Count Steve Spurrier Jr. as a little surprised at how quickly South Carolina’s 2015 recruiting class filled up.
But there’s little wonder in why the Gamecocks are having so much success building the current class, according to USC’s recruiting coordinator.
“If you look at what our program has done, what we’ve done academically, keeping players out of trouble, this is a good place to be a football player,” Spurrier Jr. said.
Spurrier points to three-straight 11-2 seasons, an 18-game home winning streak and success in the classroom as key drivers behind the Gamecocks having 28 commitments for 2015 – the most in the nation – before the 2014 season kicks off.
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Fifteen to 18 pledges at this time of year has been the norm in recent years. Last year USC had 12 by August for what coaches knew would be a smaller class.
“Every year is a little different,” Spurrier said. “This many at this time of year is unprecedented. We’ve got a good program. We can make a little more noise out of state.”
The Gamecocks’ in-progress haul includes three high school seniors from South Carolina, and two others in junior college are from the Palmetto State. The remaining 23 are from across the country, including Missouri, Louisiana, Maryland, Alabama and Virginia, in addition to more familiar recruiting ground of Florida, Georgia and North Carolina.
It all adds up to the No. 2 class in the nation, according to the latest team rankings from Rivals and Scout.
While Alabama has a firm grip on the No. 1 spot, USC is up there ahead of traditional recruiting powers LSU, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Auburn.
“We finished No. 4 in the country last year. We ought to recruit that way,” Spurrier said. “We expect that. There are a lot of great schools in this conference and we expect to be in the top 10, top 5. When we recruit a kid, he better be offered by Georgia, Florida, Tennessee. If we want to compete with those guys, we’ve got to recruit with those guys.”
USC is No. 4 in the 247Sports Composite Top 25, which factors in all major networks. The Gamecocks were No. 3 in that same ranking this time a year ago, as the class was off to a quick start with such highly regarded prospects as Bluffton defensive end Shameik Blackshear and Jacksonville (Fla.) linebacker Sherrod Pittman.
The Gamecocks had six pledges for 2015 by July 31, 2013. Two of those then-rising-juniors decommitted, but one – defensive end Arden Key – eventually returned to the fold.
While building a smaller 2014 class, coaches invested plenty of energy looking two years ahead for this larger 2015 group.
“We spent a lot of time two years ago identifying this class,” Spurrier said. “We spent most of our time on this class. We spent a lot of time on these guys evaluating them and recruiting the heck of them. It’s coming together pretty nicely.”
The Gamecocks are not done, either, with room for at least two to three more in the class. While SEC teams can only bring in 25 new players on scholarship next summer, coaches will make the math work through a half-dozen or so mid-year enrollees who would count toward the 2014-15 academic year. The team also returns to 85 available scholarships after NCAA sanctions limited USC to 82 the last few years.
Coaches can promote new dorms as well as the construction of an indoor practice facility, but it’s the success on and off the field that is making the biggest impression on prospects and their families, Spurrier said.
The Dodie Anderson Academic Enrichment Center remains a key stop and selling point during recruits’ campus visits. In the classroom, USC has led the SEC fall academic honor roll for eight years. USC’s athletes also have combined for a 3.0 GPA or higher for 15th-straight spring semesters.
“It’s a good place to be,” Spurrier said. “We’ve got a lot to sell here. It’s a heck of a program and people want to be a part of it. This is as good a class right now as I could imagine having.”