Monday, February 8, 2010

South Carolina Recruiting Review: 2007 Class Had High Expectations

South Carolina just wrapped another good recruiting class with some highly ranked players included. But whatever happened with the 2007 class that was also highly ranked?

I discussed that class with Gamecock Bloggers, Leftover Hot Dog.

Q: Both Scout and Rivals ranked this 2007 class in the nations top 10. What made this class so special on signing day?

A: This class caught the attention of everyone due to the number of recruits and it being loaded with talent in skill positions. The class had a size of 31 which will grab the attention of most just based off that facet. Some of the big names were Stephen Garcia, Chris Culliver and Brian Maddox just to name a few.

Some would say that the fact that the class was so heavy on two areas – DBs and WRs made it one to watch. The WRs due to the fact that Spurrier’s “fun n gun” offense relies on WRs that can create and this class had that…on the surface. The class had 6 defensive backs and 8 wide receivers in it. Some called the WR class the best in the nation.
Q: Who were the biggest surprises of this class?

A: Weslye Saunders and Clifton Geathers stick out in my mind. Due to the fact that they were recruited for a position they did not end up playing yet excelled in their new position and will end up in the NFL. Saunders was recruited as a defensive end but proved he is more valuable as a tight end. He is a big boy that can create the mis-match in the secondary and has good speed to go with good hands.

Clifton Geathers was recruited to be on the offensive line yet switched over the defensive side of the ball to be a pass rushing end and has excelled. He decided to leave after the bowl game and skip his senior year to try his hand in the NFL. I am sure he will land somewhere and do well.

Q: What about the biggest disappointments?

A: The biggest disappointment is just how many did not pan out of that 31 number. Some of the kids didn’t live up to expectations and left the program for whatever reason. Just look at the wide receiving class for example; only 2 of the 8 WRs are still playing that position on the team (Barnes & LeCron).

Thus you see this face evidenced in the 2009 starting line-up that was littered with freshman and sophomores due to the fact that the 2007 class didn’t live up to the hype.

Q: Stephen Garcia was probably the headliner of the class. Why do you think he has been so up and down and can he turn it around this year?

A: Simple - Stephen had to grow up. He came in and was viewed as Spurrier’s “gun” to lead the offense to new heights. He is good but he had to learn the system.
Last year, the USC faithful witnessed him growing up before their eyes and began to understand how to be a quarterback under Steve Spurrier.

I really think the best is yet to come with Garcia. He has two more years to play at Carolina and I really do think he will do well. Spurrier has the right kids in now – those that want to be Gamecock football players.

Q: Why do you think South Carolina was not able to maintain this momentum with the more recent classes?

A: I think it is more of what he was left with under Holtz. What I mean by that is he basically had to overhaul the team to usher in his style of play. That takes time and doesn’t happen overnight, especially with the recruiting battles in the south.

Yes, the 20007 class got the accolades but some really good players have come in the last three recruiting cycles. This makes the team very young which we all hope will bold well for Gamecocks chances down the road.

Q: How will you remember this class?

A: Addressing the needs. The 2010 class really addressed the needs of the team on the offensive line, six signees, and will provide depth in key positions. These two areas needed attention and will make the team stronger.

Example, Spurrier has said that possibly 10 of the 23 recruits could play this coming season. Most on special teams but that has been a weak area for SC.

Q: What are South Carolina's biggest advantages in recruiting?

A: The spin you hear is that “come to USC and help Carolina win its’ first SEC East Crown or SEC title…be part of doing things that have never been done.” That is the spin you hear but some of the ’key’ attractions are - the chance to play in the SEC, climate, Coach Spurrier and now the brand new Dodie Anderson Academic Center for athletes.

Q: What about the disadvantages?

A: Recruiting in the SEC and the South for that matter is fierce. Competition for the best kids is tremendous. The big disadvantage for SC is having to go up against UF, UT, UGa, etc. USC doesn’t have the National Championship trophies to point to or lean on like others and that is a factor. So that makes it tough for a kid picking against USC and Alabama.

Q: How important is winning the instate recruiting battle with Clemson? Also, where do the Gamecocks like to heavily recruit outside the state?

A: For USC, job number one is to win its’ backyard. They have begun to do that as evidenced in getting the state’s “Mr. Football” for two years straight. It has helped with the turnover at Clemson in coaching but still vital to win the recruiting battles in-state first.

Lots of credit to Spurrier for changing that because during the Holtz time it seemed that was forgotten. Because let’s be honest, USC does not recruit on a national stage…yet. Most of the kids for Carolina come from the Southeast and specifically SC, Georgia, N. Carolina and Florida.

The 2010 class broke down like this –
-South Carolina: 7
-Georgia: 6
-Florida: 5
-North Carolina: 3
-Kansas: 2

The two from Kansas were JUCO kids that are originally from South Carolina. So as you can see winning the battles in our in neck of the woods is extremely important on and off the field.

My Thoughts on South Carolina Recruiting:

The Gamecock program is notorious over the years for having some of the most loyal fans in the country, but also some of the biggest disappointments on the field.

Steve Spurrier has raised the level of play in Columbia, but has yet to get over that hump of winning the East Division. To do that, he has to keep the top guys in his state from going out of state or to rival Clemson.

If you look back at 2007, three of the top four Rivals players in the state went elsewhere. South Carolina needs to have more years like 2010 when they grabbed two of the top three, including one of the top running backs in the nation Marcus Lattimore.

But it will ultimately be up to the player development once they get on campus which must improve in Columbia. This 2007 class has largely underachieved expectations that had South Carolina's fans giddy three years ago. It will be interesting to see how a guy like Lattimore pans out three or four years down the road.

Thanks again to Leftover Hot Dog for their insight.

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