Commentary

Don't be fooled by appearances

South Carolina is off to a solid start and has the potential to haul in a great class

Originally Published: September 2, 2010
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN Recruiting

South Carolina doesn't have any four- or five-star players and of its 15 commits, none are in the ESPNU 150 and only two are in-state prospects.

But despite the way it looks, South Carolina isn't recruiting poorly. In fact, the opposite is true. This is a solid class from top to bottom and Steve Spurrier and his staff are filling needs with good athletes who fit well into their schemes. They have pulled prospects from Georgia, Florida and other parts of the region and are still in the mix for several of South Carolina's top prospects, which also happen to be some of the nation's top prospects.

[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeSteve Spurrier has landed a Top 25 class in three of the last four years and is in position to bring another good class in this year.
Who the Gamecocks have
After landing five-star RB Marcus Lattimore, it would seemingly be tough for Spurrier to land another big-time back, but Brandon Wilds (Blythewood, S.C./Blythewood) is a good one. He's 6-foot-1, 220 pounds and a good downhill runner. Last season, he rushed for close to 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns.

WR K.J. Brent (Waxhaw, N.C./Marvin Ridge) is 6-4, 173 pounds and really good in the air, showing excellent timing, coordination and body control. He should be a very effective target in the red zone. Last season, he caught 47 passes for 747 yards and seven TDs.

South Carolina has landed three offensive line commits in Quincy McKinney, Michael Matulis, and Kaleb Broome. McKinney, from Columbus (Ga.) Carver, is 6-3 and 285 pounds. He projects as a guard and will benefit from a redshirt year. He has good athleticism and upside. Matulis, from Lake Worth (Fla.) Park Vista, is a 6-5, 270-pound tackle, but he needs to fill out his frame and gain strength to compete in the SEC. Broome, from Milledgeville (Ga.) Georgia Military, is 6-6 and 315 pounds and hopes to enroll in January. Broome, from Aiken, S.C., has been a lifelong Gamecocks fan and jumped at a chance to play for South Carolina.

South Carolina has a two defensive line pledges in Deon Green and Lorenzo Mauldin . Green, from Orlando (Fla.) Olympia, is a 6-2, 250-pound DT who will need to get bigger and stronger. Still, he's physical, athletic and shows good quickness. Mauldin, from Atlanta (Ga.) Maynard Jackson, is a 6-3, 240-pound defensive end who runs really well. Both Green and Mauldin have high ceilings.

The Gamecocks have a trio of linebackers from the Peach State. ILB Edward Muldrow (Snellville, Ga./South Gwinnett) is South Carolina's highest-rated commit. He's athletic and makes plays all over the field. Although he doesn't have ideal size now (6-3, 191 pounds), he has the frame to add size and strength and grow into a terrific linebacker. Angelo Watley (Suwannee, Ga./Peachtree Ridge), 6-3 and 230 pounds, plays defensive end in high school and could become a hybrid OLB/DE in Columbia similar to what Eric Norwood was for the South Carolina defense. Watley is active and makes plays everywhere, especially behind the line of scrimmage. Mason Harris (Rossville, Ga./Ridgeland) is a lot like Watley, only quicker and a tad faster. Harris puts his hand down and can really fly to the football once he identifies the play. You have to love what South Carolina has done at this position so far because these three really fit its scheme and they all have upside.

Thomas Finnie (Miami, Fla./Central) might not be the biggest cornerback (he's just 5-9 and 170 pounds), but he makes up for it with physical play. Finnie is terrific in run support and a sound tackler. He has speed and quickness and shows good anticipation and instincts for the position. CB Ronnie Martin (Spartanburg, S.C./Spartanburg), 5-10 and 180 pounds, will help the Gamecocks secondary and also be a a good special teams player.

South Carolina landed two safeties from the Sunshine State in Jordan Montgomery (Groveland, Fla./South Lake) and Jared Henry (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast). Montgomery has good size (6-1, 191 pounds) and is a terrific athlete. He shows excellent range and speed to the ball against both the run and pass. He also excels when coming up and playing in the box. Henry is much the same way, but not quite as physical. He relies on his instincts more than Montgomery.

Martay Mattox is a quarterback for Athens (Ga.) Clarke Central, but could have a new position at South Carolina. Mattox, 6-1 and 182 pounds, will get a shot at quarterback but there's a good chance he will eventually make the move to defense and play defensive back.

Who the Gamecocks still want
South Carolina has recruited well under Spurrier. The Gamecocks have had Top 25 classes in three of the last four years, including the nation's No. 4 class in 2007. They've landed some of the top prospects from the Palmetto State, including arguably the state's top offensive players two years in a row in wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and Lattimore. At some point, the Gamecocks need to have a breakthrough season to show recruits the success on the recruiting trail can translate to success on the field.

"It's huge for us, critical when it comes to recruiting," said Shane Beamer, South Carolina safety coach, special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator. "We certainly have had a lot of success in recruiting the last few years. We have signed the last two Mr. Footballs and some really good other players. We have to continue on that track and we have to keep the kid home, in-state. We have to show them and everyone else that we can compete and win SEC championships."

It could be the difference between landing the nation's top player or seeing him go to an SEC rival. Five-star DE Jadeveon Clowney (Rock Hill, S.C., South Pointe) is No. 1 in the ESPNU 150 and can have his choice of schools. Right now, his favorites are the Gamecocks and Alabama. This one could come down to the very end and it will be very important for South Carolina to have a good season.

"They need to do well, yeah," said South Pointe coach Bobby Carroll. "They don't have to win the national championship or even the SEC. Because if they play well then kids like Clowney are going to know they can go to a place like South Carolina, play early and help them compete for championships down the line."

No question Clowney headlines the Gamecock recruiting board, but don't sleep on the other elite recruits from the Palmetto State like offensive lineman Brandon Shell (Charleston, S.C./Goose Creek), defensive tackle Phillip Dukes (Manning, S.C./Manning), running back Shon Carson (Lake City, S.C./Lake City), defensive end Roderick Byers (Rock Hill, S.C./Northwestern), defensive tackle Gerald Dixon (Rock Hill, S.C./South Pointe) and athlete Shamier Jeffery (St. Matthews, S.C./Calhoun County). South Carolina has a definite shot at each of those prospects and with the exception of Carson and Jeffery, they are all linemen.

But the Gamecocks are also looking around outside of South Carolina. They would love to land a quarterback and are looking at Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer) and Tanner McEvoy (Oradell, N.J./Bergen Catholic). Of the two, they have a better shot at McEvoy at this point. South Carolina would also love to land a tight end or two and are after Drew Owens (Charlotte, N.C./Ardrey Kell). Mike Blakely (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee) is one of the nation's top running back prospects and he currently favors three schools -- Florida, South Carolina and Auburn. At receiver, the Gamecocks would love to close with Damiere Byrd (Sicklerville, N.J./Timber Creek).

The bottom line
South Carolina is off to a quality start with their 2011 recruiting class, but it could become a great class as the Gamecocks are in the mix for highly-ranked in-state prospects. They are currently sitting in good position with most and unless the wheels completely fall off South Carolina, they should close very well. Look the Gamecocks to make a lot of noise late in the recruiting process.

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.

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