When Elijah Adams was an eighth-grader and showed up at South Pointe High for summer workouts, Stallions coach Strait Herron recalls saying, “You’re over here with us,” pointing the muscular middle-schooler toward the varsity group.
South Carolina Gamecocks football coaches were similarly impressed in early May when they watched the rising junior defensive end during a skills practice at South Pointe.
“As soon as they saw him, they were slobbering at the mouth,” Herron said.
South Carolina offered Adams a scholarship the next morning.
Adams, who is 6-foot and 235-pounds, was a one-man wrecking crew on the Stallions’ defensive line last fall with 114 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and 20 sacks as a sophomore. Herron, who enters his sixth season as the Stallions’ coach, called Adams one of the strongest players to ever play at South Pointe.
South Carolina’s coaches told Herron that Adams would fit in their “buck” linebacker position, which primarily rushes the passer but from different spots along the defensive front. The buck also drops into pass coverage.
“I heard that size would be an issue, but I proved that I can move,” Adams said. “I’m a pass rusher and I can do that from any spot on the field.”
Adams, who has a 3.0 grade-point average, is the latest in a growing lineage of major college defensive line prospects at South Pointe. He said he specifically tries to emulate Jadeveon Clowney’s first step and Zeek Rodney’s explosion and power at the snap of the ball.
“Little pieces of each,” Adams said of Clowney, who went on to play at South Carolina and the NFL, and Rodney, who went to Wake Forest.
Some of Clowney and Rodney’s abilities can be attributed to good genetics. Adams’ gene pool isn’t bad, either.
Older local high school football fans will remember Adams’ father, Daniel Adams, a key contributor to Northwestern’s 1989 state title team. Daniel Adams picked up the running back slack after his cousin Jeff Burris injured his ankle before the playoffs. Daniel Adams rushed for two touchdowns in the title game.
Elijah Adams, who in the spring spoke to about 20 college coaches from Football Bowl Subdivision programs, said his devotion to the weight room comes from his father.
“He always told me it was gonna pay off,” Adams said. “Today it paid off.”
Rock Hill South Pointe Stallions
The Observer continues with previews of teams in its annual preseason Sweet 16 high school football poll. The teams will be revealed in alphabetical order. The poll, with numerical order, will be released following the previews.
Head coach: Strait Herron (Sixth season as Stallions coach)
2015 record: 14-1 (5-0 to win Region III 3A)
Key returning starters: Derion Kendrick, Jr., FS/ATH (6-0, 190); Eli Adams, Jr., DE/LB (6-0, 230); Bryson Cooper, Sr., LB (5-11, 200); B.T. Potter, Jr., K (5-11, 165); Ken’Darius Frederick, Sr., FS (6-0, 180).
Key newcomers: Justin Reese, So., DB (5-10, 160); Devon White, So., DE (6-2, 185); Steven Gilmore, Jr., ATH/QB/DB (5-11, 160).
Returning starters: 8
Returning lettermen: 25
Outlook: The Stallions have won 26 games, including back-to-back Class 3A state championships over the past two years. But the team must replace 14 starters and is moving up from 3A to 4A. South Pointe’s defense can dominate games, with athletes like free safety Derion Kendrick (15 college offers, including Alabama, Clemson) who can make game-changing plays.