Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks are on the cusp of taking over the SEC East. But they’ll have a hard time beating next year’s college football lines without one-third of their recruiting class.
Still think college sports is for amateurs? George Schroeder at USA Today reported Wednesday that the “Power Five” NCCAF conferences will each earn $50 million in the first year of the College Football Playoff. That’s almost twice what they earned last year as the Bowl Championship Series came to a merciful close. The other five FBS conferences will split $75 million among them, over five times more than in 2013.
Meanwhile, “student-athletes” are still lining up to play football for virtually nothing. But as low as the standards are for the “student” part of that equation, they still exist, and not everyone is meeting them. It looks like the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS last year) are going into the new season with a much smaller recruiting class than they initially planned. Should ‘Cocks fans be concerned? Yes, especially if they like betting on college football.
Word first came out last week that eight of the 21 players in South Carolina’s recruiting class – ranked No. 24 overall by Scout.com – had yet to officially sign up for school. Assistant coach Steve Spurrier Jr. (son of the head coach, in case you were wondering) admitted to Josh Kendall of The State that the eight players in question were short of meeting academic qualifications. Two of them have already announced they’ll play JUCO this year instead, including four-star DE Dante Sawyer. Two-star DE Jhaustin Thomas already came out of JUCO and appears to be in limbo for now.
The remaining five hopefuls are scrambling to meet qualifications in time for school. Three of those gentlemen are four-star prospects: Cornerbacks Chris Lammons and Wesley Green, and DT Dexter Wideman. Spurrier fils hopes to see both his would-be cornerbacks make it onto the team. “That’s a pretty critical area for our 2014 football season getting those guys here,” he told The State.
You can understand why. South Caorlina’s defense finished No. 16 overall on the F/+ Combined Ratings last year, and No. 14 on the S&P+ Ratings in passing situations. But that defense said goodbye to both CB Victor Hampton (51 tackles, nine passes defended, three INT) and CB Jimmy Legree (55 tackles, four PDs, three INTs), who turned pro this summer as undrafted free agents. The Gamecocks will need to lean heavily on their Class of 2014 to fill those gaps in the secondary.
Let’s not forget the departure of this year’s No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. DE Jadeveon Clowney (40 tackles, four PDs, three sacks) didn’t have a particularly good junior season, battling gastroenteritis and assorted injuries, and South Carolina’s sack total dropped from 43 in 2012 all the way to 25 last year. But Clowney’s shoes are still there to be filled, and the ‘Cocks are running thin on options.
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This is all bad news for a Gamecocks team that was poised to take over the SEC East this year. They’re still available at 25-1 on the 2015 College Football Championship futures market; last year’s SEC East champions, the Missouri Tigers (12-2 SU, 11-2-1 ATS), are 66-1 as they try to rebuild on both ends of the ball. South Carolina may still deserve to be favored for the division title, but there isn’t much value left in those NCAAF title odds.
Let’s not forget how difficult USC’s early schedule is this time around. They get to play the first three games at the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium, but those games are against the Texas A&M Aggies (9-4 SU, 5-8 ATS), the East Carolina Pirates (10-3 SU, 7-6 ATS) and the Georgia Bulldogs (8-5 SU, 3-9-1 ATS). Nary an FCS cupcake to be found among them – and not much time for the re-tooled Gamecocks to sort things out.