Injuries disturbed two top Grand Strand players’ senior seasons.
They haven’t derailed their dreams of playing in college.
Carolina Forest tight end Ryan Yurachek will sign with Marshall and Conway offensive lineman Sam Hall will ink with Newberry on Wednesday as part of the National Signing Day ceremonies taking place across the country. It is the first opportunity for high school seniors not enrolling in college early to formally commit to their respective schools.
And for Hall and Yurachek, it’s the next step in their football careers after a less-than-desirable final year of high school ball.
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“Obviously it was a disappointment,” Yurachek said. “I didn’t have the type of year I wanted to have as a senior and we didn’t have the year we wanted as a team.
“That made me work twice as hard in rehab. No one wants to be on the sidelines watching your team get beat by 30 or 40 points. You realize how quickly that can be taken away.”
For various reasons, Carolina Forest and Conway won a combined three games all season, with one of the Tigers’ victories coming against their Region VI-AAAA rival. However, that didn’t stop colleges from singling out Yurachek and Hall early on in their careers.
Yurachek was offered by Marshall as a junior and he verbally committed to the Thundering Herd last year. That didn’t change after he sustained cartilage damage in his left knee during a defensive line drill in practice two games into the season. He missed a handful of games, but still finished with 20 receptions for 235 yards and a touchdown.
Added to his junior numbers (731 yards, 56 receptions, seven touchdowns), and the relative lack of severity of the injury, and Yurachek and Marshall continued their support of each other.
For Hall, the road was not as smooth, in terms of his college opportunities or the extensive damage done to his right knee. During a camp at South Carolina last June, Hall tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He originally elected to play his senior year, partially in an attempt to boost his recruiting stock.
Instead, he suffered multiple cartilage tears and shut it down before Conway made it to midway point of the season.
“It was hard to do. But after tearing more stuff in my knee, doctors told me that if I wanted to have any chance to play again, I’d have to have the surgery,” Hall said. “They said if I kept going, it would get worse and worse.”
Hall, who was one of five area linemen named to the Toast of the Coast squad as a junior, lost much of the interest he had started to garner during a standout junior season.
After the injury, though, most of the schools backed off. Hall said Newberry was the only school to give him an official offer.
Still, Conway coach Chuck Jordan said Newberry is getting a steal in the 6-foot-4, 253-pounder.
“Newberry probably wouldn’t have had that opportunity if he hadn’t been injured,” Jordan said. “He was our best lineman. He was pretty darn good. He was a guy we were really depending on. … [Getting a scholarship offer is] a credit to him. He hung in there. He’s doing his rehab now. He’s kept himself in shape academically.”
Hall said the plan is for him to redshirt next fall to make sure his knee is back to 100 percent before taking the field. But he also said the Newberry coaching staff has told him they’ll keep him at left tackle for the foreseeable future.
Renfrow hopes to follow in coach’s footsteps
Socastee standout Hunter Renfrow will sign his financial aid paperwork with Clemson on Wednesday and then join the team as a preferred walk-on this summer.
He’ll have an opportunity to earn a scholarship and playing time down the road.
“It’s not so much about what they said, but what they did,” Renfrow said, referring to a number of the Tigers’ staff going from walk-on to scholarship athlete during their own playing days.
The list of coaches in that category includes Dabo Swinney, who did so as a receiver at Alabama in the early 1990s. The Clemson head coach then sealed the deal by inviting Renfrow to his house during his official visit last month.
Last week, Renfrow called the coaching staff and told him he would select Clemson over the likes of Appalachian State (his other finalist), Wofford, Furman and a number of other NCAA Football Championship Subdivision schools.
“I wanted to play at the highest level,” Renfrow said. “I could have gone to Appalachian State on scholarship, but then what?”
Renfrow wasn’t bashing the full ride he was offered from the Mountaineers or the other schools. But he did admit that ASU transitioning to the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision factored into the decision.
At Clemson, he’ll be joining a team coming off an Orange Bowl victory and plenty more big games on future schedules. Renfrow said that – and not several other current or former Grand Strand athletes Renfrow considers close friends at or heading to Clemson – was one of the biggest reason he chose the Tigers.
Former Conway receiver and quarterback Sawyer Jordan is now a student assistant, and Carolina Forest catcher Robert Jolly has committed to the Clemson baseball program as a preferred walk-on.
“I have family up there,” Renfrow said. “I think it would be pretty dumb to pick a college based on friends.”
Just the same, he’ll have some friendly faces waiting for him.
That could help one of Socastee’s all-time great players personally adjust to the rigors of college and the next level of football. Renfrow will be moving to the slot receiver position, something he did as a sophomore at Socastee. Later that season, he made the switch to quarterback and eventually led Socastee to back-to-back 12-1 seasons, the two best years in school history.
Renfrow said the Clemson football staff has told him they’d welcome the idea of him also trying out for the baseball team. In addition to his football success, he’s also one of the Grand Strand’s top baseball players.
He’s been a two-year starter as the Braves’ center fielder and even earned a scholarship offer from Big South member Liberty. If that happens, though, it will remain a secondary goal.
“Football has always been my first love,” he said. “I don’t know that I would [work as hard] to keep getting better every day as I would in football.”
Four more headed to Limestone
A year after seven Grand Strand players from various schools signed with start-up NCAA Division II Limestone on National Signing Day, at least four more are headed to the Gaffney program this year.
Georgetown’s Davious Grant and Dae’Quan Gibson and North Myrtle Beach running back Delonzo Williams and receiver Cameron Gore will sign with the Saints on Wednesday. It will be part of Limestone’s second signing class, and the last one before the team begins its first season on the field this fall.
Grant, a 6-foot-1, 230-pound defensive lineman, had 31 tackles, including six for loss, and a sack for Georgetown in nine games this past fall. Gibson was a two-way starter at both running back and defensive back last season. Gibson had 16 tackles in eight games. He also led the team in rushing with 632 yards while also scoring five touchdowns.
He is expected to stay on the defensive side of the ball in college. The two Georgetown players will join former teammates Caleb Hughes and Dustin Martin on the Saints’ roster.
Williams played a huge role in helping the Chiefs to the second round of the state playoffs. He rushed for 982 yards and 11 touchdowns in 10 games (he missed two with an ankle injury). As a junior, Williams ran for 1,149 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Gore had 34 receptions for 601 yards and six touchdowns for North Myrtle Beach.