COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina signed a recruiting class heavy on defense and the in-state players that have helped the Gamecocks to their most successful seasons in history.
Coach Steve Spurrier targeted defensive players to replace stars like Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles, juniors on the defensive line who left early for the NFL. The Gamecocks signed four defensive linemen and four cornerbacks and Spurrier said some of them might be on the field before the year is over.
"There is some opportunities for these freshman to play," Spurrier said. "We'll let them earn it as they go.
It was a typical Spurrier recruiting class. Spurrier picked up nine players from South Carolina, including several of the state's prize recruits. He snatched defensive tackle Dexter Wideman, who was leaning toward Florida State and cornerback Chris Lammons, who was seriously considering Wisconsin. But they didn't crack the top 20 in the major rankings.
But most of Spurrier's classes have not been highly touted. But they have done unprecedented things on the field. The Gamecocks have gone 11-2 in each of the past three seasons. South Carolina only had one 10-win season when Spurrier took over in 2004.
"We don't make a lot of noise on signing day for some reason. But we've got a lot of good players," Spurrier said.
Whether South Carolina can find spots on the roster for all 21 signees is still up in the air. The team lost just five seniors and four juniors who left school early for the NFL draft. But Gamecocks recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. said he thinks academic problems and other shifts will help sort things out.
The Gamecocks signed nine players from South Carolina, many of whom decided to come to the school as a group. In-state players like Clowney, running back Marcus Lattimore, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and defensive back Stephon Gilmore have helped the Gamecocks rise to the top of the Southeastern Conference.
"Biggest difference in our program has been to keep those guys in state," Spurrier Jr. said.
National rankings (Rivals 22; Scout 30).
Best in class: Bryson Allen-Williams, lb, Ellenwood, Ga.
Best of the rest: Dante Sawyer, de, Suwanee, Ga.; Dexter Wideman, dt, Saluda, S.C.
Late addition: Lammons, Wideman.
One that got away: None.
NOTE: Biggest difference in Spurrier's 2014 class compared to his first classes at South Carolina is he tends to land all the players he wants. "All the papers we sent out came back with a signature on it. Hasn't always been that way," Spurrier said.