The early signing period for football last week had more hits than misses for Clemson and South Carolina, and both finished with top 20 recruiting classes.
Clemson signed 27 players was ranked fifth nationally by Rivals. Interestingly, the four teams ahead of Clemson are all from the SEC — Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU. South Carolina, which has 19 signees and one unsigned commitment in junior college defensive lineman Jahkeem Green, is ranked 19th by Rivals.
USC is ranked ninth in the SEC by Rivals, but would be the No. 3 class in the ACC behind Clemson and Florida State, third in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma and Texas, and fourth in the Big 10 following Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska.
Clemson added three Floridians last week to their 24 earlier commitments. Two are offensive linemen Will Putnam of Tampa and Kaleb Boateng of Fort Lauderdale, and the third is defensive tackle Tyler Davis.
Putnam carried his decision to Thursday after several delays because he had a difficult time choosing between Clemson, Florida State and Auburn. He’s a big pickup for Clemson because of the Tigers’ needs on the offensive line. His high school coach said the Tigers are getting a great talent with an attitude.
“He’s probably the most devastating lineman I’ve ever seen,” Plant High coach Robert Weiner said. “Special, special skills, and his desire and technique show up. He’s dedicated to the fundamentals of the position. His footwork is incredible. There’s not an ounce of fat on his body."
Boateng was a late offer for the Tigers after they backed off from pursuing Cooper Dawson of Hanahan, who signed with Syracuse, and Jimmy Fritzsche of Greenville, who signed with Nebraska. He unofficially visited in March but there was not much going on with Clemson until a couple of weeks ago.
“When I talked to them on Friday, I knew I was probably going there,” Boateng said. “I would say the number one thing to me is the whole program is a family. One major thing is academics.”
Davis chose Clemson over Florida State and will give the Tigers a wide body in the middle of the defensive line.
“My decision weighed heavily on just how [the coaches and players] responded to me and everything,” Davis told the Orlando Sentinel. “I felt more comfortable with Clemson. They’re both family oriented and it was very difficult.”
Those three gains eased the pain of the one miss last week. Long-time target linebacker Quavaris Crouch of Charlotte, who had Clemson, Michigan and Tennessee as his finalists, signed with the Vols despite being considered a strong Clemson lean by recruiting analysts for most of the recruiting season.
Clemson also made a late offer to running back DJ Williams of Sebring, Fla., but never got him in for an official visit and he signed with Auburn.
USC won out in three recruiting battles that carried into signing week. It started with offensive lineman Jakia Moore of Nokesville, Va., who picked the Gamecocks over Penn State.
“I felt like that’s the best fit for me,” Moore said. “I want to come in and play early. I feel like if I go to South Carolina, they are losing four out of five linemen, I can play early as a freshman.”
On signing day, cornerback Johnny Dixon of Tampa, long thought to be favoring the Gamecocks, made it official by signing with them over Miami.
“I just feel the most comfortable with them and I can see the program growing,” Dixon said. “They say I have the chance to come in and compete for a spot in the lineup.”
And on Thursday night Will Muschamp contacted Mullins wide receiver Xavier Legette with the news there was room for him in this class. Legette committed and signed the next day.
Legette also had offers from Colorado State, Tennessee, East Carolina, Tulane and Coastal Carolina. But USC was always where he wanted to be.
“It’s the best place for me,” he said “It’s very close to where I’m from, Mullins, and my family will get to see me more often than they would if I were to go anywhere else.”
Legette played quarterback this season for the Auctioneers, rushing for 1,826 yards and 19 touchdowns and passing for 887 yards and 14 touchdowns.
The Gamecocks fell short in their pursuit of three players who stuck with their prior commitments — offensive lineman Matthew Bedford of Memphis with Indiana; cornerback Jaydon Hill of Madison, Ala., with Florida; and linebacker Tyron Hopper of Roswell, Ga., with Florida. The Gamecocks also missed on running back Eric Gray of Memphis, who signed with Tennessee.
USC remains in the mix for cornerback Chris Steele of Bellflower, Calif., who will announce Jan. 5 at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio. Steele has USC, Florida, Oregon, Oklahoma and Southern Cal as his final five. A source who has contact with Steele said last week he has not told him the Gamecocks are out but the sentiment of recruiting analysts is Florida and Oregon are the leaders.
The Gamecocks will remain involved with several unsigned prospects for the February signing date. Those players include WR/DB Jashawn Sheffield of St. Simon’s Island, Ga., who has been committed to Auburn; DL Jaquaze Sorrells of Winter Park, Fla.; OL Darius Washington of Pensacola, Fla., who has been committed to Mississippi State; CB Dequanteous Watts of Atlanta; CB Jammie Robinson of Leesburg, Ga.; and CB Shilo Sanders of Cedar Hill, TeX.
Clemson will continue to work on RB Jerrion Ealy of Jackson, Miss. He remains an Ole Miss commit but he did recently take an official visit to Mississippi State. And there is some speculation Clemson may try to get further involved with DB Akeem Dent, who has been a Florida State commitment but did not sign last week.
Clemson and USC are in top seven with 2020 LB Kevin Swint of Carrollton, Ga. The others on his short list are Florida, LSU, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Boston College.
Socastee WR Kenney Solomon was offered by Massachusetts. Some of his other offers are UCF, Coastal Carolina, The Citadel, Marshall, Charlotte and others.