While the losses of Thomas Finnie and Brandon Golson certainly didn't help South Carolina's recruiting class, it should help make the math a little easier down the stretch.
Since the commitments started to roll in late last fall, the Gamecocks have known they could struggle to make the numbers work. The NCAA only allows schools to sign 28 players between Feb. 2 and May 1, and only 25 newcomers can eventually go on scholarship for the first time next August.
When McEachern (Ga.) linebacker Marquis Roberts and tight end Rory Anderson picked the Gamecocks Wednesday, it gave USC 28 commitments. Four of them – Kelcy Quarles, Brison Williams, Kaleb Broome and Martay Mattox – have already enrolled in classes.
Since USC had only 19 initial counters in August 2010, all four of the early enrollees will count toward last year's total and not toward the 25-man limit next August.
Since USC essentially has only 24 commitments – not counting the early enrollees – the Gamecocks have gained more freedom to take commitments down the stretch.
That means USC could add four more players to its recruiting class in the next two weeks and fit under the 28-man signing limit. It is believed USC has 11 prospects remaining on its recruiting board. The Gamecocks will certainly save a spot beyond signing day for Jadeveon Clowney, who said this week he'll wait until mid-February to make his decision.
In other words, the math is still complicated – especially if a number of players commit. If USC is really pushing the limits, the school could ask some players to greyshirt. The Gamecocks could also see one of their committed players jump ship down the stretch.
If USC signs 28 players, it will still have to figure out how to get within the 25-man limit next August. A player or two may not qualify academically, and greyshirting becomes an attractive option, especially if USC knows a player won’t look elsewhere.
A greyshirt puts off their full-time enrollment at a school until the next January. That would allow USC to count them toward the 25-man signing limit in August 2012.
History shows that no factor in recruiting matters more than location. The vast majority of prospects want to stay relatively close to their hometowns to play college athletics.
A 2009 study by Sports Illustrated writer Andy Staples showed that football programs that sign more than 50 percent of their players from high schools within 200 miles of their campuses have a much greater chance of winning. Seven schools made that list: Texas, Southern California, Georgia, Florida, Ohio State, Virginia Tech and LSU.
All of those schools are located in states that are traditionally among the richest in total talent. That’s the reason South Carolina heavily recruits Georgia and Florida. The Gamecocks also focus on North Carolina and dip into the other southern states when it makes realistic sense – in other words, if they have a legitimate shot to land a player via a pre-existing relationship or another factor.
There is certainly a lot of competition for prospects in the South, with northern programs annually trying to steal away players for themselves. It’s much rarer that you see southern programs looking north for players.
But USC has used some ties to potentially create a pipeline from New Jersey to Columbia. Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus was the head coach for four seasons at Division III Delaware College in Doylestown, Penn., a Philadelphia suburb located close to the New Jersey state line.
Mangus’ friendship with Timber Creek (N.J.) coach Rob Hinson helped the Gamecocks land speedster Damiere Byrd. Mangus also has USC in position to possibly land St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.) safety Sheldon Royster and Bergen Catholic (N.J.) quarterback Tanner McEvoy.
Although there is tons of competition in the region, it’s not a bad use of Mangus’ time to try and nab a player or two from the Garden State on an annual or biannual basis. While it’s considered more of a basketball state, New Jersey has 30 players in the Class of 2011 rated three-star prospects or better by Rivals. South Carolina has only 10 more.
It’s obvious from talking to northern prospects that the SEC has developed an almost mystical characteristic during its current national championship run. Many of them want to play football at a place where it won’t play second-fiddle to basketball as it does for many Mid-Atlantic schools. Considering its proximity to I-95, USC is the closest SEC school for them.
Among the best
Several players committed to or considering South Carolina were named in the Mobile Press-Register’s rankings of the top-120 senior prospects in the Southeast earlier this week.
It was no surprise to see South Pointe’s Jadeveon Clowney as the paper’s top-ranked player. It was just another award for the accomplished defensive end, who may be one of the most decorated prep players in history. Among his litany of awards, Clowney has already been named USA Today’s National Defensive Player of the Year and South Carolina’s Mr. Football.
Goose Creek offensive lineman Brandon Shell was ranked 26th on the list. The USC commitment was the fourth-ranked offensive linemen in the rankings, which includes players from South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Kentucky.
USC target Jacoby Brissett, a quarterback from Dwyer (Fla.), is 50th and target Phillip Dukes, a defensive tackle from Manning, is ranked 74th. USC commitment Shon Carson, a tailback from Lake City, is listed at No. 112.
Dorman receiver Charone Peake (31st), Marlboro County linebacker Lateek Townsend (71st), Wren offensive lineman Shaq Anthony (91st) and Mann safety Pat Martin (115th) were the other Palmetto State players listed.