Gamecocks close out class with strong signing day finish

nwhite@thestate.comFebruary 5, 2014 

Saluda High's Dexter Wideman picks South Carolina during a ceremony inside the gymnasium.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier watched all the dominoes fall into place Wednesday for his program’s 2014 recruiting class on National Signing Day.

-- Defensive tackle Dexter Wideman of Saluda chose the Gamecocks over defending national champion Florida State.

-- Defensive back Chris Lammons of Plantation, Fla., picked USC over Wisconsin.

-- Defensive end Blake McClain of Jacksonville, Fla., changed his decision from Nebraska to South Carolina.

-- And defensive back Wesley Green of Lithonia, Ga., selected the Gamecocks over Georgia.

That late rush of signees delighted Spurrier and capped a strong 21-player class for South Carolina, which finished the 2013 season with its third consecutive 11-win season and a No 4 national ranking.

“Certainly, it makes it stronger,” Spurrier said. “Right now, all the paper we’ve sent out has come back with a signature on it. It hasn’t always been that way. A lot of time, these guys at the end, you don’t know which direction they’re going. We certainly were thrilled that all these players we thought we had a shot at decided to come with us.”

The class is heavy on defensive linemen, a position that lost Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton, and cornerbacks, where Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree departed.

“We believe we have addressed a lot of our needs. As all Gamecocks know, we lost three starting defensive linemen, and we have signed seven defensive linemen,” Spurrier said. “Obviously, getting Dexter Wideman was a big pickup. But these other players are very good players, also.”

McClain and defensive end Dante Sawyer of Suwanee, Ga., add solid depth to the class of linemen, while Green, Lammons and D.J. Smith of Marietta, Ga., bring strong credentials to the cornerback position.

“The other need was defensive back, defensive corner especially,” Spurrier said. “We picked up four to five defensive back-type players to come in and compete with the guys we’ve got.”

Spurrier and recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. liked the depth and quality of the class, which also included key recruits in linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams of Ellenwood, Ga., tight end Kevin Crosby of Bamberg, wide receiver Shaq Davidson of Gaffney and offensive lineman Donell Stanley of Latta. Both cited the program’s recent success as a factor in landing these players.

“It makes a huge impact. Winning helps recruiting, (and) recruiting helps winning,” said Spurrier Jr., who cited a strong cycle of classes dating to 2009, when Stephon Gilmore, DeVonte Holloman, Alshon Jeffery and D.J. Swearinger joined the program.

“Those guys really made a difference and really pushed it over the edge on future guys coming and playing and helping us win,” Spurrier Jr. said. “Certainly, winning 11 the last three years and the exposure we’ve gotten, players know if they come to South Carolina they can play at the highest level. They want to know. That’s important to them.”

It’s important to the coaches that this class has the ability to keep building on the 42-11 record over the past four seasons. Spurrier believes that it can.

“Overall, it is a very good class. We’re thrilled with all these guys,” Spurrier said. “We think they’re going to fit in very well, and we’ve got a chance to have continued success here at South Carolina.”

It’s not out of the question that some of them might end up playing in the 2014 season.

“Possibly,” Spurrier said. “There is some opportunity for these freshmen to play. We’ll let them earn it as they go.”

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