When ESPN’s Tom Luginbill was playing college quarterback in the early to mid-1990s, Steve Spurrier was building a dynasty at Florida.
Luginbill was fascinated with Spurrier’s Fun-n-Gun offense, a quarterback-friendly scheme that predated many of spread offenses that we see today. Luginbill, who played at three separate colleges, including a year at Georgia Tech, imagined himself playing for Spurrier like many other signal callers around the country.
However, the Spurrier allure with quarterbacks doesn’t seem as strong as it once did. South Carolina has struggled to sign blue-chip players at the position during his reign, and Luginbill has a theory to explain it.
“Guys that grew up in the [1990s] and watched the Florida Gators and the Fun-n-Gun saw Steve Spurrier as a quarterback guru,” said Luginbill, ESPN's national recruiting director. “I think there was an assumption that when he took the job at South Carolina that quarterbacks would be lining up out the door to come in there and play for him.
Never miss a local story.
“What people don’t realize is that kids who are being recruited now were born in 1991. They may not have even known that Steve Spurrier coached at Florida and had these prolific offenses. They probably have to learn that or be told that.”
The Gamecocks haven’t developed the offensive mystique during Spurrier’s career in Columbia like the one that cemented him as one of the nation’s offensive masterminds in the 1990s. But signing the quarterback of the future in the Class of 2012 would help, especially with Stephen Garcia on his way out and Connor Shaw, an unproven dual-threat player, as the only viable option behind him.
“They obviously feel really, really good about Connor Shaw,” Luginbill said. “I don’t think there is any question about that. Again that’s one guy right now, and they are going to have to have more than that. They lack depth at the position.
“I think they lack a difference-maker at the position, not just physically but from the standpoint of having that competitive makeup and some of those intangibles you like to have. I don’t think there is any question they’ve been missing out on that, but, yeah, I don’t think they’d be doing themselves any favors if they didn’t get a guy in this class. That’s not only a need but they’ve got to upgrade that position talent-wise. They’ve got to get that done in their class.”
A new direction?
With the growth of recruiting into a multi-million-dollar industry, there have been many entrepreneurs enter the fray in the last decade. Some have done it to help better the opportunities for high school players, but many are simply interested in making a quick buck.
Even some of the people involved in recruiting believe the proliferation of rankings, combines, camps and other ventures has hurt the industry.
“I started going to combines about six or seven years ago, and I didn’t like the direction they were going,” said Rusty Mansell with 247 Sports. “They got away from football-related activities. It became more of a fashion show. I couldn’t get much out of watching 200 kids. I couldn’t tell who was who and who could play.”
Mansell eventually partnered with Scout.com’s Chad Simmons to form MVP Camps, which he says puts players in position to be evaluated as football players rather than just raw athletes. MVP will hold the final of four one-day offseason combines Saturday at Lower Richland High School.
Mansell and Co. measure, photograph and record 40-yard dash times of their participants. It’s all football from that point on, with players participating in several hours worth of position-specific work used to measure their ability against their peers. The best players from each group are invited to participant in an elite showcase at the combine’s conclusion.
For more information on Saturday’s event, visit themvpcamp.com. Two USC targets, receiver Kwinton Smith and quarterback Greyson Lambert, are expected to attend the event.