COLUMBIA, SC — South Carolina's already-solid start to its 2015 recruiting class got stronger over the last week - and in a hurry. Give the calendar some credit.
Four prospects made commitments to the Gamecocks, giving USC an eight-member group that ranks inside the Top 10 nationally.
The newest pledges are thanks, in part, to an accelerated recruiting timeline in which spring and summer are king.
"The days that we can get those guys on campus now is the most important time of year in recruiting," said Steve Spurrier Jr., the team's recruiting coordinator. "That's clearly changed from five or six years ago."
The one-two punch of spring and summer has been key to the Gamecocks' filling their classes the last three years. Before that, decisions were far more common in the fall or in January.
USC's first four pledges in this class made decisions over a three-month stretch after their sophomore seasons, in the spring and summer of 2013. Four more came on board over the last week alone.
Wide receiver Michael Bowman got things rolling on the first official day of spring, announcing for USC on March 20. His pledge was followed by defensive back Mark Fields and offensive linemen Paris Palmer and Shane Lemieux.
The latter three were all on USC's campus last weekend, while Bowman is expected in town this weekend.
"We had a good week last week in recruiting," Spurrier said. "We have to hustle when we get these guys on campus."
The Gamecocks are expecting around 20 or more rising seniors and their families on campus Saturday for the school's first "junior day" of the year.
Getting athletes on campus at any time of year is important, Spurrier said. The attention given to a prospect is the same on a junior day or any other unofficial campus visit, he said.
With the Gamecocks set to scrimmage Saturday, all the assistant coaches will be on hand to interact with recruits before and after the on-field action.
"It's an effort to get everybody on campus," Spurrier said. "We spend as much time with those guys and their families as we can."
South Carolina the last three years has had more than half its class committed before its own football season began. The 2012 and 2013 classes were more than 70 percent complete by Aug. 31.
While coaches don't know yet if this will be a full class or not - there are 15 scholarship seniors - USC will no longer be restricted by NCAA sanctions. The school is able to sign up to 25 "initial counters" and a have a full 85 on scholarship for the 2015-16 academic year.
Whether the class totals 15, 20 or 25, the Gamecocks remain on an uncommonly quick pace.
One or two commitments each year before the spring game is normal. The Gamecocks are at eight pledges with the spring game two weeks away.
"That's a good thing," Spurrier Jr. said. "This is a bigger class than last year's, too. We've gotten a few more guys on campus and they've committed."
USC's in-progress Class of 2015
1. Dexter Neal, 3-star wide receiver, Stone Mountain, Ga. (commited May 16)
2. Shameik Blackshear, 5-star defensive end, Bluffton, SC (committed May 21)
3. Jerad Washington, 3-star wide receiver, Jacksonville, Fla. (committed July 28)
4. Sherrod Pittman, 4-star linebacker, Jacksonville, Fla. (committed July 29)
5. Michael Bowman, 3-star wide receiver, Havelock, NC (committed March 20)
6. Mark Fields, 4-star defensive back, Cornelius, NC (committed March 22)
7. Paris Palmer, 4-star offensive lineman, Scranton, PA (committed March 23)
8. Shane Lemieux, 3-star offensive lineman, Yakima, Wash. (committed March 24)