As of today, the Gamecocks currently are ranked #16 in the 247 composite rankings for the 2023 recruiting class. That is 7th in the SEC. The majority of the class was signed in the early signing period last month with defensive lineman Zavion Hardy being the only commitment that has not signed his LOI yet. Much of the class will also enroll early and move on campus this week to begin the offseason program.
Let’s start with the offensive side of the ball. I really like what Shane Beamer and his staff have done on the offensive side of the ball with this 2023 class. The jewel of the class on offense for me is quarterback Lanorris Sellers. The South Florence standout led his team to a state championship in 2022 as he combined for 62 touchdowns through the air and on the ground while only throwing 2 interceptions all year. Sellers completed 58% of his passes for 2,948 yards and also rushed for 1,338 yards in his senior season. His current ranking by many of the recruiting services does not reflect his talent and projection. I firmly believe Sellers is one of the best quarterback prospects to ever come out of the state of South Carolina.
South Carolina brought in a really strong offensive line class as well. So far, they have signed 4 offensive linemen out of high school. Dorman High School’s Markee Anderson is the most decorated of the class but it is a really strong group from top to bottom. Carolina also signed Oluwatosin “Big Tree” Babalade out of Maryland, Trovon Baugh from Georgia, and Jatavius Shivers from Georgia as well. Out of the portal, the Gamecocks brought in Yale transfer Nick Gargiulo. Do not be surprised if you see some of these guys on the field next fall for the Gamecocks. This class is very diverse in that there are guys that can play anywhere along the offensive line.
It is no secret that the Gamecocks will have to add some tight ends to the roster after losing all of their scholarship tight ends in 2022 to either the transfer portal, retirement, or graduation. So far, the Gamecocks have already added 4 tight ends to this class. The highlight of the class so far at tight end is portal addition Trey Knox from Arkansas. The connection to new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains should make Knox a big part of the Gamecock offense in 2023. The Gamecocks also went into the portal to grab Florida transfer Nick Elksnis. The Gamecocks signed two additional tight ends from the high school ranks in Reid Mikeska from Texas and Connor Cox from Florida. That brings South Carolina to 4 tight ends on scholarship and as we saw during the season, whether it be on special teams or on offense, the Gamecocks will need every one of them.
At wide receiver the Gamecocks signed only 2 players that are listed at wide receivers by 247 in Tyshawn Russell from Pennsylvania and CJ Adams from Georgia. That is not a cause for worry, I do not believe, because there are a slew of signees that are listed as athletes that I believe will all be placed at wide receiver. That list includes Vicari Swain and Kelton Henderson. As we have also seen in the last two years, the Gamecocks will try to go into the portal to acquire additional help at that position. The Gamecocks have already added an impressive receiver from the portal in Western Kentucky’s Joshua Simon.
Many people believe that the lone running back that was signed is going to be a special one in the SEC. The Gamecocks went back into Georgia to get 4 star Dontavious Braswell. Braswell is a well decorated track star as well as an explosive running back that will need to be ready to play early for the Gamecocks. The Gamecocks also got Newberry transfer Mario Anderson Jr to hop on board as well. It would not surprise me at all to see Anderson get a lot of carries for the Gamecocks in 2023. His stats are impressive but he also may be the most physical running back on the roster next year.
Now, let’s move to defense.
There is a lot to like about this side of the ball in this recruiting class as well. Along the defensive line, this is where the class may be the most impressive. The Gamecocks signed South Carolina’s Mr. Football in 4 star Camden defensive lineman Xzavier McLeod. The highest rated defensive player in the entire class is 4 star edge rusher Desmond Umeozulu from Maryland who the Gamecocks beat Ohio State for his services. The Gamecocks also signed 4 star Monteque Rhames from Manning and 4 star JUCO defensive lineman Elijah Davis from East Mississippi Community College. As stated earlier, the Gamecocks are also still awaiting 4 star Zavion Hardy to sign in February. This defensive line class is a really impressive group that addressed a lot of needs with a lot of high-end talent.
The lone linebacker of the class is quite possibly the biggest fan-favorite in the entire class. 4 star Grayson “Pup” Howard out of Jacksonville joined the Gamecocks for bowl practice and is already impressing people around the program. Howard’s presence on social media has also made him very popular among the fans. On the field, he projects to be someone that will contribute very early.
In the secondary, safeties Jalon Kilgore, Cameron Upshaw and Zahbari Sandy along with some of the guys listed as athletes such as Vicari Swain who may be a future corner will be the next crop of defensive backs that Torrian Gray will look to turn into future first rounders in Columbia.
As Dowell Loggains stated in his introductory press conference as South Carolina’s new offensive coordinator, the most important recruit for South Carolina right now is quarterback Spencer Rattler. Very closely behind him is wide receiver Juice Wells. South Carolina desperately needs both of them to return next year and they have a little less than two weeks to decide if they will return to South Carolina in 2023 or if they enter the NFL Draft.
As far as recruiting goes, everyone knows who the prized recruit out there still is. 5 star athlete Nyckoles Harbor from Maryland is the one that the Gamecocks want desperately. Harbor is a freakish athlete that has tremendous size and speed. The Gamecocks are right in the thick of it for Harbor along with Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, and Southern Cal. Harbor is going to sign on February 1st but has gone on the record to say that he is much closer to a decision than his announcement date will be.
The Gamecocks also need to dip back into the portal to make some additions to this roster. Depending on what Wells decides, the Gamecocks will need to find at least one or two receivers. Joshua Simon is a good start but I believe the Gamecocks will need to add multiple receivers to replace what is departing. The Gamecocks will also need to look for a running back in the portal as well. Dontavius Braswell will be a true freshman, Mario Anderson Jr is transferring in from Newberry, Rashad Amos and Marshawn Lloyd are in the portal, Christian Beal-Smith has graduated, and JuJu McDowell is a situational back at this point in his career. Running back is the biggest position of need in the portal, in my opinion. They may look for another tight end and some additional help along the offensive line, too.
Defensively, the Gamecocks are going to need portal help at multiple positions if they do not want to be relying heavily on incoming freshmen. Edge rusher Jordan Strachan has applied for another year of eligibility, but now there are rumors that Jordan Burch may be looking to move on. This is in addition to Gilber Edmond already entering the transfer portal. Carolina is also having to replace both starting corners from 2022 in Cam Smith and Darius Rush, linebackers Sherrod Greene and Brad Johnson, as well as safety Devonni Reed so the secondary may be where you see the bulk of the additions come from as far as the transfer portal is concerned.
While the bulk of the 2023 recruiting class has been signed, the 2023 Gamecock football roster is very far away from being set.