Overall Class Rating: The jury is still a little out, but anywhere between a B+ and an A, depending upon whether they can land the last remaining fence-riders.
USC is in the running for these players, though they have yet to commit.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, who is rated as the No 1 recruit in the country. Everyone wants him. He is reported to have over 50 scholarship offers. Why? He played in the Under Armour All-American Game and was very disappointed with his 2 sack, 1 forced fumble performance. He's the number 1 recruit and what he worries about most is being a bust. That means despite his accolades, the kid has his head screwed on straight and intends to work hard. And, he's charismatic. He played in the NC/SC shrine bowl and wooed all the other defensive linemen. After the game, the reporters stuck microphones in the face of Clowney and all other recruits. Clowney continued to repeat his mantra of "still undecided," but South Carolina and Alabama are the front runners. What did the rest of them say? "I'm going wherever Clowney goes." A guy with great talent and a good attitude that will be a strong presence in the locker room -- hell, I want to employ him.
Jerrell Adams, TE/DE, who looked like he was going to Clemson until yesterday when he flipped and indicated USC was his choice. He has good hand work and he is very quick for a defensive lineman.
Phillip Dukes, DT, is a man child. He is big, strong, and doesn't give up any ground. Just like Adams, he appeared to have leanings to Clemson, but recently also signaled the Cocks were his favorite going into signing day.
Of those that have committed:
Brandon Shell - Offensive Tackle from Goose Creek SC. He is 6'7" and 310 pounds. He has great footwork and excels at pass protection.
Damiere Byrd - Wide Receiver. Highly touted. He has great speed, very elusive, and is smart. A little on the small side, but has elements of a Santana Moss. He needs a big receiver to make him more effective, but South Carolina already has that, so expect him to stretch the field.
Sheldon Royster - Defensive Back. One of the top safeties in the nation. He has decent size, speed, and he is a hitter. He isn't afraid to play in the box.
Kelcy Quarles - Defensive Tackle. Has incredible athleticism, size, and leadership skills. He's a man-child. He spent his senior season at a prep school, got his weight down, and got his skills up. It paid off.
Most Likely Early Contributor(s)
Again, I hate to sound like a broken record, but if Clowney signs, he would obviously help the most from day 1. If Clowney leaves Spurrier at the altar, then Brandon Shell could start immediately. He needs to work a little more on his drive blocks, particularly with Lattimore in the backfield, but he would immediately improve the Cocks' protection schemes.
Top Class Sleeper(s)
Rory Anderson - Tight End out of Georgia. The kid is 6'5" and only 205 pounds. He has great blocking skills as well as great hands and concentration. Once he puts on some size in a college program, I think he'll round out the Gamecock offense.
The One That Got Away
We'll wait till February 14th and hope we don't have to update this section.
Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins who is locked onto Clemson. He has all the talent one looks for in a wide receiver. He is going to give the Cocks fits for years to come. Also, Charone Peake (4 Star WR), also at Clemson; he is a solid athlete and a solid kid. The Tigers definitely cleaned up at WR. I'd take their whole class.
I'm From Mizzourah
Mauldin. He's got all the talent, but he may never make the grades.
Strongest Position Group
By far, the Gamecocks have amassed a world of talent on the defensive front, whether Clowney comes or not. If he comes, they will rotate in fresh stars all game long without much loss in firepower.
Weakest Position Group
For a Spurrier team, this class is conspicuously devoid of high-grade quarterback talent.
Spurrier was brought in to do what no one else could -- turn a perpetually mediocre program into an annual powerhouse. At times, it has appeared he would sputter, but slowly but surely, he is actually bringing them along. They used to be Clemson's doormat -- not so much anymore. They used to be Tennessee and Florida's doormat -- not so much anymore.
Where is the evidence? They are starting to hold onto local recruits. Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee -- hell even Nebraska -- used to pick over the state of South Carolina like it was the milk isle the day before a snowstorm.
Now Spurrier has as many as 30 commitments and he has the state's top talent still dangling on the line, and they are almost all in-state. Folks in South Carolina have always maintained the state held its own in football talent. Sure, it's a small state, but the kids here are tough, fast, athletic and heretofore upwardly mobile.
Whether Spurrier completely accomplishes his task of turning the program around remains to be seen, but he has given us an early indicator. He has reversed the talent drain . . . and to think, the knock on him has been he's lazy and no longer recruits.
Did class address need?
South Carolina lost twice to the national champions, once to Kentucky, and dropped another game to Arkansas (no shame). Notably, Marcus Lattimore missed substantial playing time in two of those losses; against Kentucky, they were way up, Lattimore never came back from halftime, and they never scored again -- that is all you need to know about what caused South Carolina's fortunes to rise, and what could easily cause them to fall. What were South Carolina's needs? To give Lattimore help and make it so the kid didn't have to touch the ball 40 times a game to give South Carolina a chance to win. In this vein, South Carolina accomplished it's goal. They got some mega commitments and an overall athletic class. Damiere Byrd and Shamier Jeffery -- Alshon's younger brother -- add blazing speed to a receiving core that already has the capacity to stretch the field. They added talent on the O-Line. Had they landed a kick-ass quarterback, I would say they have surrounded Lattimore with what he needs to gain the same yardage on 25 touches that is currently requiring 40.
But the real gains are on defense. The D-Line the Gamecocks is amassing is nothing short of terrifying (if you wear Orange -- be it Gator Orange, Volunteer Orange, or Tiger Orange). South Carolina also has several solid recruits coming into the secondary. If Staley gets his grades up and comes back from a stint in JUCO, the linebacker core could be just as formidable.
I love what the Gamecocks are doing by recruiting locals. These kids know each other. They respect each other. The rivalries they built against each other in high school serve as a push-off point for bonding in the locker room. They are also playing for their state. South Carolina needs a little moxie. They need a chip on their shoulder if they are going to break through. The fact that they are not only in the running for the highest talent in the state, but the front runner, is a huge turnaround.
Where are they now? Suffering from growing pains. It's a good sign that they have to wait until February 14th -- Clowney's birthday -- to find out whether they have a top-25 class or a top-10 class. It means they are almost there. It also means, however, they are not quite there. There is only one reason Clowney would consider Alabama or other powerhouses over South Carolina -- he thinks they stand a better chance of winning SEC titles and winning national championships.
Good Job Spurrier, but you can't rest yet. You are still the underdog, and you will be next year too, and the year after that, but you are making progress.