South Carolina's 2006-07 class was one of the most heralded in the program's history. Ranked in the top 10 by the major services, including a number four ranking from ESPN, this was the class that was supposed to be the difference maker for us. We had just come off two seasons that exceeded expectations, and Steve Spurrier seemed to have a lot of momentum going. The rest, of course, is history; despite enjoying increased talent on the roster, we've generally failed to achieve expectations since then, although we haven't exactly completely fallen off, either. What have the players of the 2006-07 class had to do with our fortunes over those three years? The perception, I think, is that it's failed to live up to its billing. Is that true? Let's take a look at what they have done and / or where they are now.
Ladi Ajiboye DT 4* (star rankings are from Rivals.com)
Ajiboye has generally lived up to expectations. He's been a solid contributor for us on the defensive line.
Antonio Allen DB 3*
After spending some time at Fork Union, Allen has carved out a place for himself on the Gamecocks' roster. He saw some playing time last year and projects to see a bit more this season.
Akeem Auguste DB 4*
Auguste has been a solid contributor from the beginning, and will continue to be a cornerstone of our defense this coming season.
Eric Baker RB 3*
In 2008, Baker looked as if he might be the tailback of the future for us. However, since then, injuries and a crowded backfield have pushed Baker aside. There's been some talk of trying to get him on the field as a slot receiver, but I doubt that materializes given the other options we have at the position.
Jason Barnes WR 4*
At the time, most services believed that Mark Barnes and Joe Hills were the two best WRs in this receiver-deep class. However, Jason Barnes has turned out to be the best producer of the group. He's been lost a bit behind Tori Gurley and Alshon Jeffrey, but we can expect to see him continue to be an important player over the next two years.
Mark Barnes ATH 4*
Projected as a future star in Columbia, Barnes never managed to live up to his billing, partially due to injury. He's no longer with the team.
Michael Bowman WR 3*
Bowman actually ended up going to East Carolina after signing with us. He's had a successful career there thus far.
Matt Clements WR 3*
Clements is no longer with the team after leaving this past winter. He got some playing time occasionally, but never managed to carve out a place in the rotation.
Chris Culliver WR / DB 5*
Culliver, one of the top gets of this class, was recruited to play WR, but has carved out his place on the team at safety. He's been a solid contributor there and is also a good kickoff returner. He will be in place to compete for All-SEC honors this year.
Patrick DiMarco RB 2*
Dimarco has turned out to be a solid contributor for the Gamecocks at the fullback position. There's been talk of him lining up at TE some this year to take advantage of his receiving abilities. One of the steals of the class.
Larry Freeman WR 3*
No longer with the team.
Stephen Garcia QB 4*
Everyone knows the story here: Garcia was supposed to be the quarterback of the future for Spurrier. It's been a long time coming, but I guess you could say those predictions have come true.
Clifton Geathers DE 4*
Geathers never quite lived up to his promise, but he had a solid career here and has now moved onto the NFL.
Joe Hills WR 4*
No longer with the team. Hills was projected to be a star, but, although he showed promise at times, that never materialized. He left last August after being upset at being moved to safety.
Melvin Ingram DT 4*
Ingram has turned out to be a decent player and projects to have a major role on the defense line this season.
Dion LeCorn WR 4*
Late in 2007, LeCorn looked like he would be the star receiver of this class. Injuries, though, have hampered him for much of his career since then. Hopefully he'll play more of a role this year, because he has quite a bit of talent.
Brian Maddox RB 4*
Maddox finally began getting significant playing time last season. How much he'll see this season is a little uncertain. With Kenny Miles, Marcus Lattimore, and Jarvis Giles all looking for playing time, Maddox may find getting carries at TB difficult. There's been some talk of moving him to fullback, which would, not uncoincidentally, probably give him a good shot at making the NFL.
Cliff Matthews DE 4*
Matthews has undeniably been a star. No questions here.
Byron McKnight TE 3*
McKnight has been moved to DE and is still with the team, but he's never managed to get much playing time.
Donte'e Nicholls DT 3*
No longer with the team.
Kyle Nunn OL 3*
Nunn has been a solid contributor on the offense line. He projects to compete for plenty of playing time this year at left tackle.
Sam Pope DB 3*
Never ended up playing for us after transferring from JUCO. Had a good career playing for Hampton.
Quinton Richardson OL 4*
Solid contributor on the offensive line.
Travian Robertson DT 4*
Robertson looked like he was going to have a breakout season last year before he hurt his knee. Hopefully he'll be back this year and ready to contribute.
Weslye Saunders TE 4*
Saunders has been a major contributor since day one and is one of the country's best TEs.
Arkee Smith DB 3*
No longer with the team. Now plays for Bethune-Cookman.
Addison Williams DB 3*
After being thrown to the wolves late in the 2007 season, Williams has gotten playing time on and off throughout his career. While he has shown some promise at times, he's largely been a liability and has been passed on the depth chart by other players.
Jamire Williams DB 3*
Left the team after the 2008 season.
Jonathan Williams DT 3*
Was a solid contributor out of JUCO.
Here's what jumps out at me here:
- 9 of 29 players are no longer with the team. It would be interesting to see how that percentage compares to that of other teams with good classes. I may take a look at this in the coming weeks. It's worth noting that most of the departed players, other than Joe Hills and Mark Barnes, were never projected to be huge stars.
- The great receiving corps that was supposed to come out of this class never materialized, with some of the really highly recruited guys not even with the team any longer. Jason Barnes is the only guy that has been a consistent contributor, and he along with Dion LeCorn are the only two that will see significant playing time this year. That hasn't exactly hurt us, though, as Kenny McKinley held down the position while he was here and Tori Gurley and Alshon Jeffery emerged as playmakers last year.
- Although he redeemed himself last year ans still has a couple of years, it's still hard not to call Garcia's tenure a disappointment due to the disciplinary issues. I still maintain that we could have won 9 or 10 games in 2008 if Garcia had been more ready to go. Other than at QB, that was probably our most talented team here. We had one of the nation's best defenses and McKinley was still here to make plays on offense. Garcia's suspensions really hurt us. Like I said, though, he has the chance to do big things this year, as I think the talent for 2010 again approaches 2007-2008 levels.
- Other than that, this class has been great. Several of the defensive prospects have turned out well.