Needs, not buzz, power Gamecocks’ 2013 class

Depth of the SEC shows in national recruiting rankings

dmclemore@thestate.comFebruary 5, 2013 

USC linebacker commitment Larenz Bryant from Zebulon Vance High School, during practice for the 76th Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas practice at Spartanburg High School.

JEFF BLAKE — jblake@thestate.com

  • WHERE USC’S CLASS RANKS Rivals: 16 247Sports: 17 ESPN: 17 Scout: 25 247Sports Composite: 20* *Factors in all rankings
  • SEC CLASS RANKINGS As of Monday, how SEC teams rank using the 247Sports Composite rating, which factors in all network rankings. In parenthesis is where each team ranks overall: 1. Alabama (1) 2. Florida (3) 3. LSU (7) 4. Texas A&M (8) 5. Georgia (9) 6. Ole Miss (11) 7. Auburn (16) 8. South Carolina (20) 9. Arkansas (24) 10. Mississippi State (25) 11. Tennessee (28) 12. Vanderbilt (33) 13. Missouri (38) 14. Kentucky (43)

- Coming Wednesday at GoGamecocks | Keep up to the minute on who the Gamecocks add to their signing class, with live updates, photos and videos of USC prospects.

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South Carolina will sign another solid recruiting class Wednesday, national recruiting experts say — though it won’t generate the national buzz of some SEC rivals.

The Gamecocks should ink a group of 21 to 23 prospects and finish another year in the recruiting top 25, something the team has done every year under Steve Spurrier.

A top 25 class is a good class, analysts agreed.

“It’s the one SEC class that is the one that nobody is talking about but has pretty good players,” said Keith Niebuhr, national analyst for 247Sports.

The Gamecocks’ 2013 group ranks anywhere from No. 16 to No. 25 by the four major recruiting services and includes four consensus four-star players: running back David Williams (Philadelphia); linebacker Larenz Bryant (Charlotte); defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin (Hoschton, Ga.); and offensive lineman D.J. Park (Dillon).

USC did well, Niebuhr said, in the always-important key-needs areas of offensive and defensive line.

The quarterback, however, can make a class when there is no marquee player such as a Marcus Lattimore or Jadeveon Clowney.

Connor Mitch, who enrolled in January from Raleigh’s Wakefield High, is the third four-star quarterback to sign under Spurrier, according to Rivals, and chose the Gamecocks over Alabama, LSU, Auburn and North Carolina.

“He put up crazy numbers,” said Mike Farrell, national analyst for Rivals. “If you can get that kid to play in the type of offense they want to play in, he does have the skills for it.”

SEC schools claim nine spots in the 247Sports Composite top 25, which factors in all the recruiting services. Traditional powers Alabama, LSU and Florida are at or near the top.

South Carolina usually posts the sixth or seventh best class in the SEC, but this year the Gamecocks are being bumped by newcomer Texas A&M and a strong year by Ole Miss.

The Aggies managed 32 commitments, with eight early enrollees, and are No. 4 among SEC teams in the composite list. (Scout ranks them No. 1 in the conference.) The Rebels have three five-star prospects committed, according to 247Sports, with a chance to add one or two more.

Meanwhile, Auburn and new coach Gus Malzahn could have a handful of five-star signees Wednesday.

“The environment today is brutal in this league,” said Jamie Newberg, national analyst for Scout, which has USC 10th among SEC schools. “No one would envision Ole Miss on the verge of breaking into the top 10. You can have a top-10 or -20 class and be fifth or sixth or seventh in the league. It gives you a great indication of how well, top to bottom, the SEC has recruited.”

South Carolina had much of its class complete by August, adding two pledges in January. Daphne, Ala., linebacker Jonathan Walton is expected to join the class Wednesday.

The Gamecocks are in the mix of several signing day announcements, including Delray Beach, Fla., defensive tackle Keith Bryant, who will choose between USC, Florida State and Miami at 1:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

“This is a good group, a balanced group,” Newberg said. “It won’t have the same notoriety as some of the other SEC schools, but they don’t care about that. It’s all about getting the best available guys to fill their needs and fill their roster.”

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