South Carolina’s long pursuit of 3-star DE pays off

Cecil Stallings (Ryan Callahan/247Sports)

Cecil Stallings (Ryan Callahan/247Sports)

When South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward visited Chamblee High School to check in on Davin Bellamy, he always made an effort to find another big kid on the team — Cecil Stallings.

Stallings, who was a freshman at Chamblee at the time, caught the eye of Ward. And though Bellamy went on to sign with UGA, the connection Ward formed with the then-freshman stuck.

“They’ve been recruiting me for a while,” Stallings told the AJC. “I fit their system. I like the environment up there, and I just have a really good relationship with coach Ward.”

Stallings, now a 3-star defensive end at Tucker High School, committed to South Carolina in July. He was being recruited heavily by several SEC programs, most notably Tennessee and Mississippi State. But he ultimately chose the Gamecocks.

He became the fourth Georgia prospect to commit to South Carolina for the class of 2016.

“I couldn’t imagine Cecil going anywhere else,” said Rosaria Rice, former linebackers coach at Chamblee.

Rice, who also served as the program’s recruiting coordinator, coached Stallings for three years until he transferred to Tucker. Like Bellamy, whom Rice also coached, Stallings has uncanny size for the position.

“They’re two totally different players,” said Rice. “I think Cecil may be someone that’s going to be bigger, massive, and probably will be an inside guy. He’s one of those guys who uses his hands well. He’s going to give you everything he has.”

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Stallings has never been a normal-sized child.

When he was two years old, he looked like he was four. When he was six, he had to play two grades up because he was much bigger than his peers.

“They made him run with an ‘R’ on his helmet for restricted,” said his aunt, Sonya Stallings, whose helped raise him since middle school.

Stallings got his first crack at organized football at Murphy Candler Park as a 150-pounder. Over time, he kept growing, and when he reached middle school, Stallings was 6-foot-2 and solid.

“He’s a massive kid,” said Rice. “He’s probably been around the same size since eighth grade.”

As a freshman at Chamblee, Stallings began receiving attention from several schools. Letters and information packets started to pour in. But Stallings was quiet about it all.

His aunt didn’t know he was being contacted until she noticed a letter in the mail.

“I saw he started getting a few letters at the house, and I was like, ‘Oh, a few letters came.’ And he was like, ‘Aunt Sonya, I have a stack of them upstairs.’ He literally brought down a good-sized box of letters and information from schools that had been talking to him.”

“I didn’t even realize he was getting them at school and the coaches were giving them to him.”

Though he reported 12 offers, it has always been a two-team race between South Carolina and Tennessee.

“Really, I would say Tennessee and South Carolina, both have been very kind throughout the whole recruiting process,” his aunt said. “I would say it was very close between the two, quite frankly. We felt at home at both schools.”

His aunt says South Carolina’s output of defensive ends in the NFL factored into the decision, though it’s likely Stallings will flash at both tackle and end for the Gamecocks.

Regardless of position, his former coach says the best football is ahead of him.

“He’s a warrior,” Rice said. “You aren’t going to find many kids that are as determined as Cecil is.”

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