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Drop in star power for USC class

Steve Spurrier tried his best to keep the mood upbeat, but the South Carolina coach conceded that National Signing Day lacked some of last year’s star power and accompanying giddiness.

A year after pulling in a top-10 class that was the highest rated in school history, the Gamecocks signed a 22-player class Wednesday that more closely resembled Spurrier’s first two USC classes than the record-setting 2007 haul.

Spurrier and Gamecocks recruiting coordinator David Reaves both referred to the class as solid.

“We were probably laughing and giggling a lot more last year at this time, weren’t we, coach Reaves?” Spurrier said. “We’d won our last three, and we had the fourth- and sixth-rated (class) in the country. This year it’s probably around 25 or so, somewhere around there. It’s a good solid bunch.”

USC was ranked No. 22 by Rivals.com and 35th by Scout.com. The disparity likely stemmed from how the country’s two biggest recruiting sites viewed the Gamecocks’ four-star prospects.

Rivals awarded four stars to six USC recruits, including four who signed with the Gamecocks previously: Fork Union (Va.) Military defensive backs Akeem Auguste and Antonio Allen, Fork Union tailback Eric Baker and Georgia Military defensive lineman Jarriel King. Scout had the Gamecocks with four four-star prospects.

Nearly half of USC’s 31-player class a year ago received four stars or more from Rivals.

Besides costing the Gamecocks a bowl berth, Spurrier said a season-ending, five-game losing streak also cost USC some buzz on the recruiting trail.

“Some schools can do it year in and year out. I think losing your last five games doesn’t help you, though,” Spurrier said. “But we’re really proud of the guys that came and we’re proud of the guys we’ve got.”

Most of USC’s final-week recruiting battles ended the way the regular season had. But the Gamecocks enjoyed one signing day surprise when former Florida target Chaz Sutton, a defensive end from Savannah, picked USC.

The addition of Sutton, a four-star prospect who was dropped by the Gators because of academic concerns, pushed the Gamecocks into the top 25 in the Rivals poll. Offensive line coach John Hunt reconnected with Sutton after learning he was available, and the 6-foot-4, 236-pounder came to Columbia last weekend for an official visit.

“We think he’s got a chance to certainly qualify and really be a very good player for us,” Spurrier said. “He’s a good-looking athlete that can really run and make plays.”

Spurrier and several of his assistants called committed receiver D.L. Moore when the native of Bowling Green, Ky., considered joining a high school teammate at Colorado. Moore stuck with USC, becoming the only receiver to sign with the Gamecocks.

“With the No. 1 receiving class in the country last year, you’re not going to sign a lot of receivers,” Reaves said.

Reaves believes the Gamecocks filled needs by signing five defensive linemen and five defensive backs.

But USC failed to keep the pace set instate by Clemson, which signed six of the top 10 South Carolina prospects, according to The State’s ranking. Chester athlete C.C. Whitlock was the only top-10 prospect in the state to sign with the Gamecocks.

Spurrier said most of Clemson’s instate signees committed last summer.

“I don’t know if they grew up wanting to go to Clemson or what. We missed on a couple of the guys after the season was over,” he said. “I don’t think winning or losing the last game (vs. Clemson) mattered a whole bunch. Now losing all five of them may have mattered a little bit. But I think Clemson was going to get most of the guys they got regardless.”

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