SB Nation recruiting expert Bud Elliott was kind enough to answer some of my questions about South Carolina recruiting. Here is our Q&A, with questions in bold. Our thanks to Bud for taking the time to chat with us.
1. South Carolina has made strides in recruiting lately. What's their key to success in your view? Increased success on the field, better facilities, Spurrier, his staff hires, all of the above? What is South Carolina doing right? Anything it could do better?
I think there have been several keys.
Winning has been the biggest. No, South Carolina has not won a conference championship, but it has won a division title. Recruits want to be part of a winner. And it has also started winning games much more consistently against Clemson, and is no longer considered the clear No. 2 in the state.
Facilities certainly help, and winning attracts kids on campus more to see them. Many don't realize how big South Carolina's stadium really is. But once kids see that the Gamecocks are winning, and get on campus, they get to experience one of the more underrated environments in college football.
And I think Spurrier and staff stability also play a role, no doubt.
2. Related question: What happens when Spurrier inevitably retires? What does South Carolina have to do to make sure it maintains its current level of success?
I don't know the answer to that. South Carolina has plenty of money to afford a top coach, and I generally believe that a coach should not be promoted from within if the sole reason is to keep a recruiting class together. I'm sure South Carolina's AD has a short list.
3. Obviously, Spurrier has gotten lots of accolades for keeping players like Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney in state. However, another key to our success has been that we seem to be getting a lot out of three-star guys like D.J. Swearinger. I'm curious to know why you think this is the case. Is South Carolina good at developing such players, or were they great prospects all along who the recruiting services misevaluated? Maybe it's that our staff has a good eye for diamonds in the rough?
South Carolina fights hard to land the top players in the state, of course, but you raise a good point about making sure the lesser-known recruits count. I recently wrote this for SB Nation:
has recruited well under Steve Spurrier, but not quite at the level of SEC East rivals Georgia and Florida. What the Gamecocks have done better than Georgia, perhaps, is focus on players who fit South Carolina's system and develop them. With ESPN's College GameDay in town, many top recruits in attendance, and the national spotlight on Columbia, the Gamecocks delivered in a big way. A physical whipping of Georgia such as this may turn heads of a few kids for whom the Gamecocks were not previously in good position. It's basically the opposite of what Tennessee did three weeks ago when College GameDay came to Knoxville and Florida drained Volunteer Stadium.
I don't know that some services missed in their evaluations of players. It may be that they just fit what South Carolina does and not some other places. Instead of bashing the services, I would give credit to South Carolina's staff for understanding the traits a player needs to succeed in its system.
4. Let's talk current prospects South Carolina is after. One name that has emerged recently is Keith Bryant, a South Florida DT prospect. He's currently committed to Miami but is reportedly wavering and considering Carolina. Why is he wavering, and where does South Carolina come in? What other schools are in the mix and where do they stand compared to Carolina? How good do you think he is?
Bryant likes Miami and committed there early. However, I am told that his family members are very intent on having him consider all of his options before signing day. He took in South Carolina's big win over Georgia, got to experience one of the best environments in a long time, and had a great time. I know that Florida State is still looking at Bryant, and I wouldn't be surprised to see other SEC schools jump in. Will he end up at Miami? It's tough to tell. There are a lot of questions that must be answered about Miami (sanctions, direction of the program, etc.)
I think he is a solid four-star type who could be a multi-year starter for an upper-level SEC team like South Carolina, provided he keeps developing.
5. What about Philly RB David Williams? He reportedly favored Penn St. early in the process, but is understandably wary of that situation now. What are Carolina's chances with him, and what do you think about him as a prospect.
Williams is an interesting recruit. His running style reminds me some of Darren McFadden (tall, game breaking speed, good power despite running upright). He checked out South Carolina this summer and the Gamecocks are expected to get an official visit sometime later this year. He is also interested on Ohio State, Tennessee and Arizona State. I'm not sure if Ohio State or Tennessee will have room. He is a high priority for South Carolina and I believe the Gamecocks lead.
6. Lastly, Na'Ty Rodgers is a highly rated offensive tackle who has gone on record stating that he heavily favors Carolina. Any chance that changes, and what do you think about this player?
This is another kid who South Carolina smartly got in to see the beatdown of Georgia. I think he ends up in the class and is someone that some of the other services need to move to a four-star rating. He's a tough player who needs coaching but who has a lot of potential.
Thanks for asking me to talk South Carolina recruiting!