Numbers working more in Gamecocks’ favor for 2015 recruiting class

dmclemore@thestate.comMay 27, 2014 

South Carolina receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

South Carolina’s recruiting efforts are getting an assist from the mathematics department, but it doesn’t take away the numbers game that coaches must play as they fill the Class of 2015.

“It’s similar every year,” said Steve Spurrier Jr., the team’s recruiting coordinator. “Numbers are always a tricky issue. You do your best to balance it out the best you can.”

Dealing with the inexact science of recruiting in which “the numbers always work out,” coaches each year make an ongoing, educated guess at how many prospects to sign in a given class and plan accordingly.

Three things are working in the Gamecocks’ favor this cycle when it comes to numbers:

– The team returns to a full 85 available scholarships with the end of the 2012 NCAA sanctions that limited the team to 82 spots each year. The shift back to 85 happens with the 2015 class and the 2015-16 academic year.

– The Gamecocks are working to sign 20 to 22 for 2015, but they can go to 25 if needed. That maximum number was limited to 22 under the expiring sanctions.

– There also are 15 scholarship seniors. The Gamecocks started toward the 2014 class with six known scholarships, with five seniors and Jadeveon Clowney’s certainty to turn pro. Even then they found a way to sign 21, more than coaches expected at the onset.

“Obviously six is not where you want to be. That’s a number that makes you nervous,” Spurrier said. “If it’s somewhere between 10 and 20, you don’t know. It’s hard to put a number on it.”

Scholarship seniors offer a starting point and are just one variable teams consider when projecting how a class will unfold.

Evaluating positional needs is never-ending and can go right to signing day. Defensive back became a major priority for 2014 when Ahmad Christian opted to transfer and Victor Hampton turned pro after his junior season. Linebacker became a bigger need for 2013 after a significant bowl-practice injury and a major decommitment that came late.

Coaches also have to speculate each year on which players might leave early for the NFL, Spurrier said. USC had four leave after their junior seasons for this latest draft.

“Recruiting has changed. You could have a guy five years. You could have him three years,” he said. “You have to stay on your toes and be flexible as best you can and try to guess what your needs are going into this spring evaluation period. You recruit the best players you can and go from there.”

South Carolina has 11 commitments for 2015, which puts the school somewhere around the halfway mark. More than 75 percent of its class has been committed before Aug. 31 in two of the last three seasons, and that’s about where coaches hope to be every year.

“That means we’ve done a good job,” Spurrier said. “We’ve identified the players we want, we’ve evaluated them, we’ve got them on our campus in the summer, we’ve recruited the heck out of them. And we’ve sold them that this is the best school for them.”

Being mostly done with a class allows coaches and uncommitted high school prospects to focus more on their seasons at hand. And instead of recruiting 70 players for 20 spots in the fall and winter, coaches are able to focus in on a few prospects who will complete the class.

It’s important to keep the final target number in the single digits, according to Kipp Adams, national recruiting insider for 247Sports. Coaches often keep recruiting and make late offers if needed, and available spots allow for that.

“The best-case scenario, if you’re bringing in a class of 25, you want to hit that 17 to 18 mark by the end of July to set yourself up to really go gung-ho on the final four- and five-star guys who are waiting until late in the process to make their decisions,” Adams said.

The spring evaluation period soon gives way to another wave of unofficial campus visits and the summer camps season.

Dozens of major prospects across the country are narrowing their college lists and setting out to visit schools with plans to make a commitment before their own senior-year practices begin in August. The Gamecocks are doing their part to be on the receiving end of some of those pledges.

“It works out,” Spurrier said. “We feel good about the guys who are committed. We feel good about the guys we’re chasing. We’ll go through here and continue to press to get these young men on our campus this summer. That’s always a big deal.”

Class of 2015 commitments

NamePosHometown
Lorenzo NunezQB    Kennesaw, GA
Michael BowmanWRHavelock, NC
Jalen ChristianWRDamascus, MD
Dexter NealWRStone Mountain, GA
Jerad WashingtonWRJacksonville, FL
Kyle MarkwayTESt. Louis, MO
Jozie MiltonOLClinton, LA
Paris PalmerOLScranton, PA
Shameik Blackshear     DEBluffton, SC
Sherrod PittmanLBJacksonville, FL
Mark FieldsDBCornelius, NC

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