The Daily Gamecock

Gamecocks feel losses from 2014 recruiting class


Head coach Steve Spurrier looked as confident as ever before the season. And could you blame him? He was in his element at the annual SEC Media Days, an event he refers to as "talking season."

He talked plenty. About redshirt senior Dylan Thompson and his progression as a quarterback. About the season ahead, admitting that the expectations placed on his 2014 installment of the Gamecocks were to do "maybe a little better" than previous seasons. And about why coaching is still fun to him.

"It's fun for me, and hopefully our players and coaches," the Head Ball Coach said, "to achieve things that have never happened before."

Nine games and five losses into the season, and Spurrier is dangerously close to ending this season in a fashion that has not only happened before, but happened frequently.

South Carolina didn't win its first bowl game until their 1994 season,  which was the ninth bowl game berth in school history. And before Spurrier, only once had the Gamecocks been led to a double-digit win season. 

Now, the Gamecocks are looking at a refrain from their recent success — three 11-win seasons  — and a relapse to the Gamecocks of old.

Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward is in the hot seat, questions regarding Spurrier's future have began to circulate and, unless they win two of their next three games, the Gamecocks could be spending bowl season in front of their televisions.

But how did it get this way?

It started in the offseason. The second Jadeveon Clowney,  Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton left for the NFL, South Carolina knew it needed playmakers on the defensive line and needed them fast.

Luckily, the Gamecocks had reeled in a couple junior college transfers in Abu Lamin and Jhaustin Thomas who were projected to come in and make an immediate impact.

South Carolina landed defensive tackle Lamin, but to say he had made anything that resembles an impact would be a lie. The four-star transfer from Fort Scott Community College not only has failed to record a sack this season, but has not even tallied a tackle for a loss, and has only seven tackles on the year. 

After failing to qualify academically at South Carolina as an incoming freshman, Thomas spent two years in Texas playing for Trinity Valley Community College. Those two years were up this offseason, but he, again, did not have the grades to qualify. Thomas is listed at 6-feet-7-inches and 275 pounds, and would have been the biggest member on South Carolina's defensive end if he was able to transfer. 

The Gamecocks also landed a pair of four-star defensive linemen in their 2014 recruiting class — Dexter Wideman and Dante Sawyer. As was the case with Thomas, both Wideman and Sawyer failed to qualify academically, which forced them onto the junior college route. 

Wideman, a 2014 Under Armour All-America Game selection, committed to South Carolina after decommitting from Florida State, but ultimately enrolled at Camden Military College after receiving his GED. He was rated the fifth-best defensive end in the nation coming out of high school. 

South Carolina lost Sawyer, who also had offers from Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia and more, who enrolled at East Mississippi Community College. Coming out of high school, he was No. 88 in ESPN's top 300 rankings.  Through 10 games, Sawyer has 20 total tackles and five and a half sacks.  He still hopes to rejoin the Gamecocks in time for the 2015 season.

Also removed from South Carolina's recruiting class was Kalan Ritchie, a defensive lineman who chose to enroll at Georgia Military College after failing to qualify at South Carolina. 

Though this season is very much a lost cause, next season the Gamecocks will bring in six defensive lineman in addition to Sawyer if he is able to qualify. Paired with a linebacking core that has tons of experience and a defensive backfield that continues to grow, next season's version should remind Spurrier why he loves coaching.


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