Can one player make a football recruiting class?
If that one player happens to be Byrnes High School's Marcus Lattimore, the nation's top-ranked running back, you'd better believe it. Or at least that's the hope for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and Gamecock Nation.
While the Gamecocks might have made the bigger splash with the signing of Lattimore, Clemson won the overall recruiting battle between the two Palmetto state schools, according to Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell.
"Marcus Lattimore turned what was looking like a very mediocre class for South Carolina into a top-25 class," Farrell said. "One player can do that. One player with Marcus Lattimore's ability can change a lot of things. I think overall, Clemson had the better class. It was very close this year. In the past you've usually had a clear winner between the two schools, but this year it was very close. I just felt like Clemson had a little more depth to their class than South Carolina did."
Rivals had the Tigers with the 18th-ranked class nationally, while South Carolina came in at No. 25.
"A lot of how good or bad this South Carolina class will be depends on what kind of career Marcus Lattimore has," Farrell said. "If Marcus has a career like Demetris Summers, then this class will be viewed as a bust. If he has a great career, he's the kind of player that lifts a program to the next level. While Clemson didn't get the marquee player, the big-name guy like Lattimore, they were able to sign a lot of quality players and they had more depth. Clemson probably has four or five guys that are going to have a big impact on the program, while South Carolina had two or three. That's not a big difference."
Farrell said the signing of Beaufort linebacker Justin Parker was the difference.
"Had South Carolina signed Justin Parker, that might have been enough to push them past Clemson," Farrell said. "Getting Parker on signing day was a nice way to cap the class for Clemson."
The Gamecocks clearly won the battle of South Carolina. USC signed the state's No. 1 player in Lattimore along with Darlington's Victor Hampton (No. 3), Greenwood's Kelcy Quarles (No. 7) and Bamberg-Ehrhardt's A.J. Cann (No. 10). Clemson signed receiver T.L. Hanna's Martavis Bryant (No. 5), the only Clemson player in the Rivals Top 100.
"South Carolina seemed to emphasize its homegrown talent this year," Farrell said. "That hasn't always been the case. Clemson did a great job out of state, getting a couple of guys out of Georgia, Florida and Alabama -- Garry Peters, Darius Robinson and Tavaris Barnes -- that everyone wanted."
Farrell said fans too often get caught up in who the school didn't land instead of who they did sign. South Carolina missed out on Parker, Manning's John Fulton, who had been leaning toward the Gamecocks, but eventually signed with Alabama, and Sean Tapley, who had committed to USC, but switched to North Carolina on signing day. Clemson heavily recruited defensive back Keenan Allen, out of Greensboro, N.C., but missed out when he signed with California.
"Fans can be an irrational bunch," Farrell said. "You're not going to be able to get every player you go after. As good as the classes were at Florida and Southern Cal, I guarantee you they didn't get everyone they wanted. Just be happy with the guys you did sign. South Carolina and Clemson both had solid classes."