Five takeaways from the battle for Drew Barker

dmclemore@thestate.comMay 13, 2013 

USC quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

A look at five things we can take away from South Carolina's recruiting loss of quarterback Drew Barker of Hebron, Ky., who chose Kentucky over the Gamecocks last week.

1. No place like home

There are few tools in recruiting as powerful as geography. The draw to stay home and play for the home-state Wildcats proved too much for Barker to pass up, especially after the new coaching staff at Kentucky made him a priority. South Carolina fans can appreciate players staying home as well as anyone. Jadeveon Clowney, Marcus Lattimore, Stephon Gilmore, Alshon Jeffery and Shaq Roland are just a few of those in recent years who chose to stay and play for their state school. Barker's Conner High School is about 75 miles from the Kentucky campus. Barker also said he thought about "life after football, and the connections you've made in your home state when you're done playing."

2. No errors in the effort

Not landing Barker was a rare loss on the trail for G.A. Mangus, who has been one of the Gamecocks' best recruiters since arriving on campus in 2009. He helped in the recruitment of Connor Shaw (2010) and also brought in Tanner McEvoy (2011), Brendan Nosovitch (2012) and Connor Mitch (2013), who were all the top USC targets. South Carolina missed on Barker - its primary target for 2014 and the only quarterback with an offer from the Gamecocks - but it wasn't for lack of effort from Mangus. By all accounts, he had a great relationship with the Barker family. Mangus even traveled to Barker's school on Thursday, a day before the decision was announced.

3. A tricky position to recruit

Players at every position want to be wanted by prospective colleges - that's especially true with quarterbacks. South Carolina's strategy in recent years has been to offer a select number of quarterbacks and then put the full court press on the one player coaches want the most - and where there is high mutual interest. That was the case most recently with Nosovitch and Mitch, and it worked. The Gamecocks offered Barker in June 2012 and have made him a top priority ever since. The two appeared to be destined to be together until Kentucky closed the gap under new coach Mark Stoops and eventually won the battle.

4. To pursue or not to pursue?

With Barker out of the picture, there are no guarantees that South Carolina will go after another quarterback in a class that will be small on numbers. Coaches never want to take an average prospect at the position, and that is amplified in a year like 2014 when there could only be 12 to 15 signees. USC instead may opt to fill the spot with a greater position of need such as defensive line or secondary. The Gamecocks have recruited (but not offered) quarterback Tyler Harris of Blackshear, Ga., who took an unofficial visit to Columbia in late March. Whether or not they decide to pursue Harris or someone else should be decided soon.

5. In good hands

South Carolina's present-day quarterback depth might be the best it has been under Steve Spurrier. Coaches are thrilled to have two capable starting options in senior Connor Shaw and redshirt junior Dylan Thompson. After those two, Nosovitch made strides this spring and should be in line for the No. 3 job this fall. Mitch enrolled early and will battle with Nosovitch for the job in the years to come. You always like to take a quarterback in each class, but if there's a year to not do that, this is it.

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