South Carolina has long been a popular vacation destination for large masses of the population throughout the Mid-Atlantic states.
It’s taken a little longer for South Carolina’s football program to become as popular with the region’s elite football prospects, but recent history shows that the Gamecocks are cultivating the region with great success.
Before signing safety Sheldon Royster, receiver Damiere Byrd and quarterback Tanner McEvoy, all standouts from the state of New Jersey in the Class 2011, USC had not inked a player from the Garden State since Cory Boyd in 2003. USC refocused on the region this offseason, gaining commitments from one of the Mid-Atlantic’s best linebackers, St. Joseph’s (N.J.) Kaiwan Lewis, and one of its best quarterbacks, Allentown Central Catholic’s (Pa.) Brendan Nosovitch.
It’s rare to see a school without much recruiting history in an area have that kind of success so fast. USC’s coaching staff has extensive ties in Georgia and Florida, so the Gamecocks’ ability to secure prospects in those states is expected. Their success in the Mid-Atlantic must feel like a bonus, however.
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“I think it’s the conference, the perception of the conference,” ESPN’s Tom Luginbill said. “ I think the conference gets so much exposure and has created so much hype – everywhere you look, it’s SEC, SEC, SEC – that these kids no matter where they are, they would like to play there even if that’s not the region they are from.”
Luginbill also believes there are other issues at play, including favorable weather, but ultimately he says the prestige the SEC carries nationally has given the league’s teams a mystique among the most important fan base of college football: the impressionable 17- and 18-year-olds who will become its next group of stars.
USC did have a built-in advantage when it began recruiting the Mid-Atlantic harder than it did in years past. Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus, who was named as one of the nation’s top-25 recruiters by multiple recruiting services earlier this year, had a highly successful run at Division III Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pa., earlier this decade.
Even though Mangus wasn’t recruiting blue-chip prospects and many of today’s best players probably haven’t even heard of DVC, he was still able to make many connections with prep coaches throughout the region. Those relationships are invaluable in recruiting, especially in a world where many high school coaches now serve as the sole father figure to their players.
But Mangus’ recruiting pitch likely sounds a lot better considering that he hails from a school that play in the mighty SEC. The nation’s best players want to play on the biggest stage and play for the biggest prize. Is there a better option than the SEC?
“I think the South Carolina staff has put an emphasis on recruiting New Jersey,” NJvarsity.com publisher John Otterstedt said. “The kids have really taken a liking to the assistant they’ve sent up here. There is always going to be a percentage of kids in this state that want to leave the area. I think South Carolijna has done a great job of locating those guys and showing what they have to offer.”