South Carolina recruiting: What you need to know about the Gamecocks' Early Signing class
South Carolina certainly closed fast in this recruiting cycle as Shane Beamer’s Gamecocks snagged the top-rated player in the class on Saturday night, just 4 days before Early Signing Day.
Beamer’s message since he has been at South Carolina as head coach is that he knows what it takes to elevate the recruiting back to the golden days of the Steve Spurrier era. While there is still work to be done, especially in-state, Beamer has shown a proven ability to make inroads, especially on the East Coast.
The Gamecocks have made a clear push into the Northeast with 3 of the top 6 commitments coming from players in Maryland, Pennsylvania or Delaware.
Here’s a look at this year’s class:
By the numbers
Overall rank: 16
SEC rank: 6
Did they find a future QB?
Yes. Braden Davis is the No. 1 player in Delaware and the No. 22 quarterback in this class. He’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds. He has a reported 29 offers and was recruited by Marcus Satterfield and Pete Lembo, and he chose the Gamecocks over the likes of Cincinnati, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Stanford and West Virginia.
Antone Davis, Braden’s father, was an All-American offensive lineman at Tennessee whom the Eagles traded up to choose No. 8 overall in the 1991 NFL Draft, Delaware Online reported. He started 87 games during a 7-season pro career. “I was really impressed with how he handled the entire process,” Antone said of Braden’s recruiting.
Who is the best offensive player?
If not Davis, the next highest-rated recruit is Pennsylvania offensive tackle Ryan Brubaker, a 3-star, who is 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds. It’s noteworthy that the Gamecocks beat out Penn State and Vanderbilt for a Pennsylvania kid, and that his father played for Penn State. But the younger Brubaker has long made it clear that it would not be a driving factor in his recruitment, Penn Live reported.
“Brubaker grew two inches and gained 40 pounds heading into his junior season, and transformed from a solid small college prospect to a big-time tackle recruit,” PennLive high school sports editor Brian Linder wrote in a January piece that ranked the state’s top 2022 recruits.
“He’s got good feet and strength and does a nice job at the left tackle spot for his team. Considering his still growing frame, it’s fair to assume he still has tremendous upside, too.”
Who is the best defensive player?
Safety Keenan Nelson Jr. out of Philadelphia was the top-rated player in the class before the Gamecocks lured Baltimore’s Jaishawn Barham and beat out the Terrapins along the way. Barham helped the Gamecocks move from No. 19 to No. 16 in the country.
Listed at 6-3, 230 pounds, Barham is rated 4-stars, the No. 3 Maryland product, No. 8 linebacker and No. 108 prospect overall nationally. He collected 23 scholarship offers during his recruitment, including at least 6 from the SEC.
What position did they recruit the best?
Three of the top 5 players by rating are safeties, and the Gamecocks also have commitments from 3 other safeties. Some of these players could shift to other positions, but by sheer volume alone, the secondary should continue to be a position of strength, as it has been for most of the last 20 years.
The next highest position is defensive line, where they have 4 commits.
What position do they still need to recruit?
The Gamecocks have a class of 20 commits, but only 6 come on offense. Though they have a quarterback for the future, they are lacking offensive playmakers.
One of them could be Antonio Williams of Irmo, S.C. (Dutch Fork), who is a 4-star wide receiver and a Clemson commit but remains a significant priority for the Gamecocks. Williams has been a longtime target for Beamer and his offensive staff, and it doesn’t appear to be over, even though Williams only recently committed to the Tigers following an offer about a month ago.
Did they keep the best players home?
No. The Gamecocks got only 2 of the top 10 in the state, as Clemson lured 4 players to the Upstate and Notre Dame got the Mr. Football and No. 1 player in the state in Jaylen Sneed. Michigan and Arkansas also swooped in and got a recruit each.
This is a disappointing showing, although the Gamecocks lured talent from neighboring hotbeds Georgia and Florida, with a combined 9 commitments from those states. They must do a better job in the state simply to keep some of that talent from Clemson. It’s one thing for Notre Dame and Michigan to come in, but Clemson also recruits nationally and still got 4 local recruits in the state’s top 10.
Overall, how you should feel about this class?
This is a solid class, and it resembles several of the recent classes. But it doesn’t stand out compared to the Will Muschamp era, for example; the Gamecocks haven’t had a top-6 class in the SEC since 2012. There is still work to be done in-state, and they don’t have a top-100 recruit in the class of this cycle. The key will be how Beamer’s staff develops this talent as it has already shown this season on the field. But while it’s a solid class, it doesn’t yet stand out against SEC rivals.