Spurrier, Beamer thrilled with 2009 class

Head coach Steve Spurrier and recruiting coordinator Shane Beamer announced Wednesday the Gamecocks have signed the 12th ranked recruiting class in 2009. The 29 signees include six players already enrolled at Carolina, four junior college transfers, and crown jewel Alshon Jeffery, who pulled a Signing Day switch and signed with the Gamecocks instead of Southern Cal.

"We feel like we had a very strong year," Spurrier said. "What was so encouraging was that we were able to hold on to all of our committed guys throughout the year and through the postseason. Obviously we didn't finish very strongly, had some lousy games toward the end, but our players didn't waver and they all signed up today. That's a credit to our coaching staff, our guys really showed recruits that, ‘Hey we're going to be here and we can win at South Carolina, and you can graduate from this place.' Also the facility improvements around here are still progressing. Our brand new training room was finished right at the end of December, and we were able to show recruits that. Our new academic enrichment center, ‘The Dodie,' will be ready in about a year."

The six early enrollees are Josh Dickerson, Jarvis Giles, Stephon Gilmore, DeVonte Holloman, Tony Straughter, and Chaz Sutton. All enrolled at South Carolina in January and are currently attending classes and team workouts. Giles and Gilmore are two of the three players Spurrier identified as being the highlights of the class.

"I think the recruiting class this year, probably highlighted by Stephon Gilmore, the player of the year here in the state of South Carolina," he said. "He and his teammate DeVonte Holloman are in school and certainly Ellis Johnson did a super job of recruiting those guys and making sure they were here in January. Jarvis Giles, the running back from Tampa, is also in school and was also a big pick-up for us. Today, Alshon Jeffery, from Calhoun County, 35-40 miles from here, ranked by some as the top player in the state, along with Stephon, came with us."

Gilmore is listed as a defensive back, but he played quarterback in high school and will get a look on offense with the Gamecocks in addition to playing corner.

"We're going to double-train Stephon," said Spurrier. "We're going to give him a few plays [on offense], he's too good with the ball in his hands."

In addition to Gilmore, Carolina signed a true quarterback, Andrew Clifford. Clifford was lightly recruited and something of a surprise signing. With only three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster following Chris Smelley's transfer (Stephen Garcia, Aramis Hillary, and Reid McCollum), there was some urgency to sign another quarterback.

"We watched a bunch of tape of the guys who were available, and we felt like Andrew was the best guy available. We didn't really worry who all was after him. On tape he looked the best of all those guys we watched," Spurrier said. "The other day I was watching workouts, and Reid McCollum had his wisdom teeth out, Stephen's got a little shoulder [pain], […] so Aramis was our only quarterback out there. I said, we'd better go find another one somewhere, G.A. [Mangus, the new quarterbacks coach] has got to have somebody to coach."

The four junior college transfers are Dickerson, Straughter, Steven Singleton, and Rokevious Watkins. All four come from Georgia Military College, which has also provided the Gamecocks with recent players like the Brinkley twins and Jarriel King. Junior college transfers are expected to be able to contribute sooner than high school signees, and Dickerson and Straughter are linebackers, a position Beamer said was a point of emphasis in recruiting.

"Obviously, the linebacker position, losing some guys there like we did last year, losing a Jasper Brinkley and a Marvin Sapp and with an older group at that position, we wanted to go out and be able to sign some linebackers and we did that," said Beamer, who took over as the Gamecocks' recruiting coordinator when David Reaves left for Tennessee. "We needed some game-breaking type running backs. We felt like we did that with the two guys we signed. Receiver position, we needed to upgrade and we signed five really good ones. We went into it this year, position specific, we try to every year, but this year we really wanted to do a good job targeting those positions."

By signing 29 players, the Gamecocks went over the NCAA scholarship limit of 25. USC can count a handful of players back to last year, and some players may not be academically eligible and could be placed at a prep school or junior college to improve their grades before enrolling at Carolina. Beamer said the prospect of being a "sign and place" has been discussed with several players, but he did not name them.

"There's some guys that we've discussed a couple potential scenarios with that we knew when we signed them had some work to do academically," he said. "We've got in place for the guys who will be here in the 2009 season. We discussed that with people on the front end [of recruiting] and feel good about how that will work out."

While the coaches get most of the credit for signing a highly ranked class, both Beamer and Spurrier said that credit must be shared. Beamer thanked the people who work behind the scenes, while Spurrier credited the current players with playing an important role.

"You don't sign the top two players in the state and three out of the top five and five out of the top eight without having a great support group and total team effort," said Beamer. "There's a lot of people behind the scenes, from the training staff that help us on official visits to the strength staff that help us on official visits. Robbie Liles and Patrick Shine and Scott Morgan and their office do a great job."

"Your current players have to be good recruiters and they have to believe in their program or you're going to have problems," said Spurrier. "When your players believe in what is going on and they're excited about workouts, they're telling these recruits to come on and we can get something done here. Give credit to our players. The ones we have here now have a wonderful attitude. It's the best attitude in a long time."

Spurrier noted that Carolina hosted 31 official visits this recruiting cycle. Of those 31 visits, 27 of the visitors committed to the Gamecocks.

List of signees:

Name - Position - Ht./Wt. - Hometown (High School)

Corey Addison DB 5-11/177 Jacksonville, Fla. (Andrew Jackson)

Nick Allison OL 6-4/285 Asheville, N.C. (T.C. Roberson)

Ben Axon RB 6-1/195 Bradenton, Fla. (Manatee)

DeMario Bennett WR 6-3/185 Douglas, Ga. (Coffee County)

Ronald Byrd DL 6-6/285 LaGrange, Ga. (Callaway/Fork Union Military)

Duane Chisolm DL 6-2/256 Beaufort, S.C. (Beaufort)

Andrew Clifford QB 6-3/215 Tampa, Fla. (Wharton)

Matt Coffee LB 5-11/210 Mary Esther, Fla. (Ft. Walton Beach)

Justice Cunningham TE 6-3/242 Pageland, S.C. (Central)

Josh Dickerson* LB 6-2/217 Kingsland, Ga. (Camden Cnty./Georgia Military)

Aldrick Fordham DL 6-4/234 Jamestown, S.C. (Timberland)

Jarvis Giles* RB 5-11/176 Tampa, Fla. (Gaither)

Stephon Gilmore* DB 6-2/181 Rock Hill, S.C. (South Pointe)

Chaun Gresham LB 6-3/205 Auburn, Ga. (Apalachee)

DeVonte Holloman* DB 6-2/210 Rock Hill, S.C. (South Pointe)

Charles Holmes WR 6-3/190 Rock Hill, S.C. (South Pointe)

Alshon Jeffery WR 6-3/217 St. Matthews, S.C. (Calhoun County)

DaMario Jeffery DB 6-4/215 Columbia, S.C. (Columbia)

Jimmy Legree DB 6-0/170 Beaufort, S.C. (Beaufort)

Leon Mackey DL 6-6/260 Wilmington, Del. (Hargrave Military Academy)

Chris Payne DB 5-10/173 Columbia, S.C. (Columbia)

Lamar Scruggs WR 6-3/212 Jacksonville Beach, Fla. (Duncan U. Fletcher)

Steven Singleton OL 6-3/300 Buford, Ga. (Buford/Georgia Military)

DeAngelo Smith WR 6-0/170 Kingsland, Ga. (Camden County)

Quin Smith LB 6-0/205 Lenoir, N.C. (Hibriten)

Tony Straughter* LB 6-0/215 Madison, Fla. (Madison Cnty./Georgia Military)

Chaz Sutton* DL 6-4/236 Savannah, Ga. (Jenkins/Fork Union Military)

D.J. Swearinger DB 5-11/196 Greenwood, S.C. (Greenwood)

Rokevious Watkins OL 6-4/340 Fairburn, Ga. (Creekside/Georgia Military)

*Enrolled in January of 2009

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