South Carolina Gamecocks Recruiting, Development An Issue


Recruiting and development has been rather puzzling for the Gamecocks lately. Walk-ons on the two deep at quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end. Inexperience abounds on the offensive line, wide receiver, and tight end. Last season, the talent level was not where it needed to be on the defensive line, especially at defensive end, and due to a severe lack of players in the secondary, the Gamecocks were forced to play 3 true freshmen (DJ Smith, Chris Lammons, and Al Harris Jr.) and 1 redshirt sophomore (Rico McWilliams) who sat out his first season with a knee injury.

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Last season, the result was not what most fans expected. This season the depth is questionable at key positions. That raises the question, “What the heck is going on with the recruitment and development of players?” There is no reason that a team that has gone 7-6 or better 9 out of the last 10 seasons should have key positions being filled by walk-ons. There is no reason the staff shouldn’t be able to plan and have some degree of experience at each position.

I understand that turnover is bound to happen on every team. I get that guys not panning out or deciding they want to leave the program is just part of college football. Let’s be honest, though. No one saw three straight 11-2 seasons leading to a 7-6 season, and Steve Spurrier stating that he only had 2-3 years left in him.

Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Just think about last season for a minute. The defensive line was unable to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks due to a sheer dropoff the in talent level compared to previous years. Having several key recruits not qualify (Dexter Wideman and Dante Sawyer) hurt. Rico McWilliams and Jamari Smith were the most seasoned collegiate corners on the roster, and Smith got hurt leaving only freshmen to take his place. It’s no wonder we were so bad last year.

Now think about this season. We have a brand new quarterback, which got virtually no experience last season thanks to having such a poor showing from the defense. One proven receiver. We are an injury to Jerell Adams away from playing only freshmen at tight end. The entire back-up offensive line is made up of freshmen now thanks to an injury to Cody Waldrop.

The recruiting rankings don’t accurately reflect how recruiting has gone for the Gamecocks thanks to the early departures key players. The team has watched many players leave the program early over the past few years that they may have counted on at some point this season. These are guys like Na’ty Rodgers, Jody Fuller, Kwinton Smith, Shaq Roland, Kelvin Rainey, Ahmad Christian, Sheldon Royster, and Bryce King to name a few that would be counted on this season to add depth to the roster at key positions that need help.

The sad part is this might not be as bad as things could get. As re-energized as Steve Spurrier is, questions and negative recruiting tactics still loom over the program and whether or not Spurrier will be here much longer. Despite his attempts to squash the questions and the talk, things surely won’t die down. His comment has hurt the program’s future, and the only way for them to die is for either Spurrier to step down or for Spurrier to win and win a lot.

So far this season, South Carolina has seen itself fall out of favor with many recruits it had developed very good relationships with. For example, Kyle Davis no longer mentions South Carolina in his top 5 despite being committed to them for nearly a year. Others like Ron Johnson and Naseir Upshur have a lessened interest in South Carolina as well.

Whatever the problem is, it can’t be made over with only JUCO recruits. That’s just a temporary fix–a band-aid, if you will. The only way to get interest back is to get back to the elite win level we saw from 2011-2013. Perhaps, even sneak in an SEC Championship game appearance. There is no better time for that than right now, but I’m still not sold that the Gamecocks have the pieces for a run like that.

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