Despite public protestations that Auburn had pulled even with South Carolina, the behind-the-scenes buzz continued to be that Shaq Davidson would be committing to the Gamecocks on Tuesday afternoon. So confident were the recruiting experts and pundits of this eventuality that 21 out of 21 projected Davidson to South Carolina via 247Sports' Crystal Ball. And, in this case, the hive mind proved to be correct, as Davidson put on the Gamecock hat just after 6 PM on Tuesday (without subsequently throwing it to the ground) and became the ninth commitment in South Carolina's 2014 recruiting class.
This is how Davidson stacks up according to 247Sports' Composite Index:
4 stars, #83 overall prospect
#9 wide receiver
#3 prospect in South Carolina
At 6'0", 170 lbs., Davidson doesn't have quite the big-bodied frame we've seen from previous Gaffney products like Sidney Rice, Kwinton Smith, and - sigh - Quinshad Davis, but still projects to occupy an outside receiver position when he gets to Columbia next summer. In 2012, Shaq mostly played quarterback for Gaffney, but his 2011 highlights show a receiver who had great elusiveness and change of direction if not elite straight-line speed. The majority of Shaq's touches seem to come on screens, and the Gaffney coaching staff is more than OK with the damage that he is able to do with the ball in his hands after the catch.
With Davidson's commitment, South Carolina moves up six spots to #31 in 247Sports' Composite Team Recruiting Rankings, and the Gamecocks are third among schools that have 9 or fewer players committed for 2014.
Who's left on the board at wide receiver?
In an ideal world, Braxton Berrios and Terry Googer would round out South Carolina's 2014 wide receiver class, but the intentions of those two prospects and the size limitations on this class could derail those plans. Though their composite ratings are almost identical, Berrios got an invite to The Opening and has been turning a lot of heads out in Oregon this week. The coaching staff has been telling Berrios that they'd like to use him in a similar way to that in which they used Ace Sanders, a player to whom Braxton is comparable in terms of size, speed, and agility. Based on the differentiated skill set that that he would bring to a wide receiver corps that is almost exclusively of the lanky, 6'1"-6'3" variety these days, I would slightly prefer Berrios to Googer at this point.
But most think Kentucky is Berrios' probable destination, and with the rate at which Mark Stoops is reeling in Yahtzee!s for Kentucky right now, I don't blame them. Honestly, it horrifies me to think of what Mark Stoops could convince me to do were I to somehow end up locked in a room with him.
So that leaves Terry Googer and Blake Bone as the remaining targets we could most likely turn into commitments. If it comes down to those two, I think the Gamecocks are in solid shape with Googer and would wrap up their wide receiver recruitment with a commitment from the Atlanta native.
What's left for the recruiting class as a whole?
While roster attrition often comes in sudden and unexpected ways, it currently appears as though South Carolina will only be able to take 15 players in this class (i.e., 6 more after the commitment of Davidson).
The Gamecocks are in good shape with Donnell Stanley, Derrell Scott, Dexter Wideman, Abu Lamin, Al Harris, Jr., and the aforementioned Googer and are at least in the mix - to varying degrees - with Bentley Spain, Poona Ford, Berrios, and Bone. So depending on how the recruitments of those players break, the coaching staff could be faced with some tough choices.
Oh, yeah. About L.J. Peak...
Though major college prospects often employ dramatic devices to create some level of misdirection about which school they will be choosing at their commitment ceremony, it is rare that there are any true surprises in recruiting.
Sure, Five Star Running Back, you faked like you were going to going to grab that Florida hat, but everything we know about your relationship with the Georgia coaching staff tells us that's where you'll be going.
Well, South Carolina has somehow managed to be on the wrong end of two of the biggest recruiting surprises of the year. The first was #BARKERWATCH2013, but, even with Drew Barker, the momentum seemed to be decidedly with the Wildcats in the days and hours leading up to his announcement. With L.J. Peak, no one thought though he was headed anywhere but Columbia until he had cast the Gamecock hat on the ground and announced he was going to be playing his college basketball for the Georgetown Hoyas.
Chris Clark (@GCChrisClark) July 2, 2013
Now Peak has committed to Georgetown. Hat switcharoo.— Glenn Elrod (@GCRivalsGlenn) July 2, 2013
Peak leaves the pro USC crowd in complete silence as he changed to a Georgetown hat— Glenn Elrod (@GCRivalsGlenn) July 2, 2013
So what does this mean for the basketball team?
Honestly, losing Peak to the Hoyas is a major setback. L.J. had all of the markings of a player that would have thrived under Frank Martin: a strong defender and rebounder who likes to attack the rim on offense. The bottom line seemed to be that Georgetown has a history of putting players in the NBA that South Carolina simply doesn't.
But the basketball program is still headed in the right direction and can still put together a solid recruiting class in 2014. Frank Martin already has four star shooting guard Marcus Stroman already in the boat and an inside track to land Jacksonville power forward Dante Buford.
The mere fact that Frank Martin has fans paying attention at all to commitment ceremonies for basketball players should be considered a positive sign. If two years from now Frank Martin still isn't able to convince high school players that they can get to the next level with South Carolina, then I'll be concerned, but for now this is just a bump in the road.
P.S. No, Peak isn't a "punk" or a "no class moron" for throwing the Gamecock hat on the ground. He successfully pulled off one of the better recruiting deceptions in recent memory, and I think he ought to be allowed to enjoy it. I know I would have had some fun with it were I in his position.