Knocking Heads With The Big Dogs
....... and winning.
If you want to run with the big dogs in the SEC and elsewhere, you had better be ready to do battle. No one ever said taking the next step-up in the SEC was going to be easy. This recruiting game is not for the faint of heart. You have to be ready to draw blood when the alpha-male in the pack challenges you for your bowl of food. If you back down or run away from the fight you will never recover. You are a coward and everyone knows it.
That's why this class is so important.
When Lou Holtz first arrived he set out to do one thing with regard to our recruiting efforts. He wanted to own the state of South Carolina. Let no major player leave this state for another program - especially those that we compete against on a yearly basis.
But he also set out to take us national in our recruiting efforts. To balance our classes and sign the very best talent there was to be had at each position - no matter where our coaches had to go to sign those players.
The Holtz name opens doors.
This season, even moreso than last, Lou and crew are doing just that and it shows. During no recruiting season in recent memory have we battled more of the big dogs for so many instate prospects, AND out-of-state blue chippers, than this season. We've been biting back in recent years and doing well ... but this is a fight we absolutely must win.
Florida has been the alpha-male in the Eastern Division for most of the past dozen years. Tennessee challenges from time to time but even they have been knarled and chewed-on by the Gators in most of their head-to-head meetings both on and off the field.
And Tennessee ceased being a real threat to our instate efforts from the time Derek Watson and Cleveland Pinckney chose USC over the Vols. We've heard very little from them since although they are making a play for Blake Mitchell in Georgia and Eric Young here in South Carolina ... but they will lose.
Florida has been another story. Florida has never seriously trespassed into our territory before ... hiking their legs on our trees, sniffing around our porch. Sure, Spurrier tested the fence around our property last year for Ricardo Hurley ... but that one was never really in doubt was it? FSU used to come in the yard from time to time but even they have been run-off by Lou and his pack in recent seasons.
We should have known Florida would try us again sooner or later now that they have a new leader of their pack.
The first Gator growl this season was heard when Zook asked Charlie Strong to join them as their defensive coordinator and he accepted. Even with Zook at the helm they still think they are better than us. And little did we realize that Charlie, a man we all loved as an assistant HC, would become the enemy on that same day. Strong has now bitten the hand that fed him and you know what that means.
Now the Gators are making a play for not one, but two of our pups. It's down to us and UF for Demetris Summers. And many of our fans seem to be letting Ryan Brown slip by the wayside amidst the dust of this dogfight. How all of this plays-out once the fur stops flying will have a huge impact on the future of our program.
We've gotten used to winning our fair share of the recruiting melees since Holtz's arrival. His staff and he knows how to gang-up on a marauding recruiter in search of new meat (pardon the pun), as well or better than anyone in the country. But this new challenge for Demetris "Meat" Summers is something new altogether. This is happening within a stone's throw of Billy-Brice. This is personal.
It doesn't stop with Summers mind you. That's the point of this prose. Like we said, there is Ryan Brown and Lord only knows who else if we're not careful. And if we let the Gators, or any other SEC program for that matter, come into our backyard and steal our talent right out from under our noses ... then who will be the next challenger? Any show of weakness by us, at this point in our program's growth, is something we can neither fathom nor allow.
Signing all of the instate players we are after, Summers and Brown and Whiteside and Young, and then swaggering our way into others' territory and fighting our way out with talent of theirs - that's what will carry us up the next rung on the ladder in the SEC - especially in the East. Therein lies the signal we will be sending. That not only will you not take ours - but we are going to come into your backyard and take some of yours instead. We need to not only keep UGA, UF and UT out of SC, but we need to take players from Georgia, Florida and Tennessee you see. Signing playmakers that the others thought they could take from us sends a message now and for the future before the next battle is even fought.
There is more than just another recruiting war going on in our backyard. This is much more than just another signing day on the horizon. Because for the first time ever we are actually going to disappoint a few Gator football fans on signing day like we have Dawg and Vol fans in the recent past. UF fans don't know it yet but they need to get used to it - this Summers worry will not last long trust us. Because by signing this class, the Summers and Youngs, Whiteside, Newton, Mitchell and all the others ... we are setting the table for future battles to be won on the field - and at the same time sending a message that not even the once mighty Gators are going to be allowed to come into our yard and expect to leave without being bloodied. Hell no. The days of us rolling over and submitting are finished. You mess with us and we're liable to bite your balls off and spit'em back in your face - we're serious. That's the attitude we should have when Florida invades our territory ... when Tennessee makes their play on Young and others or Georgia makes their play on whomever. No more cowering, no more insecurities and fear of rejection. If we're going to run with the big dogs then we had better learn to beat them at their own game. This is the most important class we will ever sign and this fight is not going to be for the faint of heart. It is going to go down to the very end.