South Carolina’s coaching staff is entering new territory this fall, both on and off the field.
The Gamecocks will learn what it’s like to be an on-field favorite this fall, but the coaches will also deal with another rarity – being close to or entirely finished with recruiting before they ever play a down.
As a middle-of-the-pack team throughout recent history, the Gamecocks haven’t been able to attract enough attention on the field to make themselves a really attractive option for prospects off it.
That has changed this year, with USC already claiming 17 commitments in the Class of 2012, players who can’t sign a National Letter of Intent until next February. Only LSU (18 commitments) has more in the SEC, and even perennially fast-starting Texas has only five more than the Gamecocks.
With USC only projecting a 20-member class, the coaching staff is likely on the stretch run of a recruiting cycle that usually takes many more months to complete.
“There are pros and cons to [being done early],” USC recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier said earlier this month. “ the more commitments you get early, the more likely you are to lose one or two or three of them.
“There was a study last year [that showed] there were more players that committed early [than ever before]. There are also more players that decommit. I had a defensive back decommit to me last year toward the end of the deal, and he was a guy that committed in the summer and decommitted in January. So, you have to be aware of that. You have to keep recruiting these days. Just because a guy commits doesn’t mean he’s necessarily done until he signs.”
Follow the leader
With the commitment of Lithonia (Ga.) offensive guard Joe Harris on Thursday, USC now has secured the services of four players in the Class of 2012 who were once teammates with 2011 USC signees.
Harris played with linebacker Cedrick Cooper, McEachern (Ga.) defensive end Darius English played with tight end Rory Anderson and linebacker Marcquis Roberts and Stephenson (Ga.) defensive back Kyle Fleetwood and defensive tackle Carlos Hood played with defensive back Kadetrix Marcus. All of those schools are located in the greater Atlanta suburbs, a recruiting mecca for colleges across the country.
Players are often looking for comfort during the recruiting process, and it’s no surprise that Harris, English, Fleetwood and Hood found it at places with former teammates already on the roster.
“It’s wonderful,” Harris said. “A lot of these guys don’t get the opportunity to go somewhere they already have somebody there to groom them. But with Cedrick already being at South Carolina, I have somebody to look over [me] and somebody to look up to and play with. If I have any questions I can come to him. That’s something good for me. It’s a plus on both sides.”