Biggest Needs: Steve Spurrier continued to prove why he’s one of the best in the business in the 2011 campaign. Not only did he put together back-to-back 10-win seasons, he did it in 2011 after losing his QB and RB in mid-season. Fortunately for the Gamecocks, they only have to replace a few guys on the offensive side of the ball. If Marcus Lattimore returns full strength in 2012, he and QB Connor Shaw could have an awesome season in the same backfield. Alshon Jeffery is by far the biggest loss on offense, and his early departure to the NFL will be difficult to replace. Jeffery was South Carolina’s leading receiver with 49 receptions and 762 yards. The only other losses on offense come up front, and the Gamecocks will have to replace four guys on the two-deep depth chart. Fortunately OT Kyle Nunn and OG Rokevious Watkins are the only starters lost on the O-line. With the skill position talent that South Carolina has recruited in the past few years, I think the offense in 2012 will be fine.
Defensively the Gamecocks have significantly more losses. DE Melvin Ingram is the first big loss, and his team-leading 10 sacks will be difficult to replace. DT Travian Robertson is the other loss up front, and he was solid in the middle all year for the Gamecocks. No significant losses at linebacker for USC, but the defensive backfield is a different story. South Carolina loses two big-time cornerbacks with the graduation of C.C. Whitlock, and the early departure of Stephon Gilmore. Add in the loss of Safety Antonio Allen, and South Carolina will be rebuilding the defensive backfield in 2012. Just like the offense, South Carolina has stock-piled skill guys in the last few years, so they could put together a quality defense in 2012.
Needs Met: While there was no Jadeveon Clowney in this year’s recruiting class, the Gamecocks have still put together a solid class. Offensively, they started building up front by signing five offensive linemen, and Joe Harris and Brock Stadnik look ready to step in and play immediately. Brendan Nosovitch was the lone QB signed in this class, and even though he wasn’t rated highly, Spurrier is really high on him. Mike Davis is a highly rated RB out of Georgia, and it seems if they are stock-piling talent in anticipation of RB Marcus Lattimore entering the draft after 2012. South Carolina also signed three receivers, and Shaq Roland is a guy that I think will be playing from day one. The Gamecocks rounded out their offensive class with two tight ends. Jerell Adams is a tall athletic tight end that will add a lot to the passing game.
Defensively the Gamecocks signed three defensive linemen, and Carlos Hood could be the steal of the class. Hood is a big DT that could have a long career as a big-time defender in the SEC. With no losses at linebacker, South Carolina didn’t use any scholarships on LB’s, but they did sign five defensive backs. Safety’s Jordan Diggs and Chaz Elder are two guys that could play early, but I expect to see them on the field at the same time in a couple of years. Again, not much fanfare with this class, but these guys can get the job done with the talent already on campus.
Biggest Get: Mike Davis: Easily a RB that could take over the starting job when Lattimore leaves.
Biggest Miss: Ronald Geohaghan: A big time DB that would have helped ease the pain of the three big losses in the defensive backfield.
Final Evaluation: I think South Carolina fans are finally getting the production out of Spurrier that they were expecting. This class builds depth, but no real game changers in this class. Recruiting is the only way to keep winning, and next year needs to be a little bit better to keep it going.
Final Grade: B-
Other 2012 Signing Report Cards:
- Alabama Crimson Tide: A+
- Arkansas Razorbacks: C+
- Auburn Tigers: A-
- Florida Gators: A+
- Georgia Bulldogs: A
- Kentucky Wildcats: C
- LSU Tigers: A-
- Mississippi State Bulldogs: B
- Missouri Tigers: C+
- Ole Miss Rebels: C
- Tennessee Volunteers: B+
- Vanderbilt Commodores: B+