COLUMBIA -- Many college football fans feel like they actually know their favorite team's recruits after the drawn-out recruiting process culminates on what has become something of an American sports holiday, complete with its own important-sounding title: National Signing Day.
But the reality is, most players who signed letters of intent Wednesday will fade into roster obscurity for the next season or two. Some are never heard from again. The guys really worth knowing right now are the ones who could have an immediate impact come August, when teams gather for preseason practices and welcome the incoming freshmen.
USC had a "peaceful" signing day, as recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. put it. The Gamecocks signed 25 players, in keeping with the Southeastern Conference's new cap on recruiting class sizes. The haul was ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 18 class (the same ranking USC earned last year). All of the players who had given USC verbal commitments signed. There were no last-minute additions.
It's easy to get tangled up in all the names, numbers, star rankings and coach speak of signing day. In terms of recruiting's immediate impact on a program, the bottom line is this: Don't miss on talented players at positions that need filling. And USC certainly didn't.
The Gamecocks' three new wide receivers will have an opportunity to play immediately because Alshon Jeffery left early for the NFL. USC's second-leading receiver last season was Ace Sanders, a quick player. But he is a 5-7 slot receiver who lacks the stature to play the outside receiver spot the 6-4 Jeffery occupied. USC got the Nos. 10, 37 and 51 receivers in this class: 6-1 Shaq Roland, 5-11 Jody Fuller and 6-4 Kwinton Smith.
Spurrier Jr. said the coaches felt that receiver and defensive back "were our biggest needs," just as defensive line was last year, when the Gamecocks signed end Jadeveon Clowney, the nation's top-ranked recruit. This class includes three cornerbacks, two safeties and a spur linebacker who was listed by Rivals as a safety.
Rico McWilliams was rated No. 26 among corners, T.J. Gurley No. 44, though USC has him at safety. Jordan Diggs, listed as a spur, was rated No. 11 among safeties, while Chaz Elder was No. 15 and Kyle Fleetwood was No. 38. USC will let Elder give corner a shot -- a big reason why he chose the Gamecocks. The third corner is Chris Moody, ranked No. 64 among "athletes."
Grabbing a starting spot in the defensive backfield will be tough, because the two open spots, both at corner, likely will be filled by Victor Hampton and Akeem Auguste. But both safeties will be seniors. And Spurrier Jr. noted that defensive backs "are usually your best contributors" on special teams, so you could see the freshmen there this fall.
USC head coach Steve Spurrier said the two tight ends in this class, Kelvin Rainey and Jerell Adams, will have a chance to play immediately. Rainey graduated high school early to enroll in January and Adams originally signed last year, then went to prep school to improve his grades.
Wide receiver Shaq Roland, of Lexington, is the fourth consecutive South Carolina Mr. Football to choose the Gamecocks. He follows defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, running back Marcus Lattimore and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Roland is rated No. 66 overall by Rivals.com.
ONE THAT GOT AWAY:
USC would have had quite the receiver group if it landed Gaffney's Quinshad Davis, the state's No. 2 player, behind Roland. Clemson and USC both offered Davis, the No. 34 receiver and No. 223 overall recruit. But he picked North Carolina.
WILL PLAY RIGHT AWAY:
USC coach Steve Spurrier essentially said tight ends Kelvin Rainey and Jerell Adams will get on the field this fall. Adams is a physical specimen — 6-6 and 224 pounds — and is a year ahead of the other freshmen because he attended prep school to improve his grades.
KEEP AN EYE ON:
Kicker Nick St. Germain. USC needs somebody to replace Jay Wooten, and the Gamecocks' coaches liked St. Germain enough to give him a scholarship. They hadn't recruited a kicker since 2005, when they brought in Ryan Succop.