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January 13, 2014
Much is often made by the fan base about garnering early verbal commitments on the recruiting trail, but history tells us that at the end of the day, the finish is what counts.
South Carolina's staff has completed the task both ways in recent years. In the 2011 recruiting cycle, a class that was ranked eighteenth by Rivals.com, the Gamecocks had just nine verbal pledges in the boat exiting the month of July 2010. That ended up as a 32-member class in February. On the flip side, USC held eighteen verbal commitments exiting July of 2011 for the 2012 class, one that ended up ranked nineteenth nationally by Rivals.com.
One common theme in USC's recent classes, regardless of how quickly each materialized, is that the last several weeks leading up to the big day in February have been important and yielded some of the program's top players.
As someone inside the program often tells me: "If you want to recruit with the big boys, you're recruiting in January and February."
In the 2007 class, USC's January produced four-star Clifton Geathers and five-star Chris Culliver; that following a December in which USC gained pledges from Melvin Ingram, Stephen Garcia, Patrick DiMarco, and Olufemi Ajiboye.
The following cycle, in 2010, USC was able to land Victor Hampton and Ace Sanders the month before signing day. Byron Jerideau, Sharrod Golightly (in a flip from Vanderbilt) and five-star Marcus Lattimore followed in February.
The aforementioned 2011 class that started off relatively slowly finished with a flourish in the final two months of the process. Gerald Dixon, Gerald Dixon Jr., Marcquis Roberts, Rory Anderson, and Jerell Adams all fell to USC in January. Phillip Dukes, Cedrick Cooper, Damiere Byrd, and former number one overall prospect Jadeveon Clowney all committed to and signed with USC in February.
The past two classes also held some strong late pickups for USC, whether it was Chaz Elder, Jordan Diggs, or Mike Davis in the 2012 class or David Williams, Na'Ty Rodgers, Skai Moore, or Jonathan Walton early in 2013.
For 2014, the narrative is more of the same. Some of the Gamecock fan base became antsy when the staff held seven verbal commitments after the month of June, at the time a number that looked like it would be roughly half of a small class. Over time, emerging needs and a few opened spots on the roster propelled USC's class to a higher number (the Gamecocks can sign a maximum of 22 prospects in the class and depending, could reach that total). Once again, some important names remain on the board that the staff hopes to close with during the all-important stretch run of recruiting.
Four-star RB Derrell Scott has one official visit remaining to Florida the weekend of January 17 and then figures to host the coaching staffs for Tennessee and South Carolina (and perhaps Florida) in his home before nailing down a final decision as soon as possible after that.
Cornerback is a big positional need for USC to close out the 2014 class, where immediate playing time will be sought from potentially several freshman candidates this coming season. In-state three-star Darin Smalls is coming off a knee injury, and the staff also has Florida's Al Harris Jr. committed. Beyond that, USC is in strong position with four-star D.J. Smith out of Marietta (announcing tonight), is battling Georgia for Wesley Green (who will make his official visit this weekend) and recent Florida decommitment Chris Lammons plans on making an official visit to USC this month, possibly this weekend as well.
Names remaining at another priority position, defensive end, include JUCO candidate Darrius Caldwell (the Gamecock staff is monitoring his academics and could go on him with a firm offer if he improves in the classroom) and Andrew Williams (more of a long shot with Auburn and Clemson ahead of the Gamecocks). USC also has a strong chance to flip current Florida State commitment Dexter Wideman, a Palmetto State product who will also be in Columbia this weekend for his official visit.
USC would like to add an offensive tackle to the class given that the current roster is upperclassman-heavy at the position and the Gamecocks are in the mix with one of the country's best in five-star Damian Prince. The Maryland product recently effectively trimmed his list to Florida, Maryland, and South Carolina and USC gets an official this coming weekend that will be a key into the ultimate chances of USC landing him. The staff also could receive a visit this month from Florida's Derrick Kelly.
Three wide receivers have already committed for the 2014 class, so there is a chance USC stands pat at that position but USC is monitoring recent Louisville decommitment Isaiah Ford.
Out of current staff members, data says that quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus has been South Carolina's strongest clutch performer on the trail. He was the lead recruiter for Sanders, Anderson, Roberts, Byrd, Diggs, Williams, and Rodgers. Mangus is followed by defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward on that front. While Ward was not the lead on Clowney, he played a large role. Ward also recruited Golightly, Cooper, Elder, and Davis.
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