USC Gamecocks Football

The greatest Gamecock class ever? 2007 signees set in motion peak of Spurrier era

South Carolina’s highest-rated recruits of modern era

These South Carolina Gamecocks were all considered 5-star recruits according to Rivals, including 2007 signee Chris Culliver.
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These South Carolina Gamecocks were all considered 5-star recruits according to Rivals, including 2007 signee Chris Culliver.

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The 2007 recruiting class was South Carolina’s highest-rated ever

Looking back at South Carolina’s 2007 signing class, rated as high as No. 4 in the country.

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Joe Hills is one of the leading wide receivers in the history of Arena Football League. Antonio Allen still lives in New York City, where a five-year NFL career ended in 2017, and is “trying to make my next dream come true.” Stephen Garcia is, of all things, coaching quarterbacks.

That’s now. Then, in 2007, before South Carolina’s football team had won an SEC East title or 11 games for three seasons in a row or much of anything really, they were part of the same club, a surprising amalgamation of high school talent that put the Gamecocks’ 2007 signing class into a realm it had never gone before and has not been back to since.

“We knew if we all came together, it would be one of the most special recruiting classes in South Carolina history,” said Jason Barnes, a wide receiver from Independence High School in Charlotte. “We kind of all had schools where we could’ve got to, like traditional schools, but South Carolina was kind of a school that didn’t have much winning history, so we would’ve been the first at a lot things.”

On Feb. 7 of that year, South Carolina signed 31 players, including the likes of Hills, Garcia and Allen and five-star receiver/cornerback Chris Culliver and three-star linebacker Melvin Ingram — in a recruiting class that ESPN ranked the fourth-best in the nation.

“Steve Spurrier proved he doesn’t need to be at Florida to land top talent, bringing one of the nation’s top classes to Columbia,” the website wrote. “Spurrier might have landed his quarterback of the future in long-haired gunslinger Stephen Garcia. The offense also received a boost at the other skill positions with one of the nation’s best big running backs in Brian Maddox and two solid receivers in hometown Mark Barnes and athletic Joe Hills. Offense might be Spurrier’s forte, but the defense also has benefited from this class, adding two ESPN 150 defensive ends in Cliff Matthews and Travian Robertson.”

Rivals rated the class No. 6 in the country. The Gamecocks haven’t been ranked higher than No. 14 in the nation in recruiting since.

“Obviously, it is rated the best, I guess maybe the best we have ever had here,” Spurrier said on that signing day. “It is sort of neat to see our name in there with Texas, Southern Cal, Florida and Notre Dame. A friend of mine said that he didn’t think he would ever see that name (South Carolina) with that group when it came to recruiting, but that’s where we are.”

Spurrier used the same recruiting pitch on all the players that year, Garcia said.

“You can go all these other place and be part of their history and that whole deal or you can come here and try to create your own history and tradition,” Garcia said. “That’s kind of what got everybody on board. At least, that’s what got me on board.”

Among other things, Spurrier credited the atmosphere in Williams-Brice Stadium during 2006 home games against Auburn, Tennessee and Florida for the success of that 2007 class. The Gamecocks lost all three of those games but recruits in attendance were impressed by the crowd, Spurrier said. South Carolina also closed that season with three straight wins.

“Beating Clemson, if you guys remember, I said right after the game that this is the breakthrough game that may change Carolina football forever. Since that game, good things have happened to us,” Spurrier said. “We were able to get the bowl bid, win that game somehow and get some momentum going into the recruiting season. So, that game was very helpful and I hope we can look back and again say that was the breakthrough game that maybe changed Carolina football forever.”

The Gamecocks were 40-25 in the next five seasons, which was their best five-year stretch in history at the time.

“I definitely felt we made some noise,” defensive end Cliff Matthews said. “Within the four-five years we were there, we pretty much set up a foundation for the guys after us. That’s something we’re proud of.”

The State’s Andrew Ramspacher and Ben Breiner contributed.

8/5/07 - Columbia, S.C., University of South Carolina, wide receiver, Chris Culliver (cq), 7, a freshman from Garner, N.C., left, and wide receiver, Jason Barnes (cq), 4, a freshman from Charlotte, N.C., right, pose for a portrait during media day, Sunday, August 5, 2007. (Brett Flashnick/Special to The State) Brett Flashnick Special to The State

Class of 2007 at a glance

Receiver rich. Rivals ranked USC’s receiver class as the nation’s best, and they were in line to contribute right away with Sidney Rice’s departure for the NFL. Chris Culliver was considered a receiver in most recruiting circles but played cornerback for the Gamecocks. The group also included four-stars Mark Barnes of Richland Northeast, Jason Barnes of Charlotte, Joseph Hills of Palmetto, Fla., and Dion Lecorn of Ocala, Fla.

Hometown heroes. Two of the highest-rated members of the class were from the Columbia area. In addition to Barnes from RNE, the Gamecocks signed Spring Valley offensive lineman Quintin Richardson. Both players would eventually transfer.

Low stars, no worries. Two-star fullback Patrick DiMarco was the lowest-rated player in the class but went on to a productive college career and is still in the NFL.

Five star signing. Culliver was the Gamecocks’ first five-star signee since Lexington High running back Demetris Summers (Class of 2003). Marcus Lattimore (2010) would be the next five-star for USC.

Mighty Melvin. Ingram was ranked by Rivals as tied for the 8th-best player in the class but has had the most NFL success. He was drafted 18th overall by the San Diego Chargers in the 2012 draft. He signed a four-year $66 million deal with the Chargers in summer 2017 and has two Pro Bowl appearances.

Face of the class. Stephen Garcia, from Tampa, Florida, was the most touted quarterback signee of the Spurrier era. He finished third in school history in career passing yards with 7,597 but couldn’t complete his eligibility after a string of suspensions led to his eventual dismissal.

Former USC quarterback Stephen Garcia is surprised he is coaching future quarterbacks.

South Carolina class rank through the years

Rivals has ranked recruiting classes since 2002. Here is where the South Carolina football signing groups landed in each year of those rankings. The Gamecocks have finished inside the Top 10 for team rankings twice: in 2003 and 2007.


Class rank: 11

▪ Top signees: LB Ricardo Hurley, RT Randy Jackson, LB Darel Slay, WR Troy Williamson


▪ Class rank: 8

▪ Top signees: RB Demetris Summers, QB Syvelle Newton, QB Blake Mitchell, RB Cory Boyd


▪ Class rank: 35

▪ Top signees: DB Johnathan Joseph, WR Sidney Rice, DB C.J. Barber, DL Marque Hall


▪ Class rank: 23

▪ Top signees: WR O.J. Murdock, WR Kenny McKinley, TE Jared Cook, PK Ryan Succop


▪ Class rank: 24

▪ Top signees: QB Chris Smelley, DL Eric Norwood, WR Moe Brown, the Brinkley brothers


▪ Class rank: 6

▪ Top signees: WR-DB Chris Culliver, QB Stephen Garcia, DL Cliff Matthews, LB Melvin Ingram


▪ Class rank: 22

▪ Top signees: DB C.C. Whitlock, LB Shaq Wilson, RB Kenny Miles, DL Devin Taylor


▪ Class rank: 12

▪ Top signees: DB Stephon Gilmore, RB Jarvis Giles, WR Alshon Jeffery, DB D.J. Swearinger


▪ Class rank: 24

▪ Top signees: RB Marcus Lattimore, WR Ace Sanders, QB Connor Shaw, OL A.J. Cann


▪ Class rank: 18

▪ Top signees: DL Jadeveon Clowney, DR Kelcy Quarles, OL Brandon Shell, WR Damiere Byrd


▪ Class rank: 19

▪ Top signees: WR Shaq Roland, RB Mike Davis, TE Jerell Adams, DL Darius English


▪ Class rank: 16

▪ Top signees: LB Laren Bryant, QB Connor Mitch, LB Skai Moore, WR Pharoh Cooper


▪ Class rank: 16

▪ Top signees: LB Bryson Allen-Williams, DL Dante Sawyer, TE K.C. Crosby, WR Deebo Samuel


▪ Class rank: 19

▪ Top signees: DL Marquavius Lewis, OL Zack Bailey, QB Lorenzo Nunez, DL Shameik Blackshear


▪ Class rank: 26

▪ Top signees: QB Jake Bentley, WR Bryan Edwards, DB Jamarcus King, LB T.J. Brunson


▪ Class rank: 16

▪ Top signees: DB Jamyest Williams, WR OrTre Smith, WR Shi Smith, DL Aaron Sterling


▪ Class rank: 18

▪ Top signees: DL Rick Sandidge, OL Dylan Wonnum, QB Dakereon Joyner, DB Jaycee Horn


▪ Class rank: 19

▪ Top signees: DL Zacch Pickens, QB Ryan Hilinski, DL Joseph Anderson, DB Cam Smith

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Josh Kendall has covered SEC football for almost 20 years. He has covered the Gamecocks since the 2010 season. Have a question? Shoot him an email or find him on Twitter, and he’ll be happy to respond.