If the subject of Steve Spurrier’s future came up at the next Republican presidential candidate debate, how big of a surprise would it really be?

It’s a hot topic, to be sure.

Spurrier is 70 years old, and he’s done little to quiet the talk of his retirement in the last nine months. From his “two or three more years” quote back in December to a bizarre presser in July where he talked about his “enemies” and tried to walk back his earlier comments, it’s been a bit of a mixed message from him.

With a disappointing 1-2 start, last week’s demolition at the hands of Georgia and uncertainty swirling around the quarterback position, the light on Spurrier shines brighter than ever.

But perhaps the main issue for the Gamecocks isn’t Spurrier at all. Maybe it’s a drop-off in talent.

Here’s a look at South Carolina’s last five seasons, its record and how it fared the following February in recruiting, according to 247Sports:

Year Record SEC Rec. Rank
2014 7-6 9
2013 11-2 9
2012 11-2 8
2011 11-2 7
2010 9-5 7

It’s tempting to just look at national recruiting rankings, see a team finish around the top 25 and think that’s a good year.

That doesn’t wash in the SEC.

Of course, recruiting rankings aren’t absolute. Five-star players can flame out and one- and two-star players can go on to become all-SEC selections. But, on the whole, the talent pipeline into Columbia isn’t quite at the level it needs to be.

Now, transcendent players can cover up a lack of overall talent. South Carolina had such a player in Jadeveon Clowney, who piled up 24 sacks and 47 tackles for loss during the Gamecocks’ run of 11-win seasons from 2011-2013.

Other players, like former quarterback Connor Shaw, wind up being ideal fits for the system and playing well above expectations.

But these are the exceptions to the rule that, if you bring in average talent, you can expect average results.

So, statistically speaking, last year’s 7-6 record, and this year’s 1-2 start, is pretty much in line with the program’s overall talent level.

Here are the 22 players listed on this week’s depth chart, and how they were rated by 247Sports coming out of high school:

Position Player Recruit level
QB Lorenzo Nunez 3-star
RB Brandon Wilds 3-star
WR Pharoh Cooper 3-star
WR Deebo Samuel 3-star
WR Terry Googer 3-star
TE Jerell Adams 4-star
RT Mason Zandi 3-star
RG Will Sport 2-star
C Zack Bailey 4-star
LG Mike Matulis 3-star
LT Brandon Shell 4-star
DE Cedrick Cooper 3-star
DT Taylor Stallworth 3-star
DT Gerald Dixon Jr. 3-star
DE Marquavius Lewis 4-star
LB Jonathan Walton 3-star
LB Skai Moore 3-star
LB T.J. Gurley 3-star
CB Chaz Elder 4-star
CB Al Harris Jr. 3-star
FS Isaiah Johnson 3-star
SS Jordan Diggs 3-star

Players like Moore and Pharoh Cooper play at a level far above their recruiting ranking, but for the most part, these are starting lineups filled with 3-star talent. And before this week, the starting quarterback (Perry Orth) was a former walk-on.

By contrast, seven Georgia starters last week were 4-star recruits while Nick Chubb was a 5-star talent out of high school.

Recruiting in the SEC is difficult. The competition is fierce, and a half-dozen schools (or more) can legitimately offer high schoolers the chance to play for a national championship, top-notch coaching and a track record of sending players to the NFL.

Steve Spurrier is one of the best college football coaches that’s ever walked a sideline. But whether he coaches one more game for South Carolina or five more years, the talent level needs to rise — and fast.

Sometimes, it’s not about the Xs and Os, but the Jimmys and the Joes.