LB John Staton (6-1 215) of Atlanta began his college career in 2017 as a walk-on at Samford. He will complete his career in 2021 as a scholarship player in the SEC or ACC. Staton entered the NCAA Transfer Portal in August after the Southern Conference delayed its conference season until the spring. Now, he is choosing from offers from USC, Georgia and Georgia Tech as a grad transfer with one season of eligibility. The Gamecocks just recently jumped into the competition.
“I started talking to them last week, or two weeks ago, moved pretty quickly, talking to Coach (Drew) Hughes and Coach (Will) Muschamp tonight,” Staton said Wednesday night. “I’m just excited about the whole process and excited to make the decision here soon. I’ve got to decide between Georgia and Georgia Tech as well, two of my hometown teams. But I’m definitely seriously considering (USC), and the process will probably move forward pretty quickly.”
Staton was an outstanding player at Samford earning All-Southern Conference honors after the 2019 season when he led the league with 116 tackles with 3 tackles for loss. His best game was against Mercer when he totaled 22 tackles, one of 7 games he recorded double-figures in tackles.
“I have a nose for the ball,” Staton said. “I’ve just always had natural football instincts and been able to get to the ball. I play really hard. I finish a lot of plays off from behind, a lot of plays off laterally. I’m good in the box, and I’m also good at reading situations.”
Muschamp noticed all of that in reviewing film of Staton and saw a linebacker who can help with a weakness of his defense…stopping the run as a Will or Sam linebacker.
“He said that he watched the film against Auburn last year and then watched a couple of clips from some other games and just loved how I played, loved how I got to the ball,” Staton said. “He thinks I can fit in. He talked me through what role I could play. He thinks I definitely could contribute on defense and certainly on special teams, too.”
Staton has ties to all three of his finalists. His grandfather played at Georgia Tech and is in the school’s hall of fame. His mother is from Athens and all of her family is there. And Muschamp’s brother was his head coach at The Lovett School in Atlanta.
“I’ve always had my eye on South Carolina, especially growing up a Georgia fan and watching them play,” Staton said. “When Coach Muschamp went there, it was easy to follow him because his brother coached me in high school. I’ve always kept up with them. I know it’s an impressive program. I think they are just one step away from making the big jump and being a serious contender.”
Staton plans to take the next two weeks to work on a decision. While the football side of each school is important, the academic side also will play a big role.
“I’m going to look at the depth chart and figure out where I fit in,” Staton said. “Obviously, academics is extremely important. Finding the best graduate program (in sports management) is priority number one. Football is priority number two. But every school I’ve been talking to has great academics. That’s not really an issue. And finding where I feel at home.”
The Gamecocks have three senior linebackers on the roster, but with the NCAA granting every player this season an extra year of eligibility, it remains to be seen how many of those players will return. The Gamecocks have two linebackers committed for the 2021 class.