Today's roundtable features Publisher Wes Mitchell and guest bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and Life of a Gamecock.
Please make sure you click their names and frequent their blogs too - you won't be disappointed.
Let's get down to it...
When you look at this class what's the first thing that stands out about the group?
MITCHELL: I think you have to really like the balance in this class and the high character of the kids in it. There's some depth there too. When you read the class it almost looks like a starting lineup for a football team. That means no one position is loaded up on and no one position was left out. There's even a kicker. These are also good kids with few character risks among the group. It's a very, very solid group overall.
LOHD: For me what stands out first is the number of players landed from outside the state, especially Georgia. The 12 signees from Georgia were two more than the University of Georgia had and seven more players than the Gamecocks signed from South Carolina. The good thing is the Gamecocks were able to land top-talent in the state of South Carolina that they focused on including "Mr. Football" for the state of South Carolina – Shaq Roland. That's four years in a row that USC has landed the state's top football player.
LIFE: I think the first thing that stands out is the nice balance of recruits the coaching staff did in landing these players. There are some superstar players like RB Mike Davis, WR Shaq Roland and CB Chaz Elder along with some underrated players like CB Rico McWilliams, CB Chris Moody and S Kyle Fleetwood. There was a heavy emphasis on defensive backs and the Gamecocks loaded up. They also got some highly rated offensive line prospects like Brock Stadnik, Joe Harris, and Cody Waldrop. There is a ton of potential in this class and I think the Gamecocks are building towards a very promising future.
Other than Darius English, who's the underrated prospect who could develop into a star?
MITCHELL: There are plenty of ways you could go with this question. And I think their are plenty of deserving candidates. I'm going to go in a little different direction and say QB Brendan Nosovitch. When South Carolina went out and looked for a QB they wanted a guy who was a winner. Nosovitch is certainly that as he and go-to receiver Kevin Gulyas willed their team to victory. G.A. Mangus has proved with Connor Shaw that he can evaluate QBs. Nosovitch is in a similar mold.
LOHD: Rico McWilliams. He is one of the top defensive backs out of the state of Georgia. McWIlliams finished his senior year of high school football with 12 receptions for 301 yards on offense. He had two interceptions and approximately 40 tackles on defense. With the departure of defensive back Stephon Gilmore to the NFL, McWilliams has a strong chance to see playing time earlier and often. He is a "sleeper" in the Class of 2012 due to his upside as a player. He is aggressive, plays the ball well in the air, has good height, good hips, and possesses the acceleration and range that is needed in a SEC corner. All of that translates into good things for the South Carolina secondary that is in need of play- makers and depth for the 2012 season. Don't be shocked if McWilliams, with his 4.4 speed, is an impact freshman for the Gamecocks as they work towards getting back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship.
LIFE: Rico McWilliams should get a lot of love here but I like Cody Waldrop on the offensive line. I think his versatility on the offensive line to play either the center position or the guard position will allow him to get on the field quickly. He's got great size at 6'4" and weighing 310 pounds. I think he's got a mean streak that will pay off greatly at the next level. His star ranking only shows three stars but he was recruited by some SEC schools like Georgia and Tennessee. He's a guy that I think will play above his star ranking and will be considered a "steal" for the Gamecocks.
Shaq Roland has been the class headliner for some time – what are realistic expectations for the local star?
MITCHELL: Roland is going to be instantly compared to Alshon by fans -- not due to the type receiver he is but due to the fact he's going to play Alshon's X receiver position and there's a huge need for a go-to receiver. It's certainly okay to expect Roland to come in and play early. But he, like Alshon, needs to be allowed to come along at his own pace. It wasn't until the Kentucky game, midway through his freshman season that Alshon became a household name around the SEC, but he never looked back after that.
LOHD: I would be disappointed if Shaq Roland did not play significant reps in 2012 and lands on the All-SEC freshman team. I bite my tongue in saying he will be starting as I hope for the older guys to step-up but if he is a starter, it would not surprise me due to his talent-level. One thing is for sure and that is the Gamecocks offense is in need of him to be a serious factor in 2012 due to the departure of Alshon Jeffery. Roland has the potential to fill those shoes as the go-to-receiver.
LIFE: Expectations will be high for this young as it should be. He's a rare talent with all of his abilities at the wide receiver position but we can't expect him to be one of the best receivers in the country right away. It wouldn't surprise me to see him put up numbers similar to Alshon Jeffery in his freshman year. Jeffery had 46 catches for 763 yards and 6 touchdowns. These are impressive numbers but a realistic goal for Roland coming in as a true freshman. He shouldn't have to carry the load with Ace Sanders and Damiere Byrd returning along with redshirt freshman KJ Brent and Shamier Jeffery. This could help him ease into the transition to college football and work his way into the mix heavily over the last half of the season just like Alshon Jeffery did in 2009. I'll shoot for 40 catches for 700 yards and 5 touchdowns out of Roland in his freshman year.
What's the most impressive thing about this class?
MITCHELL: I have to go back to the depth and character of the kids. While there's no Jadeveon Clowney in this class, I don't think there's a single prospect on the list that you look at and say can't one day help the team. This is a class that will help fill out the depth chart on future teams for years to come.
LOHD: The offensive firepower that USC brought in. They got a stud quarterback in Brendan Nosovitch, running back Mike Davis and three excellent receivers – Shaq Roland, Kwinton Smith and Jody Fuller. You have to believe that knowing the likes of those type players and the others on both sides of the ball has Coach Spurrier's knee feeling better already.
LIFE: I think the most impressive thing was the ability to retain all the recruits amid the coaching changes this offseason. Once these kids committed, they became Gamecocks and stayed that way. There were no deflections and Steve Spurrier and staff worked these recruits to stay on board. It was a phenomenal job and something they should be recognized for this recruiting cycle.
Who was the biggest ‘miss' for South Carolina?
MITCHELL: I'll go Elijah Shumate. He could have played early in the secondary and would have likely been a future starter. While Tyriq McCord would have been a nice addition to the class, he wasn't as likely to play as a freshman. Shumate would have had every opportunity to do so.
LOHD: Defensive end Tyriq McCord. He had been a "Gamecock lean" for so long in the process but I guess the pull to play in your home state was too much. USC could have really used his talents and would have done a lot to help address depth concerns at the DE spot. Oh well, his lost as it is great to be a Gamecock.
LIFE: The biggest miss for South Carolina this year was safety Elijah Shumate. He was a prospect South Carolina led for the entire process until a trip to Notre Dame in mid-December. Whatever Notre Dame did on that visit, it worked as Shumate flipped from a long-time lean to Notre Dame being the favorite. South Carolina kept in touch and worked Shumate till the end but they had no chance. He was a top safety in this class and a high four-star prospect. He's the biggest miss for the Gamecocks this year.
What does it mean for South Carolina to sign Mr. Football in the state for the fourth straight year?
MITCHELL: It was easy to see Wednesday that this is a source of pride for Spurrier. The Head Ball Coach loves the fact that the best player in the state has wanted to play for his program for the last four years. Having those guys on campus has worked wonders for recruiting too. Stephon Gilmore was directly involved in recruiting Jadeveon Clowney and Marcus Lattimore, and recruits always mention the thrill of hanging out with Lattimore and Clowney.
LOHD: It shows that the USC coaching staff is serious about working the high school circuit in the state of South Carolina and keeping the best inside the state wearing garnet. By doing so, it also conveys the message to other players that the best go play for USC and if you want to play with the best come be a Gamecock.
LIFE: It's a huge accomplishment for the Gamecocks to land Mr. Football in the state of South Carolina four years in a row. This would have never happened in years past but the recent recruiting success off the field has led to on the field successes for the Gamecocks and it's an easier sell convincing the top recruits to come to Columbia. Schools like Tennessee and Georgia would steal the top recruits from the state but that hasn't happened the past four years. It's a change in the times here in Columbia and it's a big thing for the Gamecocks to land Mr. Football these days.