National signing day is two months away, and South Carolina coaches are busy firming up commitments and targeting other prospects to help round out the 2015 recruiting class.
Here are five storylines to watch for the Gamecocks as Feb. 4 draws near.
1. The numbers
USC is on track to sign a historically large class. Currently at 28 members, the group could swell to 32 thanks to a large number of mid-year enrollees (see below). USC could still add a defensive lineman or two, an offensive lineman, a wide receiver or a linebacker.
If 32 is the final number, it would be the largest USC class since 2011 and the second time over 30 in the Steve Spurrier era.
The team would then be around 10 over the scholarship limit of 85 (just like with the 2014 class) and would need player attrition to even things out before the full class arrives in June.
2. Early birds
USC will have a record number of January enrollees. The school under Spurrier has not signed more than three high school prospects midyear, which gets players on campus in time for spring practice and helps USC to sign up to 25 in February.
High-schoolers Jalen Henry, Jaire Alexander, Sherrod Pittman, Jared Washington and Christian Owens all plan to be at USC in January. They will be joined by junior-college transfers Paris Palmer and Marquavius Lewis, as well as 2013 signees Dexter Wideman and Darin Smalls.
Palmer, a left tackle, and Lewis, a defensive end, figure to factor in for immediate playing time – perhaps even a starting role.
3. Holding on, part 1
Several of USC’s 28 commitments will spend a weekend – or several weekends – over the next two months taking official visits to other schools. That’s part of the process this time of year, as the Gamecocks will likely host recruits who are committed elsewhere.
Defensive ends Arden Key and Quandeski Whitlow, as well as defensive backs Mark Fields, Antoine Wilder, Damon Arnette, are among the USC pledges taking to take one or more official visits.
Palmer and Lewis have taken other visits already but are still expected to sign with the Gamecocks on Dec. 17 at the start of the junior college signing period.
4. Holding on, part 2
A subpar season is unlikely to have any impact on the 2015 class. Any changes to USC’s coaching staff, however, could alter the makeup of the group.
Key, for example, cites his relationship with defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward as a major key to his commitment to the Gamecocks. Fields has said the same thing about defensive backs coach Grady Brown.
If you like recruiting craziness leading up to signing day, staff changes would be the biggest catalyst of that. Any changes, Spurrier told The State’s Josh Kendall this week, might not come until after the bowl game or even after signing day in February.
5. Ranking the class
After climbing to a program-best No. 2 class ranking earlier this year, the Gamecocks are still holding steady in the Top 10.
Rivals has the group at No. 7, while the 247Sports Composite ranking puts USC at No. 8. (USC’s best recruiting finish was 2007 when the Gamecocks were ranked No. 4 by ESPN.)
USC could claim a final spot in the Top 10 with minimal or no loss of commitments as well as the addition of a few more to the haul. Under Spurrier, the Gamecocks on average have finished between 15 and 18 in the rankings.