On one side of the state, it’s the two-time playoff participant. A program that has taken off in past years, thanks in part to a dynamic offense, an elite dual-threat quarterback, and a charismatic coach.
About two hours and fifteen minutes away, it’s a program that has fallen on tough times. A run of dominance the likes of which its fans had never seen gave way to a swift decline, leading to the resignation of its head coach and the hiring of a man determined to get them back to relevance, and beyond.
The very fact that Xavier Thomas hasn’t selected Clemson over South Carolina may be a victory for the Gamecocks in and of itself. Regardless, it will - unsurprisingly - come down to one of those two schools.
... ... pic.twitter.com/Vf6FUNS9VT— Xavier Thomas 1️⃣9️⃣ (@atxlete) December 14, 2016
Either the Gamecocks or the Tigers were expected to be the two teams in the final running for Thomas’ services. Now, with him officially cutting Florida State and (a very dark horse) Ohio State from his list, Will Muschamp and Dabo Swinney will be pulling out all the stops to get him on their respective campuses in 2018.
It seems like an easy decision to a casual observer. But there’s several angles to it. Thomas can join a ready-made situation in Clemson where he’d be one of many top-line recruits poised to keep the Tigers in the national discussion, but he’d essentially “blend in”. At South Carolina, he’d be “the guy”, a piece Muschamp can build around and a bargaining chip to draw elite recruits, but the Gamecocks’ name equity is much, much lower than that of Clemson right now.
Each program’s 2017 season will be very key to Thomas’ decision. Clemson’s challenge will be maintaining their dominance with players like Deshaun Watson, Wayne Gallman and Mike Williams headed for the NFL, even with a top ten class coming in. South Carolina will be faced with improving on their 6-6 record to show that they are at least on the right track and on the road to becoming a great program once again.
Buckle up. This is one recruiting battle that is worth watching all the way to the end.
Dead period in effect
Monday ushered in a recruiting dead period, meaning that no face-to-face contact can be made between a coach and a player until January 11. Of course, players can still commit during that time, and coaches can still write and call recruits as they can throughout the year. The post-CFP contact period begins on January 12 and runs until January 28; during that time, we’ll see a number of official visits being made by several commits and undecided recruits looking to get a final read on things before National Signing Day.
Tennessee pledge, Gamecocks target reopens recruitment
Things continue to be tough for Butch Jones and Tennessee. Jones has spent the past few weeks fighting off reports of culture issues as several players have decommitted from the program, despite some solid results of late in getting several other players to pledge. However, last night, the Vols absorbed another decommitment in the person of North Augusta (S.C.) DE Tre Lawson.
December 13, 2016
Lawson pledged on June 18 after an unofficial visit during the program’s Orange Carpet Day, spurning offers from Florida State, Louisville, Mississippi State, and South Carolina, among others. He was a Gamecocks target early on this year, but it looks like that window of opportunity has closed.
JUCO d-back to decide today
Kornblut at Sportstalk reports that JUCO corner Kaleb Chalmers is deciding between South Carolina and Ole Miss at some point today. Chalmers was kicked out of Clemson’s program in March after being found in possession of marijuana and other drugs, but went JUCO in an attempt to get a second chance with another FBS program in 2017.