Steve Spurrier was in a really good mood when talking about South Carolina’s recruiting efforts in the state of Georgia recently, and there was a good reason for it.
Nearly half (12) of South Carolina’s 25-member recruiting class was comprised of Georgia talent, and the Gamecocks beat out UGA, among other schools, for elite Atlanta area prospects such as DB Chaz Elder, OL Joe Harris and RB Mike Davis. You could make a case that South Carolina, as well as Alabama, recruited the state of Georgia as well as anyone in 2012.
We had a Q&A session with Spurrier and, as usual, he was candid and colorful with his comments. One response from Spurrier that particularly stood out is when we asked him about “negative recruiting.” There are never-ending rumors (often supplied from recruiters at competing schools) that the 66-year-old offensive mastermind is on the brink of retirement.
“I didn’t hear much about my retirement this year,” Spurrier told the AJC with a laugh. “It was funny. They were talking to Tom Coughlin. We’re about the same age. They asked him if he was going to hang it up after winning the Super Bowl. He said I’m having more fun now that I’ve had in a long time, I’ve got plenty of energy and I’ve got several more years in me. Of course, that’s what I say. We’ve got the best group of players we’ve ever had at South Carolina since I’ve been here. It would be hard to quit after you’ve accumulated and assembled a strong team that won 11 games last year.
“If the time comes when we start going bad, oh don’t worry, I will be the first to say they need somebody else in here. It won’t be any big deal or anything like that. Right now, I’m doing pretty well, physically and mentally. I feel as good as I did 20 years ago. I still call the plays. My mind is OK, I believe. So I don’t know what else I would do right now except for coaching ball.”
Here are some more of the questions:
The state of Georgia is loaded with talent for 2013. What would you want to tell the top prospects that are considering South Carolina? “The reason we were able to sign some of the top players in Georgia is because of what we’ve done the last two years. We’ve won 20 games. We’ve beaten Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Clemson. We’re 8-0 against those guys the last two years. The big thing is that we’ve improved our facilities at South Carolina. Everything is top notch. Our academic learning center was finished about a year and half ago and has been a very valuable recruiting tool for us. We’ve graduated the most football players in a year last year. It was 27 over a period of three different graduation dates during the course of the year. And our GPA was over a 2.7. I think it was tops in the SEC this past year. What we need to do is to win the SEC championship. We’ve done about everything else. We need to hopefully win us an SEC championship here in the next 2-3 years.”
In general, is there more or less cheating in college football these days? “I think there’s less. I guess it depends on how far back you want to go, but I think there’s less. I think most coaches follow the rules pretty well now. I think what we all have to worry about now is a player getting something extra from whomever – a booster, agent runner or whatever. So we have to keep teaching and encouraging players that you just can’t take anything from anybody. You can’t take a free dinner. You can’t take a free round of golf or Putt Putt. You can’t take any extra benefit. Hopefully, our players know that and will not put themselves in that kind of position. I think that’s one thing we all worry about. Because if some kid wants to come up and hand a kid $500, sometimes it might be hard for a kid to say ‘Oh my, I can’t take that. I can’t take that.’ And the guy may say ‘Nobody will know.’ So you have to just try to educate your guys that you can’t take anything or you will be ineligible to play college football.”
You’ve been outspoken in favor of over-signing. What was the impact of the SEC’s new over-signing rules on South Carolina? “I think we’re OK with all the rules now. All the coaches were not in favor of the 25 limit unless all the other conferences were going to do the 25 limit. They can over-sign a little bit and so forth and it’s a little bit of a handicap to the SEC but we can live with it. It’s not a big deal. If you’re signing 25 per year, and keeping your players around at a good rate, which most schools should be doing, then 25 per year is usually plenty.”
What did you think about Alabama asking two longtime commitments to take grayshirts a few weeks before signing day? “That happened to us last year [in February 2011], and we caught a little grief for it. We had two players that had not qualified yet. We were waiting on Jadeveon Clowney [who announced more than a week after signing day]. Of course, we weren’t going to call Clowney and say ‘By the way, we’ve got a player down in central Florida. He hasn’t qualified yet and it doesn’t look like he’s going to but we have to save a spot for him. So we’re not going to recruit you anymore, Clowney.’ Now would that have made sense? Of course not. So we called the player down there who had not qualified and told him ‘We’re still going to take you. But if you qualify, you’re going to have to wait to come in January. So he didn’t qualify, as well as another player didn’t qualify. But we did have to tell them that. We picked actually two young men that were the furthest from qualifying – that’s how we handled it. Because of all of sudden, you get a top player like Jadeveon Clowney, and sometimes you have to take bad press on that. That’s what happened with Alabama. I read the story about the kid who had the knee operation or something. Alabama thought he wouldn’t be ready to play next year, so they asked him to come in January. But he didn’t want to do that, I guess. What would you do? You’ve got a great player coming, and then you’ve got a player injured or may not qualify. That’s a tough call right there.”
Isn’t that one of the benefits for a prospect to commit early to your school? If a kid who is academically qualified commits early to South Carolina, doesn’t that secure his spot in the current recruiting class despite an injury? “We’ve taken several guys with injuries if we’ve not gone overboard. Last year  was the only time we’ve been over the limit where we had to ask a player not to sign on signing day. That was last year. But recruiting is not an exact science. Just because a player commits, he has not signed yet. If there was an early signing period, as soon as you would get 25 papers on file, you’re finished. But that’s not the way we do it. You have a signing date. On the date, the first Wednesday in February, everybody knows ‘Hey, this is who we’ve got.’ A lot can happen between the summer and the first Wednesday in February.”
What do you think about an early signing period? Should there be one? “I’ve always been against it personally because I think you would end up recruiting real hard during the summer and during the football season. If players sign in September or October, you end up spending too much time on players that ‘may be with you’ rather than your players that are with you during the season. I think we’ve all understood that commitments are not binding. Sometimes a young man feels like he has a better opportunity somewhere else. Sometimes it’s like a boyfriend and girlfriend: One girl looks pretty good and it’s like ‘Man, we’re going to last forever.’ Two or three weeks later, it’s like ‘Hey, this isn’t working out too well. Maybe there’s something else out there.’ That’s sort of like the early commitments. We didn’t lose anybody this year. That was neat that all 25 that committed to us, signed with us. We had two players committed elsewhere earlier but all of the guys that said they were coming to South Carolina signed with us. That was neat.”
What do you think of this so-called Big Ten’s “gentlemen’s agreement” not to recruit players committed to other schools within the conference? “I’ve never heard about anything like that. I think we all know in coaching that you recruit your guys up until singing day, until you get a fax with the letter of intent. That’s when it’s over. Sometimes, players change their minds. Sometimes, they feel like they have better opportunities elsewhere. But those ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ things, those things don’t hold up too much.”
What about South Carolina signing 12 from Georgia this year? “It worked out that way this year. The greater Atlanta area I think has 5.5 million people. The state of South Carolina has 4.5 million. Obviously, there’s a bigger population and more football players in the state of Georgia than South Carolina. We only signed four in-state players this year but last year we had 9-10. But it just happened to be one of those years in Georgia where we got several really good players to come to South Carolina.”
Perhaps no college assistant recruited Georgia as well as your defensive coordinator, Lorenzo Ward? “He probably did. I think he was responsible for about 9 out of 12. Lorenzo is an excellent coach and a super recruiter. He gets to know the guys well. He likes to drive from Columbia to Atlanta. So he’s got his own car. He can stay 2-3 days, hit all the schools and all the players. So he’s there every opportunity and that’s what it takes to be an outstanding recruiter.”
FROM OVER THE WEEKEND
IT’S RAINING RECRUITING STORIES
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– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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