Gamecocks taking a more prudent approach to filling Class of 2014

USC sees slower pace for commitments so far this cycle

dmclemore@thestate.comMay 15, 2013 

South Carolina's path to filling the 2014 recruiting class won't look anything like the sometimes supersonic pace of the past two years.

With the Gamecocks poised to sign a small-in-number class, coaches are being more deliberate than ever in which prospects are offered and how players are pressed for a commitment.

"We've offered a lot fewer and we've pushed a lot fewer guys to commit to us," said Steve Spurrier Jr., the team's recruiting coordinator. "Last year at this time there were a bunch of guys that we were pressing to commit and got them on our campus and got them to commit."

South Carolina, with 10 commitments by mid-May of last year, is tied for last in the SEC with three Class of 2014 pledges. Tennessee, Texas A&M and LSU each has 10 or more committed for this class. Auburn had three new pledges just in the last week.

Last year, USC had 15 commitments for the Class of 2013 by the end of the summer. The Class of 2012 had 18 on board by the end of the previous summer.

"We realized if you get guys on your campus and press them to commit, they all might," Spurrier said. "Every year you get a better feel for what the environment in recruiting is. People that get a chance to commit to South Carolina very well may do it."

While the process isn't as fast and furious this year, South Carolina is very much in the mix with a number of sought-after prospects.

In the state of South Carolina alone, the Gamecocks are believed to be top contenders for the services of a number of four-star athletes, including Donell Stanley (offensive lineman, Latta); Shaq Davidson (wide receiver, Gaffney); Dexter Wideman (defensive tackle, Saluda); and Kevin Crosby (tight end, Bamberg-Ehrhardt).

"We feel pretty good about our position right now with a lot of guys," Spurrier said. "Just because there are not a lot of guys that have not publicly announced South Carolina, we feel pretty good about them going into the next few months."

The Gamecocks, with four scholarship seniors on the roster, are expected to sign 12 to 15 in the 2014 class. That will be the fewest since this year's 21-member group.

Schools working with small numbers in a class are going to be more selective and do not have the luxury of taking on prospects who might be projects, said Keith Niebuhr, national analyst for 247Sports.

Filling a team's need remains a primary goal, he said.

"Are you getting guys you really want? Are you getting guys that fit your program?" Niebuhr said. "They've got a good feel on guys, I'm sure."

A smaller group also has a harder time cracking the top 25 of the class rankings, something the Gamecocks have done every year under Steve Spurrier. Southern Cal with 12 signees did it in 2013 on the strength of four five-star prospects.

In this very early look, South Carolina is 49th in the team class rankings - No. 13 of the 14 SEC schools - according to the 247Composite, which factors in all rankings. Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU and Florida are all in the top 10.

Quality - not quantity - is a better way to gauge a smaller-than-normal class, Niebuhr said. With USC's three pledges - Joe Blue, Bryson-Allen Williams and Kalan Ritchie - the Gamecocks are ninth in the SEC when looking at average rating per player, according to 247Composite.

"The rankings don't mean much at this point," Niebuhr said, "especially if you're in good shape with a lot of kids."

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