Yesterday, we took a look at who’s committed to the South Carolina Gamecocks thus far for the class of 2017, as well as six uncommitted players in particular that stand a strong chance of coming here. Today, we look at their biggest remaining needs and give an outlook on what to expect before things wind down in February.
South Carolina is looking to add as many quality players in the secondary as possible, given their issues there going into the 2016 season. Look for several more defensive backs to jump on board before it’s all said and done. There will likely be another receiver, or two, signed, hopefully someone like OrTre Smith and one other name. There won’t be another quarterback added to the class unless a big name decides to jump on board, and the same goes for the running back spot. The staff feels good about KyShaun Bryan and with the likely addition of Ty’Son Williams from UNC, those two should shore up the position for this class. There will be a few more defensive linemen by the time the recruiting process is over, as depth on the defensive line is something the new staff believes you have to have in order to compete in the SEC. You’d like to see another linebacker added along with Davonne Bowen and Damani Staley, and maybe a couple more offensive linemen as well. Altogether, look for South Carolina to take anywhere from 25-30 commitments in this class as they try to build a strong base for the future.
As many people have been quick to point out about the Gamecocks’ 2017 class thus far, of the 16 prospects committed, 15 of them are three-star players. Some people seemed to be under the impression that with Will Muschamp, Travaris Robinson, Bryan McClendon and Lance Thompson on our staff, that South Carolina would be raking in four- and five-star talent immediately. That line of thinking, frankly, is wishful thinking. That isn’t to say that signing highly-rated players doesn’t matter. While star ratings aren’t the end-all, be-all in recruiting, it’s no secret that signing four and five-star talent is something you absolutely have to do in order to compete at the highest level, especially in the SEC. When the Gamecocks were at their absolute peak, players like Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, Jadeveon Clowney, Stephon Gilmore, etc. wore the Garnet and Black, and that’s not simply a coincidence. Those kinds of game changers are essential to building a team that can go out and win a league like the SEC.
The new staff knows this and are doing what they can to amend the lack of talent on the roster. So what is the problem? The problem is that South Carolina, as a program, is not at that level right now. The Gamecocks enjoyed success from 2011-2013, but finished 3-9 last year with a loss to The Citadel and are going through a complete staff overhaul. Steve Spurrier often said, "You are what your record says you are." Well, that’s what South Carolina is right now to 18-year old high school recruits for the most part.
There are positives that the new staff can sell: early playing time, a new and exciting culture, a school that is clearly willing to spend the money necessary to have a top flight program, great coaches and passionate fans, just to name a few. However, immediate success and the ability to compete at the highest level right off of the bat is not something they can promise at the moment, which often hurts with top-tier, blue chip guys who are used to winning consistently. It’s unrealistic to expect that five-star, out-of-state players are going to be clamoring to play for the Gamecocks when considering the program’s current state. That being the case, South Carolina has to build a base of talent up in order to begin competing again. The best way to do that is to keep the best guys from your state at home, sign the best players you possibly can elsewhere, evaluate them all like crazy to make sure you are taking the best guys available and hopefully find some under-the-radar types who can be productive at the college level. Some of the most productive and successful players that the Gamecocks have had arrived at school as three-star recruits or lower. Even the best schools in the country take their fair share of solidly evaluated three-star players. It isn’t so much about the star ranking for South Carolina at this point in time as it is about getting guys who can play, regardless of what their ranking is.
To that end, the new staff has done a tremendous job of being resourceful, going out and getting into the game with the best prospects they possibly can at this point in time, and mining their own backyard for the all the talent they can find. So, while some will look at the current class and say "nothing but three-stars", there are some quality players in the 2017 class that have high ceilings and a chance to outplay their star rating once they get to Columbia. In addition, many of them have been worked out individually by Gamecock coaches at camps and were given their seal of approval before their offers were extended and their commitments were accepted. Given the state that the new staff found the program in when they got here, it truly is a testament to their recruiting prowess that the Gamecocks have been able to get the players they have so far and battled their way into the top groups of several blue-chip prospects. Both of these are good signs for the future of the program.
As more success comes for the Gamecocks on the field, success in landing higher-rated prospects will come more and more. We have seen that South Carolina has the ability to attract top-flight recruits, but on-field success is going to become increasingly important at recruiting goes forward into future years. For now, though, South Carolina’s staff is doing the best they can to sign a class that will help lay the groundwork for future success, and so far, it’s been a job well done.