With National Signing Day 10 days away, South Carolina is putting the finishing touches on its 2013 recruiting class.
Here are five story lines for the Gamecocks as this recruiting cycle comes to a close.
1. THE FINAL PUSH
The Gamecocks are involved in the recruitment of at least six players, all on defense.
The primary focus is at linebacker, a spot that featured four seniors this past season. It was a position of need that was exacerbated by a knee injury to redshirt sophomore Cedrick Cooper and the decommitment of Virginia linebacker Matt Rolin.
USC could take as many as two more linebackers and is still pursuing Skai Moore (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) of Fort Lauderdale; Yannick Ngakoue (6-3, 240) of Washington, D.C.; Jonathan Walton (6-1, 228) of Mobile, Ala.; and Tyrell Lyons (6-2, 220) of Jacksonville, Fla. The first three took official visits last weekend, with Moore declaring South Carolina as his favorite. Lyons, a Florida State commitment, planned to take an official visit to USC this weekend.
The Gamecocks could add two more defensive tackles. Deadrin Senat (6-1, 311) of Immokalee, Fla., visited last weekend and reportedly was close to committing.
Former Miami commitment Keith Bryant (6-2, 306) is the bigger prize, and is visiting Columbia this weekend.
2. JANUARY JOLT
South Carolina is on its way to finishing strong with the addition of two four-star prospects.
Philadelphia running back David Williams (6-1, 192) made the call for the Gamecocks during the Semper-Fidelis All-American Bowl in Carson, Calif. He also considered Arizona State, Penn State, Ohio State and Miami.
Last week, offensive lineman Na’Ty Rodgers of Pomfret, Md., made a long-awaited verbal pledge to USC, picking the Gamecocks over Maryland. Rodgers (6-4, 285) was expected to announce his choice three weeks earlier at the Under Armour All-American Game.
3. CLASS ECONOMICS
South Carolina is at 20 commitments, with three to four more pledges likely.
The Gamecocks should finish in the top 25 of the recruiting rankings, something they’ve done in each of Steve Spurrier’s nine classes. They’re currently No. 17 in the 247Sports Composite top 25, which tabulates the various rankings.
Williams joins three other players as consensus four-star prospects in USC’s class: linebacker Larenz Bryant (Charlotte); defensive tackle Kelsey Griffin (Hoschton, Ga.); and offensive lineman D.J. Park (Dillon).
Griffin is the highest rated, but quarterback Connor Mitch of Raleigh might be No. 1 in fans’ minds. He is USC’s first quarterback with four stars from Rivals since Stephen Garcia (2007). He chose USC over LSU and had offers from Alabama, Florida and others.
Mitch and Park enrolled early, along with cornerback Ronnie Martin. They are taking classes in Columbia and will be a part of spring practice.
4. RISE UP
Few players in this class had as productive and versatile of a senior season as Havelock, N.C., athlete Pharoh Cooper.
Cooper (5-11, 190) primarily played quarterback as he led Havelock High to a Class 3A state title in North Carolina. He finished with 2,948 passing yards and 26 touchdowns, and also ran for 1,283 yards and 20 scores. He played quarterback, receiver and punt returner and was named Shrine Bowl MVP with 243 total yards and a touchdown.
To top it off, Rivals rewarded Cooper with a fourth star in the final player rankings. He had a final grade of 89 from 247Sports, which equates to a high three-star rating, up from his original mid-three star grade.
Cooper is expected to play defensive back at South Carolina.
5. WALK THE LINE
When the ink dries Feb. 6 on the National Letters of Intent, USC’s five-member offensive line haul could be the strength of this class.
ESPN considers Rodgers, Park, J.P. Vonashek of Kingsland, Ga., and Alan Knott of Tyrone, Ga., as all four-star prospects and among the top offensive tackles in this class. Bryce King of Dillon is a high-three-star talent and the seventh-best center prospect in the country, according to 247Sports.
Two finished inside the final Rivals250 rankings: Rodgers (181) and Park (220).
All come from winning programs. Their four high school teams combined for a 48-5 record in 2012 to go with two state titles.