, football is what wound up getting him to a big-name school.

After flirting with the idea the spring of his sophomore year, this past fall was Wheeler's first playing football.

By mid-season, he had an offer to play at Vanderbilt.

Commodores offensive coordinator Ted Cain, an Aiken native, had been enamored with Wheeler's speed since he saw him practice in 2002.

Some college coaches might consider Wheeler's limited background a liability. Cain said he wasn't concerned; Vanderbilt's staff just saw a 6-foot-2, 180-pound dart of a receiver.

"We don't think he's a risk," Cain said. "We see him just as an outstanding athlete."

North Augusta coach Joe Long called Wheeler's flight to a major college scholarship a "far-fetched" tale.

"If you'd have told me in August he would be going to an SEC school I'd have called you crazy," Long said.

Wheeler said he plans to talk with Commodores basketball coach Kevin Stallings when he gets on campus.

Cain said he would like to see Wheeler "get his feet under him" but wouldn't be opposed if he wanted to check into the basketball team down the road.

Along with Byrd and Wheeler, Jackets 6-foot-3, 340-pound offensive lineman Jonathan Ponto signed with Saint Augustine College in Raleigh, N.C.

North Augusta led the area with four signees.

The fourth will be cornerback/receiver prospect Myles Potter, who will decide early next week between Davidson and Cornell.

He said his decision will come down to how comfortable he feels with the distance to Ithaca, N.Y.

Aiken, which made it to the state semifinals this past season, placed two seniors, Terrance Smith (South Carolina State) and George Mathis (Presbyterian).

Reach Travis Haney at (706) 823-3304 or travis.haney@augustachronicle.com.