Baxter’s Blitz

High school recruiting battles leave unclear winner

scvarsity@sc.rr.comJanuary 17, 2013 

WITH ROUGHLY three weeks remaining before National Signing Day on Feb. 6, I’ll take a look at the Class of 2013 in our state and break down the superlatives from this recruiting cycle.

Clemson and South Carolina fan bases often debate “who won the recruiting battle.” First of all, I don’t think either wins or loses the recruiting battle.

While one may get a player or two ranked higher, it all comes down to meeting your needs. However, that often is measured on the projection of the signed prospects so we won’t really know who met their needs better until two or three years down the road.

If we go purely on commitment class rankings, then it would appear that the Gamecocks are out in front, ranked 16th in the Rivals.com team rankings. The Tigers are 29th. But the Gamecocks have four more committed players than the Tigers, which is going to give them more points.

Neither team has commitments from any five-star recruits, but Clemson does have seven four-star commitments while South Carolina has five. Clemson has seven three-star commits while the Gamecocks have 14. So we’re looking more at a rating affected more by quantity than quality.

Who actually got the “Best Pickup” from the Palmetto state’s 2013 class? Most are going to point out that Georgia got “Mr. Football” Tramel Terry of Goose Creek, and Urban Myer and Ohio State cherry picked the state’s top defensive player from Pendleton, defensive tackle Michael Hill. But those players do not necessarily constitute the “best pickup” in my mind.

Terry has the potential to be an impact player for the Bulldogs either as a running back or wide receiver, but he won’t be an impact player in the short term. I also think Hill could one day challenge for the top defensive lineman in the country, but he also will take some developing.

Clemson’s pickup of Ben Bouleware is closer to the top of this category than Terry or Hill. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound All-America linebacker collected 174 tackles for T.L. Hanna this season, and he is going to be a big contributor for the Tigers.

The “best pickup,” in my mind, was the pair of offensive linemen from Dillon committed to South Carolina. Getting D.J. Park (6-6, 335) is a huge plus for the Gamecocks at tackle. With the woes the Gamecocks had in the trenches in 2012, depth is a must. This is one of the hardest positions to be a big contributor early, but Park is large and has a chance at challenging for some early playing time.

Add to that the pickup of Bryce King, who will move to center at USC. The 6-4, 300-pound King is rated No. 3 nationally at his position, and with the graduation of T.J. Johnson, King could challenge for the starting spot. He’s a strong, versatile player and athletic enough to play guard. I think he may be the best offensive lineman pickup in this class for the Gamecocks.

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