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Is South Carolina Recruiting Even Better Than You Think?

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Fun with South Carolina, Alabama, A&M, and Clemson recruiting using the class calculator.

USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina gave signs that 2015 could be a historic recruiting class as early as June, and the Gamecocks have continued to add commitments throughout July. Georgia running back Mon Denson is the most recent addition to what has already become the most geographically diverse group in school history. The South Carolina class is now rated 4th in the 247Sports Composite team rankings, which excites Carolina fans accustomed to classes rated in the mid to low teens.

However, that excitement comes with one caveat.

Given our current winning streak over Clemson, it's a valid question. It's also a question that could have less to do with the respective classes, than the way the 247 Composite is calculated. The composite is an average of the ratings from the four major recruiting services (247 Sports, Rivals, Scout, and ESPN). It is a great effort to introduce some form of consensus, but the small number of published ratings gives disproportionate influence to outliers.

As long as the four major services are equally valid, this doesn't matter. They should all have roughly the same number of outliers, and the composite is fine. The problem comes in when some services produce more outliers than others. I have no way of knowing which service is the Billingsley of recruit rankings (it's Scout), but I do know that 247 is the one in which I place the most trust.

247 is also the only one that does not provide team rankings, which makes sense from a business perspective. They want their composite to become the industry standard, and they are willing to forego service-specific ratings to further that aim. However, they do provide a fun work-around. Anyone willing to put in the effort can use their class-calculator toy to sub recruits in and out and construct a Frankenstein 247 team rating.

Playing with the classes at South Carolina, Alabama, Texas A&M, and Clemson (the top four programs in the Composite Rankings) led to some interesting discoveries, and some really positionally imbalanced classes.

South Carolina

Commit 247 Avg Diff. Value Replacement Rating Value
Marquavius Lewis 97 97.69 0.69 27.69 Christian Wilkins (DT) 97.01 27.02
Mark Fields 97 95.2 -1.8 24.59 Osa Masina (OLB) 97.02 26.84
Shameik Blackshear 97 96.98 -0.02 26.81 Shameik Blackshear (DE) 96.98 26.32
Arden Key 95 94.03 -0.97 22.73 Eric Swinney (RB) 94.98 23.63
Jalen Christian 95 92.84 -2.16 20.69 Trent Irwin (WR) 94.98 22.63
Dante Sawyer 95 87.22 -7.78 6.07 Kris Boyd (CB) 94.96 21.39
Austin Clark 93 90.75 -2.25 15.34 Nyheim Hines (APB) 93 18.42
Lorenzo Nunez 92 90.94 -1.06 17.94 Kyahva Tezino (OLB) 91.96 16.23
Sherrod Pittman 92 90.89 -1.11 16.73 Kanya Bell (WR) 91.95 14.78
Davon Durant 92 90.67 -1.33 13.92 Micah Abernathy (CB) 91.93 13.3
Paris Palmer 91 88.85 -2.15 10.17 Sh'mar Kilby-Lane (OLB) 90.99 11.32
Octavis Johnson 90 90.19 0.19 12.25 Octavis Johnson (ATH) 90.19 9.57
AJ Turner 89 88.41 -0.59 8.72 Jacarius Keener (ATH) 89 7.81
Antoine Wilder 89 87.14 -1.86 5.11 Paul Lucas (APB) 89 6.69
Dexter Neal 87 87.44 0.44 7.17 Dexter Neal (WR) 87.44 5.2
Michael Bowman 87 86.16 -0.84 3.33 Kaleb Chalmers (CB) 87 4.24
Jozie Milton 87 85.69 -1.31 2.12 Deshawn Fortune (DT) 87 3.5
Mon Denson 87 86.56 -0.44 4.13 Mon Denson (RB) 86.56 2.78
Quandeski Whitlow 86 86.15 0.15 2.71 Quandeski Whitlow (DE) 86.15 2.19
Connor Redmond 85 84.48 -0.52 1.23 Austin Maihen (OT) 85 1.62
Damon Arnette 84 85.04 1.04 1.62 Christian Martey (RB) 84 1.19
Jaire Alexander 84 81.33 -2.67 0.32 Joe Critchlow (QB) 84 0.92
Jalen Henry 84 83.79 -0.21 0.69 Jalen Henry (LB) 83.79 0.69
Kyle Markway 83 84.14 1.14 0.93 Austin Barnes (TE) 83 0.5
Jerad Washington 82 83.57 1.57 0.52 DaShawn Davis (WR) 82 0.34
Average 89.6 88.6 -0.954 253.53 89.6 269.12
Total Difference -23.85
Change +15.59

Red values are players overrated relative to 247; green values are players underrated relative to 247.

South Carolina fans who claim other services consistently underrate their commits will not be surprised that the Gamecocks experienced the greatest jump. The South Carolina class improved from 253.5 to 269.1, a jump of over fifteen points that would be good for several spots of movement almost anywhere within the team rankings. Of the twenty-five Gamecock commits, fifteen are underrated by the composite, while only four are overrated.

The most extreme variance is for defensive end Dante Sawyer, rated 87.7 as a JUCO by the composite and a 95 by 247. The nearly eight point difference is by far the greatest variance for any player on any of the top teams. What's even more confusing is Sawyer earned a 94.75 composite last fall as a senior at North Gwinnett (Suwanee, GA). Sawyer has not experienced any injuries or played a game since, but moving to Mississippi caused his rating to fall for ¯\(°_o)/¯

Other players that are significantly underrated by at least two full points include CB Jaire Alexander (-2.7), OT Austin Clark (-2.3),  ATH Jalen Christian (-2.2), and OT Paris Palmer (-2.2). The player most significantly overrated by the composite was WR Jerad Washington (+1.6).

The top of the Gamecock class was consistently rated higher by 247 than by the composite, while three of the four underrated recruits are among the lowest rated players among South Carolina commitments.

  • The replacement class looks similar to a Brad Scott-era Carolina signing day, with five running backs, four wide receivers, two all-purpose athletes, and one offensive linemen. Look out for Marshall, Brad.
  • Due to Shameik Blackshear's 96.98 rating, he not only remained on the final South Carolina team, but he was a frequent sub, appearing in the replacement classes for Texas A&M and Alabama. Apparently even in an imaginary alternate universe, Blackshear knows to stay away from Clemson. High five, Shamiek!
  • Greenwood native and Clemson commit Kaleb Chalmers and his even 87 rating makes an appearance as Replacement Michael Bowman.
  • Arden Key's near round number composite did not fit South Carolina due to his underrated status, but Key does later appear as a member of the Replacement Crimson Tide.
  • Inman's DaShawn Davis (WR, 5'9", 155) appears as a sub for Gamecock commit Jerad Washington (WR, 5'9", 165).

Clemson

Commi 247 Avg Diff. Value Replacement Rating Value
Mitch Hyatt 98 99.41 1.41 29.41 Jerome Baker (ATH) 97.89 27.89
Deon Cain 98 97.63 -0.37 27.46 Deon Cain (WR) 97.63 27.46
Jake Fruhmorgen 96 96.22 0.22 25.59 Jake Fruhmorgen (OT) 96.22 25.59
Clelin Ferrell 96 95.81 -0.19 24.42 Clelin Ferrell (DE) 95.81 24.42
Ray-Ray McCloud 95 95.59 0.59 23.19 Eric Swinney (RB) 94.98 22.63
Austin Bryant 93 93.15 0.15 19.84 Austin Bryant (DE) 93.15 19.84
Van Smith 91 89.38 -1.62 13.06 Sh'Mar Kilby-Lane (OLB) 90.99 16.81
Kaleb Chalmers 91 87 -4 5.99 Thomas Toki (DT) 90.98 15.51
Noah Green 89 88.22 -0.78 9.83 Lucas, Paul (APB) 89 12.8
Shadell Bell 89 88.38 -0.62 11.15 Jacarius Keener (ATH) 89 11.52
Tanner Muse 89 86.75 -2.25 4.99 DeShawn Raymond (CB) 88.98 10.24
Juwuan Briscoe 89 86.66 -2.34 4.15 Du'Vonta Lampkin (DT) 88.98 8.99
Chad Smith 88 88.22 0.22 8.63 Chad Smith (LB) 88.22 7.49
Garrett Williams 87 91.68 4.68 17.36 Kaleb Chalmers (CB) 87 5.99
Gage Cervenka 87 86.16 -0.84 2.71 Shelton Johnson (DE) 87 5.07
Sterling Johnson 87 90.13 3.13 14.88 Deshawn Fortune (DT) 87 4.24
Tucker Israel 86 85.35 -0.65 2.08 Darrin Paulo (OT) 86 3.3
Zach Gielle 85 86.22 1.22 3.34 Austin Maihen (OT) 85 2.52
Kelly Bryant 83 87.54 4.54 7.21 Austin Barnes (TE) 83 1.76
LaSamuel Davis 83 85.16 2.16 1.63 Nate Mays (OLB) 83 1.4
J.D. Davis 70 76.67 6.67 0.56 Jaquavis Dixon (WR) 70 0
Judah Davis 70 76.67 6.67 0.44 Morgan Hagee (K) 70 0
Average 88.2 89 +0.82 257.92 88.2 255.46
Total Difference 18
Change -2.46

Clemson's class has almost as many players who are underrated (eight), as players who are overrated (nine). Two of the overrated players affect the rankings only negligibly. While the Tigers' suffer a very slight decline, their adjusted rating (255.5) is roughly equivalent to their Composite rating (257.9).

The Davis twins, J.D. and Judah, are interesting. They are legacies, sons of former Tiger All-American linebacker Jeff Davis. The young men play for nearby Daniel High School, and both brothers have accepted greyshirt offers. 247 rates them as 70 recruits (not unrated), and Rivals does not include them in the class rankings, but Scout rates each player as a 3* recruit. South Carolina benefited greatly from a greyshirt All American Ko Simpson, but there were academic issues that led to that decision. Both Davis twins could terrorize South Carolina just as their father did, but I tend to side with the 247 rating until they get the opportunity to take the field.  Regardless, they made little difference in the composite ratings, or the replacement ratings.

TE Garrett Williams (+4.7) leads the overrated Tigers, but he is joined by QB Kelly Bryant (+4.5), DE Sterling Johnson (+3.1), and DE LaSamuel Davis (+2.16). CB Kaleb Chalmers (-4.0) headlines a trio of underrated defensive backs that is rounded out by S Tanner Muse (-2.3), and CB Juwuan Briscoe (-2.3).

The top of Clemson's class is very highly esteemed by 247.  Only headliner the composite of OT Mitch Hyatt varies by more than 0.6 among the top half dozen Tiger pledges.

  • Though Mitch Hyatt is technically "overrated", 247 still considers him the #14 recruit nationally, and the #3 offensive tackle. He is a big ol' boy from a 6A Georgia power known for a great weight program. He should be fine.
  • The massively underrated Kaleb Chalmers is replaced by DT Thomas Toki (#220 overall), but rejoins the Tigers as Replacement Garrett Williams. Chalmers must really want to go against that Greenwood-to-Columbia pipeline.
  • Clemson may have the most balanced Replacement class, with nine linemen, three linebackers, two running backs, a jumbo athlete, a scatback/DB athlete, a couple of wide receivers, a tight end, a pair of DB's, and a kicker. All they need is a QB, and they will have a team of Replacements even Keanu Reeves would envy.

Texas A&M

Commit 247 Avg Diff. Value Replacement Rating Value
Daylon Mack 98 99.2 1.2 29.2 Kerryon Johnson (RB) 98.11 28.11
Kyler Murray 98 98.69 0.69 28.52 Jerome Baker (ATH) 97.89 27.72
Damarkus Lodge 97 98.26 1.26 27.57 Mekhi Brown (DE) 97.01 26.35
Trevor Elbert 96 93.12 -2.88 19.82 Shameik Blackshear (DE) 96.98 25.52
James Lockhart 93 94.95 1.95 23.6 Nyheim Hines (APB) 93 20.84
Larry Pryor 92 93.2 1.2 21.02 Kyahva Tezino (OLB) 91.96 18.82
Justin Dunning 92 92.74 0.74 18.21 Richie Pettibon (G) 91.95 17.57
Jay Bradford 92 91.05 -0.95 11.36 Desherrius Flowers (RB) 91.93 16.21
Jordan Davis 90 92.65 2.65 16.74 Kanawai Noa (WR) 90 13.47
Connor Lanfear 90 91.45 1.45 14.45 Jazz Ferguson (WR) 90 12.13
Justin Evans 90 87.04 -2.96 5.08 Anthony McKee (OLB) 89.97 10.77
Deshawn Capers-Smith 89 87.22 -1.78 6.07 Paul Lucas (APB) 89 9
Keaton Sutherland 89 89.66 0.66 9.31 Jacarius Keener (ATH) 89 7.81
Kingsley KeKe 89 88.88 -0.12 7.76 Kingsley KeKe (DT) 88.88 6.65
Kemah Siverand 88 91.33 3.33 12.94 Tyriq Thompson (OLB) 88 5.37
Landis Durham 87 86.56 -0.44 4.13 Christian Bell (DE) 86.56 4.13
Richard Moore 87 86.56 -0.44 3.41 Richard Moore (OLB) 86.56 3.41
Riley Garner 83 83.42 0.42 2.25 Riley Garner (ILB) 83.42 2.25
Daniel LaCamera 78 80.81 2.81 1.46 Devante Williams (RB) 78 1.08
Average 90.4 90.88 0.46 262.9 90.43 257.22
Total Difference 8.79
Change -5.68

Eleven of nineteen Aggies are overrated, while only four are underrated. However, two of the four are significantly underrated, so A&M's adjusted rating of 257.22 is only slightly off from their 262.9 composite.

Aggie commits who vary greatly from their composite include Kemah Siverand (+3.3), Daniel LaCamera (+2.8), Jordan Davis (+2.6), and James Lockhart (+2.0) on the overrated side, while Justin Evans (-3.0) and Trevor Elbert (-2.9) are each significantly underrated.

I don't really have much to say about A&M yet. Good Bull Hunting is pretty cool. The Aggies are our new crossover game, but not our rival. Don't expect us to care about a fake trophy, but thank you for saving us from a biennial trip to Arkansas.

Alabama

Commit 247 Avg Diff. Value Replacement Rating Value
Calvin Ridley 98 99.28 1.28 29.28 Kerryon Johnson (RB) 98.11 28.11
Blake Barnett 98 98.94 0.94 28.76 Jerome Baker (ATH) 97.89 27.72
Mekhi Brown 97 97.41 0.41 23.49 Mekhi Brown (DE) 97.41 26.74
Minkah Fitzpatrick 97 98.53 1.53 27.84 Osa Masina (OLB) 97.02 25.56
Delonte Thompson 97 97.75 0.75 26.25 Christian Wilkins (DT) 97.01 24.47
Lester Cotton 97 97.55 0.55 24.96 Shameik Blackshear (DE) 96.98 23.12
Richie Pettibon 97 96.64 -0.36 21.33 Richie Pettibon (G) 96.64 21.33
Desherrius Flowers 96 96.34 0.34 17.74 Desherrius Flowers (RB) 96.34 19.46
Hale Hentges 94 94.92 0.92 15.11 Arden Key (DE) 94.03 16.18
Jonathan Ledbetter 93 96.44 3.44 19.54 Nyheim Hines (APB) 93 13.95
Shawn Burgess-Becker 92 94.71 2.71 13.33 Kyahva Tezino (OLB) 91.96 11.84
Daylon Charlot 92 93.48 1.48 11.13 Kanya Bell (WR) 91.95 10.4
Dallas Warmack 92 91.18 -0.82 8.71 Micah Abernathy (CB) 91.93 9.02
Montrell Custis 90 86.2 -3.8 2.19 Kanawai Noa (WR) 90 7.05
Brandon Kennedy 89 90.06 1.06 7.07 Jazz Ferguson (WR) 90 5.96
Christian Bell 88 88.4 0.4 4.59 Christian Bell (DE) 88.4 4.59
T.D. Moton 87 89.73 2.73 5.88 Kaleb Chalmers (CB) 87 3.5
Keaton Anderson 87 86.56 -0.44 3.41 Keaton Anderson 86.56 2.78
Anfernee Jennings 85 86.22 1.22 2.72 Austin Maihen (OT) 85 2.03
Average 92.95 93.7 0.755 293.32 93.01 283.81
Total Difference 14.34 Change -9.51

Get out your tin foil hat! Twelve of nineteen Alabama players are overrated, and only two are underrated, though Montrell Custis is egregiously so (-3.8). I guess you could argue for a slight Bama bump from some service, but nine of the twelve vary by less than a rounded +1.5. The three severely overrated players are Jonathan Ledbetter (+3.4), T.D. Moton (+2.7), and Shawn Burgess-Becker (+2.7).

Here's the thing, even if Alabama recruiting is slightly overrated, they are still really, really good. Their adjusted class rating of 283.8, while 9.5 lower than their composite, is still nearly fifteen points higher than the next highest class, and Alabama has done it with fewer recruits, which means they have more room for growth. There's a reason the nation's best coach tipped his visor to Nick Saban, the nation's top recruiter.

  • I hated to remove Jonathan Ledbetter, who scored a composite 100 for Most Alabama Name. I hope I can receive forgiveness from Arnell, Burnell, Raynell, W.L., Lynell, Odell, Udell, Marcell, Claude, Newgene, and Clovis.
  • The loss of Mr. Ledbetter was somewhat eased by the presence of Desherrius Flowers, a 5* Alabama Name is his own right. Jonathan Ledbetter and Desherrius Flowers need to room together for Maximum Bama.

The Final Tally

Adjusted Ranking Adj. Rating Change % Diff.
1. Alabama 283.81 -9.51 3.20%
2. South Carolina 269.12 15.59 6.10%
3. Texas A&M 257.22 -5.68 2.16%
4. Clemson 255.46 -2.46 0.95%

Everybody has a reason to feel good about the final results.

Alabama's simulated 247 rating declines slightly from their composite, but they still recruit on a different level than everyone else. It's amazing what you can do with a complete lack of perspective or social interests.

A six percent jump for South Carolina is a little high. I can't help but wonder how much of that is attributable to Dante Sawyer. Regardless, it should makes everyone feel even better about the class. Don't forget that it matters much more to be in the top half dozen or so than where you fall within that group. As the HBC would say, just get close and coach 'em up.

For the Carolina fans who are wondering, I glanced at Georgia but didn't run the numbers. If anything, the Dawgs' composite class is underrated relative to 247.

A&M is still ahead of Texas. Fun tidbit - so is Mississippi State!

Though Clemson slips from third to fourth, they move very slightly closer to A&M. Normally I'd say they could settle it in the Peach Bowl, but I have no idea where 8-4 ACC teams go these days.