Home-grown talent energizes rivalry
COLUMBIA -- Around the third quarter of tonight's game between South Carolina and Clemson, Tramel Terry and Gerald Turner plan to head for the exits at Williams-Brice Stadium.
As highly-sought after recruits, Terry and Turner, juniors at Goose Creek High, are grateful to get free tickets to such an important game.
Terry said he feels excited to attend games like tonight's, and LSU-Alabama three weeks ago, as part of the recruiting process.
But at this point, Terry has attended 15 games at South Carolina and four at Clemson. He said no single game -- however wild, whatever the result -- will impact his decision about where to play college football. To Terry, tonight isn't monumental enough for him to miss the birthday party he is throwing for his friend back home, so he and Turner will leave early to make it there.
"We wanted to try to show our faces at the game and try to get a feel for the environment," said Terry, a wide receiver who was previously committed to Georgia and has scholarship offers from USC and Clemson, as does Turner, a linebacker.
Recruiting, especially in the state of South Carolina, played a valuable part in tonight being the first USC-Clemson game in which both teams are 9-2. USC's classes the past three years were ranked
No. 18, 24 and 12 by Rivals.com. Clemson's were No. 8, 19 and 37. Both schools are doing well for the Class of 2012, which is almost completed. USC is No. 14, Clemson No. 9.
Though USC coach Steve Spurrier said just a handful of in-state recruits pick between USC and Clemson in the end, both schools pursue the state's best players.
In 2011, USC signed four of the state's top 10 players who also had Clemson offers. Clemson signed three of the top 10 who had USC offers.
"Recruiting battles can win a lot of football games down the road," said USC defensive line coach Brad Lawing.
But can the result of one game swing a recruit?
Like everything in recruiting, it depends on the kid. For every junior like Terry, who has seen it all, there will be a wide-eyed freshman or sophomore tonight at Williams-Brice experiencing major college football for the first time.
USC's sixth-year senior linebacker, Rodney Paulk, still remembers asking players for their gloves when he went into postgame locker rooms as a recruit.
"It's got more of a chance to impress the younger kids," said Mike Farrell, the national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "That's called a visit high. They come off the visit, and for that week after the visit they're riding on this emotional high where: This is where I want to go."
Both Farrell and USC coach Steve Spurrier doubt the result of one game plays a major role in a recruit's decision, and said kids consider bigger-picture factors. Terry agreed.
"I think that would be kind of foolish to try to choose the school based on that," Terry said of the rivalry game. "I try to look at the people around the school, just how everybody is, coaches-wise, how they treat people, how the players interact with you."
For some players, however, one game is all it takes. Offensive tackle Brandon Shell, of Goose Creek, was the second-highest rated recruit in USC's Class of 2011.
His high school coach, former Clemson and USC assistant Chuck Reedy, said Shell liked Clemson early on. Then, last fall, he attended USC's home win over No. 1 Alabama. Shell returned home gushing about the scene in the postgame locker room, where he met running back Marcus Lattimore.
"When he came back, he was pretty much locked in because he felt that excitement and he saw, hey, they can beat Alabama and they can play for championships," Reedy said. "Certainly, a game like that can make a difference. Normally, one game within itself doesn't necessarily determine where a kid goes to school."