UPDATE: Three more players joined the Gamecocks' 2015 class since we published this. Read about them here.
Finding a way to be OK with middling recruiting classes, by SEC standards, is something every South Carolina fan has had to find a way to come to terms with during the Steve Spurrier era. Even as the football team has reached and sustained unprecedented heights, the recruiting efforts have yet to match the on-field results.
For all of his charm and play-calling brilliance, one thing Gamecock fans have all but given up on is the hope that the Head Ball Coach would turn the program into a recruiting behemoth. Until 2015 ... maybe.
So far in the 2015 cycle, South Carolina has landed 15 commitments: 8 from four-star prospects, 7 from three-star prospects. That's been good enough to earn the Gamecocks a ranking of No. 6 in the 247 Sports Composite recruiting team rankings. But should South Carolina close out its 10-or-so remaining spots with a whimper, the Gamecocks could find themselves with yet another top-15ish class and no better.
At various points during the 2014 and 2013 cycles, the Gamecocks seemed poised, not unlike they do now, to assemble their first elite recruiting class since 2006. But NCAA sanctions -- South Carolina was limited to 22 signees in 2012, 2013, and 2014 -- and a handful of near misses (Drew Barker, Matt Rolin, etc.) have kept the Gamecocks from breaking through.
And while nothing is certain in recruiting and February is a long way away and blah blah blah, industry experts certainly seem to think that USC is in excellent position to close out the 2015 class with a bang.
|Player||Position Ranking||Crystal Ball|
|Damon Arnette||No. 62 CB (***)||16 of 16 for South Carolina|
|Marquavius Lewis||No. 1 JUCO SDE (****)||14 of 14 for South Carolina|
|Davon Durant||No. 1 JUCO ILB (****)||10 of 10 for South Carolina|
|Zack Bailey||No. 17 OG (****)||9 of 9 for South Carolina|
|A.J. Turner||No. 27 RB (***)||9 of 9 for South Carolina|
|Connor Redmond||No. 31 TE (***)||5 of 5 for South Carolina|
|Dante Sawyer||No. 1 JUCO WDE (****)||4 of 4 for South Carolina|
Recruiting analysts are projecting more than just the above-named players to sign with South Carolina, but five predictions in favor of the Gamecocks seemed like a reasonable floor to set. I made an exception for Dante Sawyer on account of his already having signed with South Carolina this spring.
Plugging all of these players into the Gamecocks' class using 247Sports' class calculator gives them a total of 22 commitments and moves them all the way up to No. 2 in the 2015 rankings. Of course, other schools will also be picking up commitments along the way, so comparing South Carolina's overall score to past classes would give a better idea of what to expect. Should the Gamecocks secure commitments from all seven of the players named above, it would give their 2015 composite score of 255.11. Regardless of the year, a score such as that makes a class all but a lock for a No. 12 or 13 final ranking.
If we assume that South Carolina will fill out its class with three players of the same caliber as its lowest-rated current commitment, three-star linebacker Jalen Henry, the boost would be small enough as to make no difference in the Gamecocks' final ranking. If, however, the final three commitments in the 2015 class are of a ranking at or above the average of South Carolina's current commitments -- basically, a three-star prospect right on the edge of being a four-star prospect -- the Gamecocks could find themselves contending for one of the top classes in the country.
Three more prospects such as the latter would give the Gamecocks' 2015 class a total rating of 298.88, which would push them to No. 1 as things currently stand. Going back from 2014 to 2011, such a haul would have yielded a ranking of No. 2, No. 3, No. 2, and No. 1, respectively.
It goes without saying that all of this excitement could turn to dust at a moment's notice. A few of the names above will probably make unexpected commitments to other teams. One or more currently committed players might even change his mind. A few more unexpected names will also undoubtedly show up on the radar. But for the time being, the Gamecocks appear to be on the brink of recruiting at a championship level, which is more than could be said of any class that has preceded it.