COLUMBIA — Signing day is replete with big displays of drama and brashness, as college football recruits try to make their immediate marks by keeping fans in suspense about their choices until last-minute press conferences, then saying how they plan to impact those programs.
BIGGEST SPLASH: USC needed physical offensive linemen, and it got one in tackle Na’Ty Rodgers (6-5, 296) of Maryland. He is the third-highest rated recruit in USC’s class, No. 181 overall, and he could help bolster the Gamecocks’ line, if he can add a bit more weight.ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Keith Bryant, Rivals’ No. 17 defensive tackle, opted for Florida State on signing day. He said he wanted to stay closer to his hometown of Delray Beach, Fla., partly because he has a one-year-old daughter. WILL PLAY RIGHT AWAY: USC got two four-star linebackers: Larenz Bryant (USC’s highest-rated recruit in this class) and Skai Moore (who picked the Gamecocks on signing day). USC lost their top two linebackers at mike and will, and their starting spur outside linebacker. KEEP AN EYE ON: Rivals’ national recruiting analyst, Mike Farrell, likes defensive end Devan’te Covington as a sleeper prospect, partly because he said North Carolina is known for “pretty athletic defensive linemen.” Darryl SlaterA closer look at USC’s class
And there was certainly no shortage of boldness Wednesday at University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where outside linebacker Skai Moore picked South Carolina over Rutgers and Vanderbilt, and was not shy about telling everyone why he did it.
Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Hometown/High schoolLarenz Bryant OLB 6-0 215 Charlotte Mohamed Camara S 6-1 191 Cumming, Ga. Pharoh Cooper CB 5-11 194 Havelock, N.C. Devan’te Covington DE 6-4 220 Rockingham, N.C. Kelsey Griffin DT 6-2 292 Buford, Ga. Ali Groves CB 5-10 184 Stone Mountain, Ga. David Johnson ILB 6-1 268 Lithonia, Ga. Bryce King C 6-3 281 Dillon HighAlan Knott OT 6-4 272 Tyrone, Ga. *Ronnie Martin CB 5-11 173 Spartanburg High**Connor Mitch QB 6-3 219 Raleigh Skai Moore OLB 6-2 205 Cooper City, Fla. **D.J. Park OT 6-4 335 Dillon High School Na’Ty Rodgers OT 6-5 296 Waldorf, Md. Jasper Sasser S 6-0 192 Jacksonville, Fla. Jamari Smith RB 5-10 183 Jacksonville, Fla. Gerald Turner DE 6-2 256 Goose Creek High J.P. Vonashek OT 6-6 283 Saint Marys, Ga. Jonathan Walton ILB 6-0 234 Daphne, Ala.Devin Washington DE 6-3 225 Orlando, Fla. David Williams RB 6-1 200 Philadelphia *Spent two years at junior college before enrolling in January **Graduated high school early to enroll in January
According to The Miami Herald, Moore said he saw “an open playing field” for playing time, with USC losing its top two players at the weakside linebacker spot, and its starting spur outside linebacker. He talked about looking forward to playing on “a defense with some dogs on it,” which he meant as a compliment to the Gamecocks.
“My opportunity to go in there pretty early and play is a great one,” he said. “So if I do what I’ve got to do, I could be starting from Day 1.”
Moore was committed to Rutgers, but changed his mind in January after getting heavy interest from USC following the season. He got a last-minute scholarship offer from Miami on Tuesday night and learned about it Wednesday morning.
“I feel like it was a little too late in the process,” Moore said. “Honestly, if they would’ve come in two or three weeks ago, this might have been a whole different day for me.”
If he does nothing else in his USC career, Moore at least added some pizzazz to USC’s low-key 2013 signing day. He was the only recruit to pick USC on Wednesday. All the others who signed had previously committed, or at least strongly hinted at their intentions.
Moore is a fine recruit, the eighth four-star prospect in USC’s class, as rated by Rivals, which ranks him the nation’s No. 19 outside linebacker. Rivals ranked the Gamecocks’ class No. 16 nationally, its highest mark since 12th in 2009, a group that went 38-15 in its career and set a school record for wins by a class.
Even with that strong team ranking and Moore’s decision, Wednesday seemed to lack buzz and star power for the Gamecocks. For the first time since 2008, they did not sign a recruit in Rivals’ top 100 overall prospects. Their highest-rated was No. 112 — outside linebacker Larenz Bryant, one of five USC recruits who made Rivals’ top 250.
And really, Moore’s announcement wasn’t dramatic at all for USC’s coaches. Head coach Steve Spurrier said Moore told him beforehand that he was coming to Columbia, which Spurrier said is standard procedure for recruits announcing on signing day, based on his experiences.
Coming off back-to-back, program-best 11-2 seasons, USC was not among the programs featured on ESPN’s on-site reporting, which now includes some coaches shouting joyously and pumping their fists in conference rooms as they watch recruits’ press conferences on TV.
Spurrier didn’t even conduct a phone interview with ESPN. And that’s fine by him. He was content to do his regular one-hour morning workout, call a few recruits who signed and watch other coaches celebrate on his TV.
“You’re not going to see me doing a whole bunch of rah- rahing on signing day,” he said. “I don’t think I ever have too much. It’s an important day. I’m not trying to sound like it’s not important. But we’d rather make our noise out here in Williams-Brice (Stadium) on gameday.”
Said recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr.: “I think some schools like to celebrate this day a lot, too. I don’t think that’s necessarily our ultimate objective, to make this one of the most important days of the year.”