It’s college football’s second season and it seems to get bigger and bigger with each passing year.
It’s national signing day and for college football fans across the county it’s a holiday when one can dream about the future.
So who won the annual battle between South Carolina and Clemson?
Depends on whom you ask. Clemson’s class was ranked higher by ESPN (No. 7 to No. 18) and Rivals.com (13th to 18th), while the Gamecocks had the better class according to Tom Lemming/CBS Sports (11th to 12th) and Scout.com (12th to 16th).
The truth, however, won’t be known for another couple of years.
Here’s The Post and Courier’s Report Card on the two schools:
Overall: This class didn’t make the splash that the 2011 class did because there’s probably not a Sammy Watkins-like player among the 20 players signed. But what this class lacks in marquee skill players it more than makes up with some much needed help on the offensive and defensive lines. This consensus top-20 class is the second for Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
Quarterback: The Tigers don’t have a QB on campus that can push Tajh Boyd, so getting one in this class was a priority. Enter Chad Kelly, the nephew of Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly. Rated the No. 4 QB by ESPN.com, Kelly had more than 4,000 yards of total offense and accounted for 41 TDs.
Running Back: With the often-injured Andre Ellington and the status of enigmatic Mike Bellamy uncertain, this was another need for the Tigers. The Tigers missed out on a couple of big-name RB prospects in Mike Davis and Keith Marshall, but did sign the multi-talented ATH Zac Brooks, who projects as a running back, but could play some wide receiver.
Wide Receiver/Tight End: The Tigers loaded up on WRs in the 2011 class, so this wasn’t a huge need, especially when you have the most dynamic player in college football already at the position in Watkins on campus. Germone Hopper is a 4-star player out of Charlotte who was rated as the No. 11 WR by Rivals.com.
Offensive line: The Tigers lose three starters and six total offensive linemen. This was a huge need and Swinney delivered. Battle, the No. 4 overall prep school prospect by Rivals.com, could contribute immediately. Patrick Destefano, D.J. Reader and Oliver Jones are all solid prospects. The 300-pound Jay Guillermo, who has a 90 mph fastball and will play baseball for the Tigers, might be the most intriguing signee of the entire class.
Defensive Line: The Tigers missed out on DE Jonathan Bullard, who had been a Clemson lean at one point. Lawson, the state’s No. 2 prospect, and DT Carlos Watkins, the nation’s No. 55 overall prospect according to 24/7 Sports.com, could contribute immediately.
Linebacker: Not much the Tigers can do for an encore after the linebacker class they signed a year ago. The Tigers under performed at the position in 2011, but some of that can be attributed to the injury to Tony Steward. Goose Creek’s T.J. Burrell is listed as a LB, but probably will end up at safety with his size and speed.
Secondary: The graduation of CB Cotey Sensabaugh and FS Rashard Hall made this a priority for the Tigers. The Tigers signed four secondary players with S Travis Blanks being the marquee name. Blanks, who is the No. 4 DB in the country according to Rivals.com, missed five games during his senior year with an injury. S Ronald Geohaghan is the No. 3 overall prospect in South Carolina.
Overall: The Gamecocks got the Mr. Football award winner for South Carolina for the fourth year in a row when they signed WR Shaq Roland. USC was also able to retool its secondary, a high priority, by signing DBs Chaz Elder and Jordan Diggs. Throw in ATH Chris Moody, who was turned on the eve of signing day, and USC head coach Steve Spurrier put together a solid class.
Quarterback: Junior QB Connor Shaw won’t have to look over his shoulder this spring with no established back-up in the program. Dylan Thompson and Andrew Clifford are still battling for the No. 2 spot, but are a distant second to Shaw. Spurrier is high on QB Brendan Nosovitch, who threw for a Pennsylvania state record 12,000 yards and 106 TDs in the state’s private school leagues.
Running Back: How close will RB Marcus Lattimore be to 100 percent this fall? That’s the biggest question facing the Gamecocks. Brandon Wilds emerged as a viable back-up and Kenny Miles is likely headed out the door for his senior season. Enter Mike Davis. Davis is the No. 63 rated overall prospect by Rivals.com and could make an immediate impact in the fall if Lattimore isn’t back to full speed.
Wide receiver/Tight End: Roland is a legend in the Lexington community and one of the nation’s top playmakers. Rivals.com has him as the nation’s No. 66 overall prospect. With the departure of Alshon Jeffery, Roland is expected to play right away. WR Jody Fuller is a 4-star prospect, while WR Kwinton Smith didn’t received as much fanfare as Roland, but is another big-play threat.
Offensive line: The Gamecocks have started to build some depth on the offensive line but lose two starters off of last year’s team. Brothers Brock Stadnik and Clayton Stadnik are already enrolled in school. Four-star OG Joe Harris was one of 12 recruits the Gamecocks snagged out of Georgia.
Defensive line: The Gamecocks, like the Tigers, missed out on Jonathan Bullard and a couple of big name defensive linemen. DE Darius English, DE Jhaustin Thomas and DT Carlos Hood probably won’t crack the two-deep chart in the fall, but will provide depth.
Linebackers: The Gamecocks still haven’t been able to lure a big-time linebacker prospect they’ve needed the last couple of years. LB Kaiwan Lewis continues that pipeline of players from New Jersey and LB T.J. Holloman will need to get into the weight room.
Secondary: This was a point of emphasis for Spurrier and this is where the Gamecocks probably made their biggest splash. USC signed six players, including Moody. Diggs and Elder are the most highly rated players in this bunch as 4-star prospects. Diggs is expected to play the spur position. S Kyle Fleetwood is one of three players signed out of Stephenson High School in Georgia.