National Signing Day 2014: South Carolina Gamecocks among Big Winners

Streeter Lecka

Gamecocks close strong in 2014 recruiting cycle.

When National Signing Day began, South Carolina had the 22nd-best class in the nation according to 247Sports. When it ended, the Gamecocks sported the fifteenth-best class. Behind only Southern Cal and Michigan St., Carolina's meteoric rise was good for the third-best such jump among classes that finished in the top 25. On a day when many of our rivals failed to close as well as they had hoped, this has to be considered a major success for Carolina.

Keying Carolina's success was a clean sweep on the targets we remained in contention for coming into the day while not losing any of our commitments to other schools. Those uncommitted prospects were Dexter Wideman, Wesley Green, and Chris Lammons. All three chose to sign for Carolina. This was what most recruiting experts expected to happen, although there was some uncertainty regarding whether Lammons might choose Wisconsin. When you look around the country, though, you see many examples of programs getting surprising bad news today. Considering that each of these three players was heavily recruited by big-time programs, it's no mean feat that we managed to close with all of them. There are no guarantees until the letter is signed. The Gamecocks also enjoyed a somewhat surprising commitment from DL Blake McClain, which ended up being the cherry on top of an excellent finish.

You certainly shouldn't let your friendly neighborhood Dawgs fan tell you that Mark Richt let Carolina win these battles.

Multiple positive storylines pop out at me for this year's recruiting cycle. First of all, Carolina continued its success in getting  top prospects from South Carolina to attend the state's flagship university. Carolina signed five of the state's top ten players according to 247Sports. Other than Poona Ford, whose recruitment could only be described as bizarre, the Gamecocks got the players they wanted, too. There has been much debate regarding the Gamecocks' coaches' reasons for not pursuing Christian Miller, Jacob Park, and Mason Rudolph, but the coaches didn't feel these players were good fits for the program. They signed the players they felt they needed. Given this staff's track record in recent years, I trust their judgment.

Wideman's commitment was particularly telling. Up until recently, Carolina fans had witnessed many years of the Gamecocks losing prospects of Wideman's caliber to programs like FSU. Now, though, the Gamecocks keep the players from South Carolina that they want at home, even when the national champs come calling.

Another story was Carolina's continued success in the Peach State. The Gamecocks went into Georgia and signed several bluechip prospects. They went toe-to-toe with with UGA for some of these recruits, too. You certainly shouldn't let your friendly neighborhood Dawgs fan tell you that Mark Richt let Carolina win these battles. The Dawgs rolled out the red carpet for Bryson Allen-Williams and Wesley Green, but that didn't stop Carolina from earning the services of these young men. Among things that prove the sea change that's occurred with USC football over the last four years, our new-found ability to beat UGA for Georgia prospects has to be high on the list.

This class is not only full of highly rated players but also fulfills several needs. Heading into 2014, the Gamecocks' most pressing needs are undoubtedly defensive end and cornerback. The Gamecocks brought in players who could help quickly at those positions, particularly in Wideman and Dante Sawyer at end and Green and Lammons at corner. My impression is that Sawyer and Green are the most mature players in this group and the most likely to press for early playing time, but each of our commits at these positions will get his chance given the wide open depth charts they face. I'm really looking forward to watching Green, who projects as an excellent pure corner and should be able eventually to fill the spot once held by Victor Hampton and Stephon Gilmore. Green isn't the only talented corner to sign in this class either; with five players coming in at the position, this year's class provides a lot of potential for future defenders of Carolina's DBU moniker.

Carolina also signed an excellent receiver class. While receiver isn't a position of need for next year, it likely will be the following year. Damiere Byrd and Nick Jones are entering their senior seasons, while Shaq Roland may consider foregoing his senior eligibility if he has a breakout season. Shaq Davidson headlines a group of incoming players at the position who can carry on the torch into 2015.

As usual, Carolina also recruited some solid prospects at the developmental positions along the interior. Carolina continues to manage to balance the need to build depth at those positions while still picking up enough highly rated prospects to finish highly in the rankings. Not every program in the recruiting top 25 manages to do that.

In short, this was an excellent day for the Gamecocks. Carolina is rightfully being recognized for its scintillating finish on National Signing Day. Fresh off a top-five finish in the national rankings and with another group of highly touted prospects in tow, the future has never looked brighter for South Carolina football.

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