How USC gets by with 5 S.C. signees

2012-02-02T04:45:00Z How USC gets by with 5 S.C. signeesBy GENE SAPAKOFF, postandcourier.com The Times and Democrat
February 02, 2012 4:45 am  • 

COLUMBIA - The blend of in-state and out-of-state talent was on display in the Wednesday sunshine on a busy corner just outside Williams-Brice Stadium:

A bright green George Rogers Boulevard sign precisely placed between two healthy palmetto trees.

As veteran fans know, a good University of South Carolina football team does not thrive on home-grown products alone.

Rogers, a Georgia native who won the 1980 Heisman Trophy, meshed exceptionally well with local flora, including palmettos and field turf.

But only five South Carolinians in the Gamecocks' signing day class of 2012 officially announced Wednesday?

Even for a football program that until recently got most of its best players across various borders, that's an eye-opening low figure.

Head coach Steve Spurrier and his staff can get away with it for three reasons:

1. The overall haul was real good.

2. They got South Carolina's "Mr. Football" for the fourth year in a row, this time Lexington High School wide receiver Shaq Roland.

3. They don't intend to let the low five thing happen again.

"Georgia is just a state that has more players," recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. said. "At the end of the day, we knew it would be a year where we probably sign a few more out-of-state players.

"But there are still plenty of players in this state that are excellent players, and we know that if we're going to become as good a team as we can be that we have to recruit the state very well."

‘Perfect distance'

The Head Ball Coach sees it similarly.

"It was just one of those years," Spurrier said.

He pointed out that metro Atlanta has more humans and high schools than all of South Carolina.

"There's a bunch of ballplayers in Georgia, and in the Atlanta area,"

Spurrier said. "Obviously, they can't all go to Georgia. We're just a two-and-a-half or three-hour drive. Perfect distance to go to college, I think. It's a pretty good little pipeline."

Five signees from the home-state recruiting base is a disaster most years for most programs. The context here is unprecedented success: South Carolina is coming off its best season, 11-2 with a victory over Clemson and a Capital One Bowl conquest of Nebraska.

The 2010 season - SEC East title, Clemson win, Alabama win - belongs among the top five in program history, too.

Thus, South Carolina has the regional credibility to dip strongly into George Rogers territory, Atlanta and surrounding towns.

Sands fired up

It's a delicate balance. The coaching staff knows that you can't let Clemson and other schools roam Palmetto State high school hallways without stiff competition.

The newest Gamecock assistant coach is as much an advocate of in-state recruiting as anyone.

"(We want) to make sure we keep the best players in South Carolina here at South Carolina," said running backs coach Everette Sands, a former Citadel player and assistant coach who got his garnet wardrobe just a few weeks ago.

Before Spurrier arrived, the list of best players in Gamecock football history tilted to hometowns outside the state, including an elite group of native Georgians led by Rogers, Sterling Sharpe, Bobby Bryant and Dan Reeves.

But check out the last two rosters.

Alshon Jeffery, Devin Taylor and Kyle Nunn are from South Carolina, as is The "Mr. Football" Foursome that started with Stephon Gilmore and also includes Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney and Roland.

If Everette Sands gets his way, the streak isn't over.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or Twitter: @sapakoff.

Copyright 2015 The Times and Democrat. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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