Reaves Looks at Past, Present, Future

Ten months after David Reaves was named the recruiting coordinator at USC, the Gamecocks defeated arch-rival Clemson, and then wrapped up his first year as coordinator with a consensus Top Ten recruiting class. One year later, after a loss to Clemson and a top recruiting class by the Tigers, Reaves doesn't hesitate to compare his two classes, and what he looks for in the future.

South Carolina recruiting coordinator David Reaves was named one of the Top 25 recruiters in the nation after his first recruiting class was completed, and though his second class struggled in comparison to the previous class, he didn't shy away from a frank discussion of this year's class, answering reporters' questions with the same stoic confidence he had displayed in the previous year's press conference. He made clear he was already working on the next year's class.

He discussed the staff's goal of bringing in a top recruiting class each year, stating, "You shoot for that, but you never know how it's going to fall," he said. "It depends on your connections with the kids and if the kid has connections to the University of South Carolina. Everything plays a part in recruiting. Obviously, you shoot for a Top 10 class and then you go from there."

Reaves was upbeat when discussing this year's class, which was ranked 34th in the country by Scout.com's analysts, compared to last year's gaudy #7 ranking. "I think we filled some needs and solidified some positions, especially defensively," Reaves said. "It's a solid group."

USC missed on a number of key players this season comparable to the caliber of players they landed last year. When asked if his team's ending the season with five straight losses had hurt recruiting efforts, Reaves was firmly unbending in his answer that went against the consensus opinion, stating, ""Many of our kids, especially the ones out-of-state, don't even follow it."

Last year the Gamecocks landed eight players from the state of North Carolina, including five of that state's top 11 prospects, but only landed one player, Reggie Bowens, from the Tarheel state in this class. Reaves acknowledged the loss of assistant coach Fred Chatham, who was fired in December, as a reason that the Gamecocks did not have as good of a presence in the Tar Heel State. "You never know how it's going to go," he said. "We lost Fred Chatham in the middle of recruiting season and he recruited half the state of North Carolina.

New special teams coordinator Ray Rychleski will start recruiting North Carolina, a state he knows well from his days as an assistant at Wake Forest and Maryland. "North Carolina has to be a good state for us because we're the closest SEC school to the state," Reaves said. Rychleski will also do some recruiting in Virginia - another state he recruited for his past employers - and try to pick up a few prospects in a state that South Carolina has not recruited heavily in recent years.

Assistant Coach Shane Beamer joined the USC staff shortly after the 2007 recruiting season ended, and South Carolina made inroads this season in a neighboring state Beamer recruited where they had signed only one player last season – Georgia. Though not all were Beamer's recruits, the Gamecocks signed six players from the Peach state this season: Chaz Sutton, Darrell Simmons, Elliot Williams, Kenny Miles, Jarriel King, and Ronald Byrd.

In-state rival Clemson claimed six of the state's top ten players this season, compared to only one for USC. "A couple of those kids have been committed to Clemson for a couple of years," Reaves said. "We got two in-state quarterbacks that we think are going to be good players for us. You just have to recruit as hard as you can in-state and then move to the surrounding states in the Southeast and move from there."

Despite the gap at the top of the rankings, Reaves expressed satisfaction with this year's in-state class of eight players from the Palmetto state. "Eight out of 22 in-state is pretty impressive," he said. "We're happy with the guys we got in-state. We're going to start coaching them up as soon as they get here."

Reaves barely paused as he began to look ahead to the next year's in-state recruiting class, stating that USC could be very successful inside South Carolina next year with the addition of new defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, a Palmetto State native who has coached at both the high school and college level in SC, and knows many of the state's high school coaches.

"We need to get him involved in the state," Reaves said. "Obviously, he's been a high school coach here. He has a lot of ties. But, being the defensive coordinator, you don't want to overburden him with recruiting."

Rychleski and Johnson both joined the USC staff after the first of the year, with less than a month remaining before Signing Day. Reaves said, "By the time they were here, we had a lot of kids committed. They mainly went by, introduced themselves, and told them how they looked forward to coaching them. When you have a little change, you have to just cover up for other guys and pick up the pace a little bit, Guys on the staff did a good job after we got those new coaches in here. Now we can move on to next year."

"We've already had our junior day, so we're already a step up on that. We've already had a lot of those top juniors on campus. We just have to get out there and get them on campus as many times as we can and hopefully get them signed next year."

Steve Spurrier has had to endure multiple changes on his coaching staff at USC every year he has been in Columbia. Reaves was asked if the lack of continuity had hurt recruiting, in light of comments made by a number of Clemson commitments who cited long-term relationships with the Tiger staff. He said, "The key, of course, to recruiting a player successfully is developing a relationship with the player, his family and, just as importantly, his high school coach, over a long term period. Obviously, when you're a (college) coach that's been recruiting in the area for four, five or six years, you have a very good relationship with the (high school) coach and you know what freshmen and sophomores are coming up. It's important to try and keep your coaches in the same area, build those relationships, as well as get on those kids early, evaluate those sophomores and then you can jump on people."

Last year's class included 15 offensive players, including seven wide receivers. This year's class included only one receiver, DL Moore of Tennessee, and twelve of the twenty-two prospects signed were defensive players. "If you look at our numbers, they were very high offensively in last year's class," Reaves said. "With the number one receiver class in the country last year, we weren't going to sign a lot of receivers. We were able to fill some needs defensively that we needed. Defensive back was a priority and we got five or six of those guys. We're excited about that group."

USC also signed five defensive linemen and two offensive linemen. "You like to sign defensive linemen," Reaves said. "You always want to sign more athletic big men. You never know where they're going to fit in. It's always a positive to sign as many athletic, big defensive linemen as you can sign. You want the best athletes on the field."

Regarding the offensive line players now signed or already on campus, Reaves said, "If you look at our numbers, we have 14 offensive linemen on scholarship, so two more puts us at 16. We've got some offensive linemen on our team now. Numbers-wise, we're in pretty good shape there. You can't start filling up on one position because you're taking from another. We have to coach up the guys we have here now. Of course, the guys we signed this year can come in and help us."

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