COLUMBIA -- One recruiting analyst said Byrnes High product Marcus Lattimore could have "named his school."
As Lattimore said Tuesday, he had 30 from which to choose. Yet, Lattimore picked South Carolina.
No, the Gamecocks didn't land everyone they wanted from the Palmetto State, but they continue to sign the very elite when it comes to in-state prospects.
Lattimore, who committed Tuesday, follows South Pointe cornerback Stephon Gilmore and Calhoun County receiver Alshon Jeffery last year as a measure of sustained progress in that area.
Lattimore, the No. 1 running back prospect in the country, according to some recruiting services, was the state's Mr. Football this past season. Gilmore held that title in 2008.
"Yeah, I think we've done a really good job, our coaches, of emphasizing to our in-state players that we can win big here," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said.
Lattimore was enough to push South Carolina's 2010 class into most recruiting services' top 25.
Only a couple of years ago, South Carolina's staff was aware there was work to be done in building relationships with the state's high school coaches.
No one had done a terribly poor job, but no one had done a wonderful job either.
"They made it their mission to get in every high school," said Phil Kornblut, the veteran Columbia-based recruiting analyst and radio host. "They wanted to get in every high school."
South Carolina recruiting coordinator Shane Beamer said landing Bamberg-Ehrhardt lineman A.J. Cann is perhaps the product of reaching out. Bamberg had produced recent Clemson talents Da'Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp, both of whom never considered USC.
Maybe attitudes are changing about the Gamecocks in some of those previously off-limits places?
"Slowly, but it's changing," said Greenwood's Kelcy Quarles, the other Parade All-American in the state to sign with USC. "It's the SEC. You can't get any better football than that."
Quarles' high school program has been hit or miss for the Gamecocks over the years. It's a little bit geographically closer to Clemson than USC. That didn't stop Quarles from sounding the charge.
"That shows you right there that there's pride in going to South Carolina instead of Clemson or somewhere out of state," said Quarles, who attended Lattimore's announcement. "We're going to beat Clemson every year, so they might as well get ready for it."
One thing that's helping USC is assistant coaches with deep in-state ties.
Defensive head coach Ellis Johnson played in the state and has coached in it long enough -- on the high school, FCS and FBS levels -- to be in line for state retirement.
Johnson is from Winnsboro and had coached at, among other places, Clemson and The Citadel, before landing at South Carolina.
"People know Ellis," Beamer said. "I'm amazed at how many high schools I go into and take Ellis with me, and they know him. He'll know the principal or the secretary or whoever."
Now throw new offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, a Camden native, into that fold.
"I've been blown away with how many people have made comments about Shawn," Beamer said. "It couldn't have been more positive, with people that know him and high school coaches in the state."
Even if the assistants aren't from here, the high school community is getting used to the guys in garnet.
Beamer, in his third year, said he feels dramatically different than he did the first day walking into these schools.
There were a few, smaller Signing Day surprises for the Gamecocks.
Jacksonville, Fla., four-star receiver Sean Tapley flip-flopped from South to North Carolina, but the Gamecocks responded by signing another Jacksonville product.
Javon Bell had just committed to Florida International this past weekend, but he decided he would rather play in a major conference.
Bell, likely headed for a prep school, might have to wait to make an impact at USC. Bradenton, Fla., native Ace Sanders will not. Sanders is just 5-7, but could provide a spark that wasn't present in 2009.
"He can juke around and make guys miss," Spurrier said. "That's something we haven't had since (all-time leading receiver) Kenny McKinley left."
Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus was the trigger man that landed Sanders, who was also considering South Florida and West Virginia.
"He's a big play waiting to happen," Rivals analyst Jamie Newberg said. "I think the big three (Florida, Florida State, Miami) in that state are going to rue the day they passed on Ace Sanders."
South Carolina lost Beaufort linebacker Justin Parker to Clemson, but that was all but expected. USC was hopeful Parker could help fill the void left by All-America linebacker Eric Norwood.
Beamer felt some positive vibes coming from Parker over the weekend, but by Tuesday he had lost touch with Parker and his family. Parker made the decision Wednesday afternoon.
"It's recruiting. You're going to win some and lose some," Beamer said. "That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. All of our coaches, we spend 365 days a year on guys -- sometimes two, three years recruiting a guy."
Beamer had recruited Parker for three years.
One point of pride for USC is that the Gamecocks didn't have too, too many stories such as that of Parker and Manning cornerback John Fulton, who has already enrolled at Alabama.
In fact, in terms of efficiency in targets acquired and hit, Beamer said the school brought only 10 recruits on campus for official visits that did not sign with the Gamecocks.
All of South Carolina's 23 signees are from four states --South Carolina and three that are nearby (North Carolina, Georgia and Florida).
"At this point, we're not a national recruiting school," Beamer said. "You start winning championships, and maybe you are. But, at this point, you're not.
"We need to start here in this state, first and foremost, and then hit Florida hard, hit Georgia hard, hit North Carolina hard."
That kind of sums up how this 2010 class came together. There were a few other reaches, such as hotly recruited Philadelphia defensive tackle Shariff Floyd (Florida), but most were regional and in-state targets.
Spurrier feels good about the new arrivals -- especially Lattimore.
"With these new players coming in," he said, "I really believe we've got a chance, the next four or five years, to be a lot better than we've ever been here."