When the Gamecocks travel to the bright lights of Nashville, Tenn., next week for the football season opener, it will be a familiar scene for several freshmen.
Four players in South Carolina’s 2012 signing class gave Vanderbilt a serious look, including the Commodores in their final college options before picking the Gamecocks.
Chris Moody (McDonough, Ga.), Jordan Diggs (Fort Myers, Fla.), Chaz Elder (Union City, Ga.) and Kyle Fleetwood (Stone Mountain, Ga.) each took official visits to Nashville and said Vanderbilt made a strong push for their services.
“They’re after you. If they like you, they really like you. There are no games,” said Moody, a cornerback. “They’re moving up. They’re building new stuff just like we are. They’re going to be top-notch.”
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The Commodores are building off a strong inaugural season under coach James Franklin. The team finished 6-6 but played close games against Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee, and competed in a bowl game.
Vanderbilt Stadium has new turf, new lights and a bigger video board, with construction under way on a $31 million indoor practice facility.
Franklin likes what he has to sell to recruits about the SEC’s only private school.
“For the right kid from the right family, I think we can beat anybody,” he said. “If your son would have an opportunity to go to a school like Vanderbilt, and get a world-class education, and play in the greatest football conference in America, and live in a great town like Nashville. Right now we can offer early playing time. I think we’re a great option.”
Vanderbilt is turning its momentum and Franklin’s message into a stronger 2013 recruiting class. The Commodores, ranked 49th last year, are 18th overall in 247Sports’ Composite rankings for the upcoming cycle. South Carolina is 16th.
The two teams will continue to cross paths in search of top talent. Like South Carolina, Vanderbilt recruits heavily (and successfully) in Georgia and the Atlanta area.
They competed last year in Florida for Diggs, a freshman spur who follows his father in playing for the Gamecocks. Diggs took a close look at Vanderbilt because of the academic opportunities combined with the chance to play in the SEC.
“I definitely liked what they had going on there, the fact that it was a program on the rise,” he said. “The vibe there was great. Overall it was a great staff. In the end my heart was with Carolina.”
Moody originally committed to the Commodores after a visit to Nashville in January. The following weekend he visited Columbia and changed his pledge to the Gamecocks.
USC defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward didn’t stop recruiting Moody, who called the week in between the two visits “crazy.”
“Coach Ward didn’t give up,” he recalled. “It was my first offer as a junior. I had to take my visit to see what it was like. I’m glad I came up here.”
Diggs is all but guaranteed to make the trip to Nashville as the Gamecocks’ backup spur. Moody, Elder and Fleetwood will have to wait to next week to know if they make the team’s travel roster.
“It would be nice to play in that game, only because of the history,” Moody said. “I hope we come out with the victory. That’s the main thing.”