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National Signing Day will have a familiar feel across the Palmetto State on Wednesday, minus the drama.
Clemson will sign more instate prospects for the seventh time in eight years. South Carolina for the fourth-straight year will sign the state’s top player.
Which accomplishment matters more could be debated for weeks in offices and on Internet message boards. The answer depends on one’s perspective, recruiting experts say.
“It’s hard to say who wins the instate battle,” said Jim Baxter, publisher of SCVarsity.com. “If they were both going after the same players, you could really judge it that way, but they’re not. The players that are really high on Clemson’s board may not be as high on South Carolina’s board, and vice versa.”
This year, 12 of the 15 instate high-school players committed to either school had offers to both. An analysis of their decisions showed a handful had USC and Clemson among their final choices. No athlete publicly expressed facing a tough decision.
Players who grow up instate usually have strong opinions about the Gamecocks or Tigers by the time they reach high school, USC head coach Steve Spurrier said before the rivalry game in November. Those feelings are hard to change, he said.
A year ago, the schools went head-to-head twice on national television.
South Pointe defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had the state’s and country’s attention when he picked the Gamecocks over Clemson and Alabama on Valentine’s Day. A few weeks earlier at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Marlboro County linebacker Lateek Townsend surprised some when he picked the Tigers over USC.
South Carolina and Clemson will both sign top 20 recruiting classes Wednesday without any such fireworks.
Clemson has 11 instate commitments to the Gamecocks’ four, the largest difference of the past decade. USC has a fifth commitment with instate ties in Scott’s Branch tight end Jerell Adams, a 2011 signee who spent the last few months at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia.
The Gamecocks again will sign the state’s top player – Lexington High wide receiver Shaq Roland.
“The most important thing is, once again, that South Carolina got the No. 1 player in the state,” said Barton Simmons, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “That’s really been key, getting the elite players in the state.”
Roland is rated a five-star prospect by Scout. He earned four stars in all other recruiting rankings. He follows Clowney (class of 2011), Marcus Lattimore (2010) and Stephon Gilmore (2009) as Mr. Football winners to choose the Gamecocks.
“This is a year to lose the state if you’re going to lose it,” said Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst for Rivals. “I’d say it’s pretty even between the two. Clemson’s got more guys instate, but I don’t see a lot of difference-makers there in the state. Shaq Roland is that one difference-maker.”
The Gamecocks and Tigers recruited well out of state for this class.
South Carolina is poised to have 12 signees from Georgia. Clemson, which usually brings in a few players from the Peach State, boasts none this cycle.
Both schools joined Florida and Georgia in raiding the top talent in North Carolina. USC and Clemson collectively will sign athletes from Florida, Arkansas, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The Gamecocks have a head start on instate talent for the class of 2013, with Dillon offensive lineman D.J. Park pledging to USC in January. Next year’s signing day, however, is 370 days away.
“At the end of the day, both these schools are going to do well instate. I think it’s pretty much a draw,” said Jamie Newberg, Southeastern recruiting analyst for ESPN. “Clemson gets more kids instate in terms of numbers, whereas South Carolina does a little bit better in Georgia. Both do pretty well in North Carolina. It all evens out.”