Gamecocks take aim at 10th-straight Top 25 recruiting class

dmclemore@thestate.comFebruary 2, 2014 

Latta offensive lineman and USC signee Donell Stanley

THE (FLORENCE) MORNING NEWS

  • CLASS RANKS

    Recruiting class finishes under Steve Spurrier:

    2005: 23rd

    2006: 24th

    2007: 6th

    2008: 22nd

    2009: 12th

    2010: 24th

    2011: 18th

    2012: 19th

    2013: 15th

    2014: 23rd-x

    x-not final; Source: Rivals

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An impressive streak quietly will be on the line Wednesday when South Carolina signs its 2014 recruiting class.

The Gamecocks have a chance to finish in Rivals’ Top 25 for the 10th consecutive season, a recruiting run that started with Steve Spurrier’s’ arrival in Columbia.

Whether or not USC can close with its top targets – and how other schools finish on National Signing Day – will determine the Gamecocks’ final place in this year’s rankings.

“They don’t have one or two guys up there in the top 50 in the country, which would really push the class up higher,” said Rivals’ Southeast recruiting analyst Woody Wommack. “Depending on who they fill those last spots with, that could determine whether or not they land in the top 25.”

South Carolina’s current Top 25 streak started when Spurrier was hired in late 2004 and put his stamp on the 2005 class. The Gamecocks are joined by Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia and Auburn as SEC teams with Top 25 recruiting classes in each of the past nine seasons. All six schools are in position to continue that for 2014.

The Gamecocks stand at No. 25 in Rivals’ rankings as the week begins. Outside of a No. 6 finish in the 2007 recruiting rankings, No. 20 is USC’s average spot on the final list.

“That’s, basically, what they’ve had every year,” said Keith Niebuhr, a national analyst for 247Sports. “The coaches know whether it’s a good class or not. Clearly, they’re identifying players that fit what they do, and they’re not looking for a class that’s got to be earth-shattering.”

Where USC finishes in the recruiting rankings is not a top concern, said Steve Spurrier Jr., USC’s recruiting coordinator.

“We try not to sell a lot of ‘champions of signing day,’ ” Spurrier Jr. said. “A little bit of it’s important. You need to make a little bit of splash with this player or that player. We have to be able to identify what our needs are and go get solid, tough, hard-nosed players that can play the game. We don’t spend a lot time evaluating where Rivals has us ranked.”

The fact that USC could finish in the top 25 didn’t seem possible last summer when the team was expected to sign 15 or so players in this class. The Gamecocks had four early NFL entrants and four players transfer, and the need to sign more cornerbacks arose. The class is now expected to number around 20.

Class quantity and individual player ratings drive a school’s ranking up or down, and every network has its formula for figuring out the weight and importance of those factors.

In Rivals’ view, USC at No. 25 is ranked ahead of Wisconsin, Nebraska and N.C. State, despite those schools having as many as 13 more commitments. The Gamecocks, with 17 pledges, fare better because of a higher average player rating.

USC also is No. 23 in 247Sports’ Composite Top 25, which factors in all networks. Niebuhr described USC’s class as solid with a chance to finish inside the top 20 with a strong finish.

“They’re getting guys that fit what they do and guys that are potential difference-makers,” Niebuhr said. “Donell Stanley can be a difference-maker. Shaq Davidson? You better believe that he can be a difference-maker. There are guys in there that can elevate a class down the road.”

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