Circle the Wagons and Keep the Troops at Home
by Dave Pickren
January 26, 2000
After all the feedback that my controversial article on the 4-A realignment caused, I decided to write this week's column on a subject that we will agree upon.
Namely how do we keep up all the talented South Carolina high school football players from leading the Volunteers and Seminoles to yet another National Title? For the past 2 years, both of the national champions have accomplished their titles with more than a little help from the players from the Sandlapper State.
I hate recruiting for the most part. I have always believed that following where a 17 year old or younger high school kid is going to attend college is a little silly hobby. Nothing against the guys that follow recruiting but is seems pointless. I remember going back and forth on my college decision countless times when I was 17 and there was not a thousand college coaches around telling them me that I was the greatest player ever. It was the toughest decision of my life and I cannot imagine what it would have been like with the extra pressure of recruiting.
Remember how Michael Carr was the greatest high school QB of all time and was going to lead Clemson to 4 national championships or how Steve Tanneyhill was going to make USC a power in the SEC. The road to recruiting is littered with has-beens and never-was. With all the pitfalls of recruiting today including the College Gestapo (NCAA Clearing House), soft commitments and Prop 48 all the hoopla concerning the players today is usually overblown and is "a lot of something about nothing."
However when you watch a young man like Michael Boulware at Spring Valley you know he is a very special player and you know that he is not staying in state to play college football. Recruiting is an inexact science, but still the fact remains that a state of South Carolina cannot lose players like Joe Hamilton, Courtney Browne, Albert Haynesworth and Chris Hope every year and still compete in the ACC and SEC.
Lets look at how the Class of 2000 is faring for the Tigers and Gamecocks.
- 1 Michael Boulware WR/LB Florida State
- 2 Michael Gasparato RB Penn State
- 3 Darian Durant QB/ATH North Carolina
- 4 Alex Barron OL Leaning to Florida St.
- 5 Todd McClinton TE/DE Leaning to Tennessee
- 6 Greg Jones LB/FB Leaning to Florida St.
- 7 Keith Kelly RB Clemson
- 8 Derrick Hamilton ATH Clemson
- 9 Brandon Jamison DB/ATH Undecided
- 10 Ryan Hemby DB Clemson
Let me begin by stating that I have never attended or financially supported either Clemson or South Carolina. I have no axe to grind with either school. My comments therefore cannot be construed as anti Gamecock or anti Tiger but rather as a pro position for the state and a manner to improve the sorry state of major college football in the state of South Carolina.
First of all we must agree that the 2 schools in the state are both a long way from competing as real national powers. It is obvious that South Carolina needs to improve. No one needs to look beyond the 1-21 record posted the past two years. Clemson's record while much better also has great room for improvement. They did compete well against the better teams in the country in games against Florida St, Virginia Tech and Marshall but the wins they did manage against the lower echelon teams of the ACC show there is some room for improvement in the upstate.
Second we must agree that the most logical way to improve the teams is through the recruitment of the elite players in South Carolina. Neither school is going into the states of Florida, Georgia, or Tennessee and steal the top high school players in those states. Therefore we must stop Father Bobby, Papa Joe and Uncle Phil at the state line and keep the young men at home. Here are my seven ways to keep the talent in South Carolina.
Hire local school coaches when opening are available and qualified candidates are present
Brad Scott made only one decent move (beside when he left) during his stay at USC. In 1996, he hired Buddy Pough from the state powerhouse Fairfield Central. Not only was Coach Pough a brilliant coach who had proven to everyone that he was capable of coaching at the next level but he also was highly respected in the state by other coaches. He was known as a man of integrity. When Lou Holtz was hired at USC, the one staff member he kept when he took over was Coach Pough.
Both schools would be wise to look at the South Carolina high school coaching ranks when filling positions on their staff. There are qualified coaches out there that may be looking for a new challenge or chance to advance their career. These coaches would know the state's high school coaches and would have their respect. It would help keep the local boys home when the recruit's high school coaches speaks positively about the college coach coming into player's living room.
Case in point. When John Mortford was hired as the new coach at Texas Tech, the first move he made was to hire Art Biles as an assistant. Coach Biles came from the defending 4A state champion, Stephenville, TX. His team at Stephenville won their 4th state championship in the 1990's and was considered by many to be the high school team of the decade in Texas. Over 1340 high schools play football in Texas so his accomplishment is very impressive. Coach Biles was also president of the Texas Coaches Association. The reputation of Biles among his peers will be incredibly important as Texas Tech goes into the Texas recruiting wars against Texas University and Texas A&M. It was a brilliant move. Holtz and Bowden would do well to remember this lesson.
Restore pride in the state
End the flag controversy one way or another. I don't care, but end it some way, some how and let the boys stay home. You cannot make me believe that other colleges have not used the flag against Clemson and USC during the past few years. The state needs to resolve this and let everyone get back to business. We have wasted enough time on this issue.
Sell mama's home cooking
It gets cold in South Bend and Happy Valley. Here we have sunshine, mama's home cooking and Carolina Beach girls. Sell the local flavor, sell the weather and sell the fact that Mama an