Strength of SEC seen in NFL draft

Spurrier, others cite recruiting plethora of picks

jkendall@thestate.comApril 30, 2013 

Justice Cunningham participates in South Carolina Gamecocks Pro Day at Williams-Brice Stadium.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

  • 2013 PICKS The SEC had 63 players picked in this year’s draft. The number from each SEC team:

     Alabama9
     LSU9
     Florida8
     Georgia8
    South Carolina 7
     Texas A&M5
     Arkansas4
     Tennessee4
     Miss. State3
     Missouri2
     Vanderbilt2
     Auburn1
     Kentucky1
     Ole Miss0

  • PAST 10 YEARS NFL Draft picks by SEC teams over the past 10 years:

    LSU ... 61

    Georgia ... 57

    Alabama ... 49

    Florida ... 48

    USC ... 35

    Tennessee ... 35

    Auburn ... 34

    Arkansas ... 32

    Texas A&M ... 24

    Missouri ... 21

    Ole Miss ... 20

    Miss. State ... 16

    Kentucky ... 14

    Vanderbilt ... 13

— When ESPN’s Trey Wingo wrapped up the network’s coverage of the NFL Draft on Saturday, he noted the final spot selection of South Carolina’s Justice Cunningham and pointed out the Gamecocks might kick off the 2014 draft with Jadeveon Clowney.

“That would be pretty neat wouldn’t it,” Steve Spurrier said Tuesday during his annual appearance at the Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge, a scholarship and charity golf tournament on the Oconee Course at Reynold’s Plantation.

It’s been a neat two years for South Carolina during April’s draft. The Gamecocks had seven former players selected by professional teams last week, tying for the second-most in school history and giving South Carolina a program-best 13 draft picks in back-to-back seasons.

“It speaks to recruiting. It speaks to our strength coach and staff, our coaching staff,” Spurrier said. “It speaks to all of it.”

Most important for the Gamecocks’ future, it speaks to recruits.

“Certainly, all coaching staffs love to tell recruits, ‘This is how many guys we have sent to the NFL,’ ” Spurrier said. “We talk about it a little bit.”

Spurrier and playing partner Sterling Sharpe, who starred for the Gamecocks in the ’80s and was the No. 7 pick in the 1988 draft, finished in second place in the tournament behind Miami’s team of football coach Al Golden and former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Gino Torretta.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who finished in a tie for third along with playing partner Steve Fuller, saw four Tigers drafted and another seven sign free agent contracts last week.

“We’re not quite Alabama yet for sure, but to see that many guys getting opportunities is good, and our free agents have been sticking,” Swinney said.

While Clowney could be the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, Swinney has two players, quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who could be in the discussion as top-five selections.

“You never know,” Swinney said. “There’s a lot of work that has to be done before we talk about that.”

Sixty-three of the 254 players selected in the seven rounds of this year’s draft came from the SEC.

“It is a little unusual, but I guess it says something that the NFL, they feel like we are such a competitive conference, they like to draft players who play in our conference,” Spurrier said.

That troubles former Florida coach Urban Meyer who is in the Big Ten at Ohio State. The Big Ten produced 22 draft picks this season.

“Facts are facts, right now,” Meyer said. “Everybody always asks me the question, ‘What’s the difference?’ The difference is the Big Ten has great players. It’s just not enough. The answer is recruiting. I’m not criticizing anybody, but facts are facts.”

Video: Spurrier, Sharpe at event

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