The difficulty of fulfilling Steve Spurrier’s goal of winning an SEC title at South Carolina was put in perspective Wednesday on National Signing Day.
The Gamecocks signed a 21-player class that was ranked No. 21 in the country in 247Sports’ composite rankings. That’s eighth-best among 14 SEC schools.
Defending national champion Alabama had the nation’s top class, while Florida was No. 3, Ole Miss was No. 6, LSU was No. 7 and Texas A&M was No. 10.
No. 11 Auburn and No. 12 Georgia also finished ahead of the Gamecocks.
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“We were watching that TV today, and we were saying, ‘Man I’m glad we’re in the Eastern instead of the Western side,’ ” of the conference, Spurrier said. Recruiting “is important, don’t get me wrong, but after they get there is most important.”
Ole Miss had the most surprising haul in the country. The Rebels have won four SEC games in the past three years but signed the nation’s No. 1 overall player in defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, whose brother plays on the team, and seven other players ranked in the top 10 at their position in the nation.
“They did an excellent job of their coaches getting out there and, as they say, developing relationships,” Spurrier said. “They got out and hustled and convinced players, you can win big at Ole Miss. Give Hugh Freeze and his staff credit for doing an excellent recruiting job this year.”
Thirty-two of the top 100 players in the country signed with SEC West schools on Wednesday, and all 14 SEC schools finished in the top 38 of the 247Sports’ composite rankings.
Far and wide
The Gamecocks signed two more players from Georgia (six) than from South Carolina (four).
“In our state this year the numbers weren’t as high as they’ve been in the past. When that happens, you move on to one of your next closest states,” recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. said.
The Gamecocks signed four players each from Florida and North Carolina.
Vickers on hold
Defensive end Kendal Vickers, a two-star prospect from North Carolina who committed to South Carolina in January, will not be part of this year’s recruiting class. The Gamecocks sent Vickers a piece of stationary to sign during a ceremony at his high school on Wednesday, but it was not a national letter of intent, Spurrier Jr. said.
“Just signed... I’m officially a #Gamecock!” Vickers tweeted at around 10 a.m. Wednesday.
It is unclear if Vickers will qualify academically, and he could be placed in a prep school or junior college by South Carolina and then join the Gamecocks in the 2014 season.
Most of South Carolina’s class had been committed for at least two weeks, but the Gamecocks got good news from two players Wednesday morning — linebackers Skai Moore and Jonathan Walton.
“I am especially proud of Jonathan Walton, a young man from the Mobile, Ala., area that withstood a strong school from Auburn to hang on with us,” Spurrier said. “I think he’s going to come in and help us at linebacker, possibly even this year.”
The state of South Carolina is expected to have a banner year in high school talent next year, and the Gamecocks have already extended 10 scholarship offers to prospects in the 2014 recruiting class, Spurrier Jr. said. The looming problem for South Carolina is they will have four seniors on the 2013 roster. Considering defensive end Jadeveon Clowney intends to leave after next season for the NFL, that makes five open scholarships for next season.
The Gamecocks will sign more than five players, but Spurrier Jr. does not know exactly how that will happen right now.
“Recruiting next year is going to get interesting,” he said.
This is the first year the Gamecocks had to work under NCAA sanctions from last year’s ruling the school gave inducements and extra benefits to athletes and recruits and failed to properly monitor those situations. The penalty was a loss of three initial scholarships in this year’s class, reducing the number from 25 to 22, and three initial scholarships in next year’s class.
Because of South Carolina’s overall numbers, the sanctions had little impact this year and “won’t affect us at all” next year, Spurrier Jr. said.