Dr. McGee spearheaded to get this built so our facilities would be on the level and maybe even better than some schools. Of course, Dr. Sorensen approved all of it, so I thank our administrators for putting it in place for us coaches to run with it. We have everything in place here to be very successful at the University of South Carolina.
Rick Stockstill, our recruiting coordinator, organized and did an excellent job with keeping a hold of all the guys we were on and then finding new guys as we went through the last two months. Our holdover coaches, Ron Cooper and David Reaves did an excellent job and our new coaches pitched in as well. We had a very good team effort to put together the class that we put together today, so I am very excited about this group.
We were a little light on the offensive line side. As you can see, we have signed some guys who could play offensive line if needed. Last year South Carolina signed six offensive linemen, and they were all redshirted. At least four of them - maybe five - are going to be fine players for us, so we have four freshman linemen ready to go next year.
Also I may want to mention while we're here that Orus Lambert was granted his fifth year of eligibility, so we got another new player on our team. Orus is a fifth-year senior and one of our leaders. He is one of the best-conditioned athletes on the team, and we are very excited that Orus was granted his fifth year of eligibility today.
As we have gone about recruiting this last couple of months, our goal is to make the University of South Carolina a fun place to be a football player. To do that, we need to graduate our players, our players need to be solid citizens and we have got to win some championships along the way. We have got to beat the Georgias and the Tennessees and Floridas. We can't keep being a middle-of-the-pack school here, so that's what we're all about.
The players who have signed with us today, they have shown their confidence and trust that that can happen. Almost all these players had opportunities to go to bigger schools, but they believe the University of South Carolina has got a great chance to do some big things, and so we appreciate their confidence in us, and I can assure you we will have a lot of confidence in these young men as they go through the next four or five years at the University of South Carolina.
Briefly, the states represented by this recruiting class may be similar each year that we're here. We were able to sign eight players from our state, South Carolina, eight from Florida. Georgia, five, North Carolina, three and we were two-for-two in New Jersey and got one player from Tennessee and one from way out in the state of Washington. We had 53 official visits and we signed 28 of them. So we were over 50 percent, and Coach McGee is always happy when we aren't blowing a lot of money on those guys when they don't come.
Again, getting back to the facilities here, and the reason we have the resources. It was very comfortable for me to take the school plane all over the place. One day during our recruiting season, I visited three of our players in the Greenville/Spartanburg area, flew back here, picked up Coach Stockstill, flew to Tallahassee and met with a young man and his mom that was already committed to us, then to Jacksonville, rented a car and made another home visit and was back here by 9:00 to make a few calls to some of our other guys. When you have a school plane and the resources we have here, it contributes.
I want to thank all the Gamecock Club members who give their dough to our athletic department. They are responsible for the good things that happen. They are. We are all part of a big team. The people who are giving money to the athletic department are helping our cause, so a special thanks to all the people that donate to the University of South Carolina.
Our coaches noted that this might have been the fastest team that Carolina has ever signed. We got a couple. O.J. Murdock from down in Florida is one of the fastest players in the state and Carlos Thomas from Atlanta is right there with him. Bobby Wallace, of course from Conway and all our defensive guys can really run. It's a game of team speed and I think we have signed a lot of speed this year, which will hopefully turn out to be real good for us.
Question: Did you have more fun recruiting this year and feel more energized?
Spurrier: Maybe a little bit. A new coach, new facilities, new FieldTurf, new strength and conditioning coach, new coaching staff, and we did have about two months to get our message out there to a lot players. Those that committed to us earlier from in-state, I don't think we turned any of them those away. But some of the out-of-state kids that committed to other places, we were able to change some of their minds a little bit. Just a lot of new stuff has helped us.
Question: With Troy Williamson gone to the NFL and Mike Rathe denied his sixth year of eligibility, how successful were you in recruiting to get guys to make your style of offense work?
Spurrier: That always happens. When a player leaves, someone is going to take his place. When Troy left, maybe that helped us sign one or two players. I always tell people, if we miss that guy, it may help us get another guy that's just as good. That's the way recruiting goes. Sometimes the fans worry and say "We lost him", but sometimes you get one that's even better. Who knows. You go after as many quality student-athletes as you can and get them to fit as best you can and go from there.
Question: Of your two quarterbacks, can you talk about what you saw in them, and given your current situation, can either be expected to play?
Spurrier: We'll see how it all plays out, but I don't think I've ever signed two kids that both won the state championship. Tommy Beecher, his team was 15-1 at Concord High School, and Cade Thompson and his team were 15-0 at Maryville High School, so they're used to winning. That's for sure. They're both excellent passers and they can run a little bit. That gives us young men to coach for the future, but we're excited to coach our guys that are here right now. As far as Mike Rathe getting turned down, he is appealing, so we'll see how that turns out, but our other three players are working hard. The whole team is. While we're talking about recruiting, I would say that I am excited about the players we have on campus. I see a lot of big, strong, linemen that look just as good as anybody I've coached in college.
Question: What's your philosophy about dealing with recruits once they are on campus and letting them know things are different from their high school days?
Spurrier: We encourage all freshmen to compete with the guys that are already on campus, but be realistic that there may be bigger, stronger guys on campus already. If you are good enough to play as a freshman, we'll play you, if you are a contributor. If you can play second team, then we'll play you, but there's always the possibility of redshirting, because we're also planning on the future. We encourage our guys to come in in the best shape possible and try to play. That way, they continue trying to improve themselves.
Question: You have never started a true freshman quarterback, is that true?
Spurrier: No it is not. Ben Bennett started at Duke in 1980. First play, he got hit in the back and the ball splattered that way. I still remember it.
Question: I take it you would rather not have to use one of the freshman quarterbacks.
Spurrier: The odds are slim that one of those players would be able to come in and beat the guys that are already here, but you never know. It's always a possibility.
Question: Any possibility of Carlos Thomas playing both ways, and is there a possibility that any of the speed guys might try to run track?
Spurrier: O.J. Murdock is a national track athlete. Carlos is someone that on a third down in a nickel coverage is capable of covering somebody. We wouldn't feature him as a two-way player. We'd give him about one or two defensive assignments, maybe, if we needed him, so that's a possibility.
Question: Murdock is a maybe with track?
Spurrier: I think there is a possibility he would want to do track, yes.
Question: Can you comment on the hometown kid, Mike Davis?
Spurrier: We're excited Mike is with us. We certainly believe he is the best back in the state and he'll have a chance to come here and play as a freshman. I am proud of what Demetris Summers has done thus far in winter workouts, being on time, but certainly Mike could come in here and compete for playing time as a tailback, so we're excited he's with us.
Q&A With Recruiting Coordinator Rick Stockstill From The Press Conference:
Question: Can you shed some light on Jonathan Hannah and when you guys knew?
Rick Stockstill: We knew today at about 12:30 when the fax came in, but you guys have followed recruiting for a long time and know that you recruit a kid until the end. You look under every rock and just keep recruiting, and you never feel completely confident until that letter has come in. We just kept recruiting him and the ball bounced our way this year.
Question: How did you get in on Taylor Rank, from Vancouver, Washington?:
Stockstill: Coach Spurrier coached his dad at Georgia Tech. The dad sent a film on Taylor, and it started from that aspect.
Question: Can you tell us about the reaction of the coaches and the kids from the change from Coach Holtz to Coach Spurrier?:
Stockstill: There's not a whole lot of change. Really the big thing that the kids that we recruited in this class and the high school coaches we deal with are very familiar with Coach Spurrier and his reputation, not only as a coach, but also as an offensive coordinator, so to speak. It was easy to go in and sell him as your head coach. They all know what he's done at the places he's been and the success that he's had, and that made it easy to get in the door. His name got us in a lot of doors that might have been previously closed.
Question: With the new staff, how much more of a relationship have they been able to establish for upcoming classes through the recruiting process this year?
Stockstill: It wasn't as good this year as it will be next year. Some of the coaches on our staff have only been here four or five weeks. As a staff, we did a great job of establishing a relationship with the kids when they came in on their official visits. All of the coaches worked hard on the phones developing relationships with the kids and with their parents and all of that. I just think, when each coach is settled in their own recruiting area, we'll be able to do an even better job of that.
Question: Coach Spurrier mentioned 53 official visits. How many of those kids would have been on the board with the previous staff?
Stockstill: I don't know for sure. I'd hate to give a number.
Question: Did you see a better reception in Florida, given Coach's background?
Stockstill: I think it helped. He has a good name in the state of Florida, but I also think the University of South Carolina has a good name in the state of Florida. I've only been here a year, so I don't really know how South Carolina has recruited Florida in the past. We are four hours away from Jacksonville, so it's an easy drive. It's easy for us to get there and easy for them to get here. Coach Spurrier's name helped us, but the university's name helped also.
Question: What kind of recruiter is Coach Spurrier?
Stockstill: I think he did a great job. From the time he was hired, I think it was during the contact period and he was on the road every day, all three weeks of December and three weeks in January. He did a great job in the homes and was on the phone.
Question: You have five kids that committed somewhere else, and you guys changed their mind. What is the key to that? Is that the most you can remember during your time?
Stockstill: Probably. I think so. It was one of those years. I've been coaching 23 years. I signed two kids this year that committed to other schools. Prior to that, I've never been able to change a guy's mind. It's just one of those years. We got in on a lot of those guys because when they committed somewhere, it was a different situation here. They opened their arms and listened to what we had to say. Like I said, the ball just bounced our way this year.
Question: You signed two JUCO players this year, which is less than in the past. Is that an indicator of what's to come?
Stockstill: To me, junior colleges should be position need-specific. I don't think you can build a foundation of your team with junior college guys, but Coach Spurrier will tell us what he wants to do from that standpoint.