Debunking The Myth

After the 63-17 drubbing back in November that the Gamecocks took to the chin, I kept hearing about how the Gamecocks should be better considering their past two recruiting classes. This off-season, when debating the future of Lou Holtz as the Gamecock skipper, the tone has been that he has the talent to win if he will let his coaches coach.

South Carolina's "Great" Recruiting Class Of 2002 Versus Clemson's "Ordinary" Recruiting Class Of 2002 So, I wondered: are the Gamecocks under-coached or were the players over-hyped? We kept hearing about those Top 10 recruiting classes, yet the team was losing 7 games a year.

Since I'm not a national recruiting guru, my only reference point to compare those "great" classes was with those that Clemson had. None of the major recruiting services listed either of Clemson's 2002 or 2003 classes ahead of South Carolina's on signing day of those two years. Recruiting analyst, admittedly, are trying to forecast how a player is going to perform at the college level. It is an inexact science, but sometimes fans take it as the gospel of how good their recruits are going to be.

In this article, I will compare the actual product on the field of Clemson's 2002 class compared to South Carolina's "Top 10" 2002 recruiting class. I think the results will be surprising to those that think ranking recruiting classes is an exact science, while it will make perfect sense to those that have watched the play on the field objectively.

Quarterbacks
In 2002, Clemson signed Chansi Stuckey and Wil Procter as quarterbacks. Procter has established himself as the undisputed back-up to Charlie Whitehurst after spring practice by beating out a heralded C.J. Gaddis from the 2003 class. Chansi Stuckey has moved into a starting role at wide receiver for the Tigers and is poised to have a potential all ACC year as a wide out. While Stuckey will never see major time at quarterback at Clemson, he did have a 33-yard rushing touchdown as a quarterback against South Carolina last year and many think he will be the next Derrick Hamilton at receiver. We'll see, but it does not matter in this comparison… In 2002, the Gamecocks signed Bennett Swygert and Aryhel Freeman. Not only did neither of these players contribute substantially to the program, they both have transferred from South Carolina.

This one is very easy.

Advantage-Clemson

Running Backs
In 2002, Clemson signed Duane Coleman and Reggie Merriweather. Coleman was Clemson's leading rusher in 2003 and enters summer workouts as the #1 back for the Tigers. Merriweather, after another solid spring, is challenging Yusef Kelly for the back up job.

In 2002, South Carolina signed Brandon Schweitzer, Daccus Turman, Regis Edgerson, and Kenny Irons. Turman has the potential to be a pretty good back, but he has languished in the shadow of Demetris Summers and is buried on the depth chart. Schweitzer has seen little action and has since been shuffled to various positions. Edgerson and Irons have bolted the rocky Lou Holtz ship altogether, both with a chip on their shoulder.

This one is also very easy.

Advantage-Clemson

Wide Receivers
In 2002, Clemson signed Kelvin Grant, Gerald McCloud, and Tymere Zimmerman. Clemson's talent and depth at wide receiver has limited the roles of both Grant and McCloud in their first 2 years in the program. Both, however, are poised to play significant roles in 2004 with Grant possibly starting in place of Kevin Youngblood. Zimmerman never enrolled at Clemson.

In 2002, South Carolina signed Andre Hemphill, Troy Williamson, Charles Ben and D'von Hill. Hemphill has seen limited action and is now listed as a backup free safety for the Gamecocks. Ben never enrolled at USC and Hill is not listed on the two deep for the Gamecocks. Williamson had a solid freshman season and an up and down sophomore season.

While I think the upside to Grant and McLoud may be better than the erratic Williamson, based on pure numbers alone the edge would have to go to the Gamecocks here.

Advantage-South Carolina

Offensive Line
In 2002, Clemson signed Nathan Bennett, Tim Debeer, Dustin Fry, Roman Fry, and Brad Lee. Other than Lee, this entire class is registered on the two deep and makes up Clemson's deepest offensive line under Tommy Bowden. Bennett, Dustin Fry, and Roman Fry have all logged significant snaps for the Tigers since signing day 2002.

In 2002, South Carolina signed Jabari Levey, Kris Mick, Stephen Sene, Chris White, John Hall, Andy Boyd (TE) and Brandon Robinson. Levey is a potential NFL tackle while Sene, White, and Boyd are listed on the current two deep for the Gamecocks. Mick has fallen off the radar screen while John Hall and Brandon Robinson are not longer in Columbia.

Levey has as much upside as any of these signees from either team, but Clemson's depth of lineman contributing early in their careers equals out that advantage.

Advantage-Even

Defensive Line
In 2002, Clemson signed Gaines Adams, Irvin Brisker, Brandon Cannon, Cory Groover, and Vontrell Jamison. Brisker never enrolled at Clemson, but the rest are currently listed as projected starters or on the second team heading into 2004.

In 2002, South Carolina signed only Moe Thompson and Randy Jackson. Jackson, after being heavily courted by Clemson and South Carolina, became one of the greatest flops in recent recruiting history. Thompson is an excellent player that will anchor the Gamecock defensive line in 2004.

Simple numbers tell the tale here. Clemson has 4 players that will make major impacts on the defensive line from this class. Astonishingly, the Gamecocks will have only one.

Advantage-Clemson

Linebacker
In 2002, Clemson signed Donnell Clark, Brandon Jamison, Kelvin Morris, and Anthony Waters. Clark has moved down to the defensive line while Morris is trying to become academically eligible for one more season. Jamison is gone from Clemson without making an impact. Waters is penciled in as the starting linebacker in John Leake's absence.

In 2002, South Carolina signed Ricardo Hurley and Darel Slay. Slay, much like Jackson, was a huge flop and never produced to half of his hype and has since graduated. Hurley has been a bit of an enigma in that he has seen the field extensively, but he has not shown the quickness to defend the pass well.

Again, considering the pride with which Lou Holtz views defense, the numbers are staggering at linebacker. For the Gamecocks to have only one linebacker from this class see significant playing time gives the edge to the Tigers by default.

Advantage-Clemson

Secondary
In 2002, Clemson signed Chris Carter, Jeff Francouer, Justin Miller, and Buddy Williams. Carter never enrolled, Francouer signed with the Atlanta Braves, and Buddy Williams never cracked the two deep. Justin Miller was a freshman All American his first year in Clemson and enters his junior year as possibly the premier cornerback in the ACC.

In 2002, South Carolina signed Jermaine Harris, Tagiy Muhammad, Corey Peoples, Tremaine Tyler, and Fred Bennett. While the overall talent of this secondary class is still a big question mark, all of these signees are currently on the two deep. Bennett and Harris are listed as starters at cornerback and strong safety respectively, while Tyler and Muhammad are back ups at cornerback. Peoples has moved to linebacker, where he backs up Rod Wilson.

While Clemson clearly signed the best cornerback this year, the Gamecocks have the numbers and therefore the advantage.

Advantage-South Carolina

Overall Analysis
By simply breaking down the categories listed above, you can see that Clemson signed the better players at 4 positions (quarterback, running Back, defensive Line, and linebacker). By contrast, the Gamecocks only signed the better players at 2 positions (Wide Receiver and Secondary). The two schools were even at offensive line.

A further breakdown of the numbers will show that Clemson is getting productive play out of 73% (19 out of 26) players signed. By contrast, the Gamecocks are only seeing significant play this year out of 50% (13 out of 26) of players signed.

This data is not to suggest that Clemson had a Top 10 recruiting class for the 2002 year. Most publications had the Tigers ranked anywhere between 20th and 30th in the nation. That seems about right, at least based on what we have actually seen at the Division I-A level with these players thus far.

This data does, however, completely debunk the myth that the 2002 South Carolina class was a Top 10 rated class.

So next time a South Carolina fans talks about those great recruiting classes they had, refer them to this article. And if they say they liked the 2003 class better anyway with Demetris and Syvelle, tell them to stay tuned.

I'll debunk that myth in my next article.

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