If you look at the rosters of South Carolina's most successful football teams, you will discover that the majority of the stars on those squads were either instate players or from within a 150-mile radius of Columbia.
I had an assistant coach explain to me years ago that recruiting the best players within this radius was an absolute key to becoming a big-time winner, because “these are the kids that grew up watching your program, know all about the school, and they will have accessibility for family and friends to come watch them play.”
What it also does, especially for in-state players, is create an extra bond among them. They have played against each other in high school, competed against each other in the North-South or Shrine Bowl games. They have made recruiting trips together, heard the pitches from big-time programs (even the other institution in the state), and decided to stay close to home and play for their state school.
I've said it before, but there is no mystery to USC's 42 wins in four seasons. When top-tier prospects like Stephon Gilmore, Marcus Lattimore, D.J. Swearinger, Jadeveon Clowney – and the list goes on and on – picked the Gamecocks, it was in part because they knew that collectively they could accomplish those “things that have been done around here” that coach Steve Spurrier talked about.
There is no mystery about the five in a row over Clemson. Since 2008, all but a couple of the real difference makers in the state each year have stayed home and become Gamecocks. A series that had lost its importance suddenly became an issue of state pride. It mattered to these natives to win the Palmetto Bowl. When Clowney said he would leave Carolina without losing to the Tigers, I didn't doubt him for a second.
USC's 2014 recruiting class is all but filled, but there are still a few important spots to fill, and several of those prospects will be visiting Friday and Saturday, the major recruiting weekend for the Gamecocks. The four uncommitted players who are uncommitted prospects: are cornerback prospects Wesley Green and Chris Lammons, OL Damian Prince and DL Dexter Wideman.
The 2013 team will be honored at the halftime of the men's game Saturday, a 4:30 tipoff against Ole Miss. The HBC will make a few remarks, which will no doubt include a few jabs at the Upstate school.
Also very special will be an autograph session with McGuire-era legends, which will be held on the concourse near the front entrance from 3:15-3:50 pm., and there will be a pre-game presentation on the court for all legends listed by decade, beginning at approximately 4 pm., including a special pregame video.
I can not imagine a better afternoon – the future of football with committed players and prospects, mixed with the glorious past of basketball.
It's a great time to be a Gamecock!