Henry Miller wrote that, “Chaos is the score upon which reality is written.” Two recruiting seasons ago, South Carolina seized upon the chaos in the Tar Heel state when both NC State and UNC were undergoing coaching changes to sign many of the top players in that state. Today, USC is capitalizing on an orange state of chaos as both Clemson and Tennessee are undergoing coaching changes this year.
The stability of a coaching staff is critical to long term recruiting success. Steve Spurrier has set a goal of retiring at Carolina as the winningest football coach in school history. He already has the most successful four year stretch as a coach, and has tied Warren Giese for 7th place in all-time wins with 28. Two more wins this season would give USC a nine win season, something that has only happened twice before. The Gamecocks have two regular season games and a bowl game left to pick up the two wins. An upset over Florida would give USC a shot at ten wins, tying for the best season ever.
That would give the top recruits still considering Carolina something to think about, including Alshon Jeffery, the talented wide receiver that is committed to Southern Cal. Insiders indicate that a successful Gamecock season could possibly bring him to switch.
Another nine win season next year would cause Spurrier to pass Lou Holtz, Joe Morrison, and Billy Laval, and leave him trailing only Rex Enright, Jim Carlen, and Paul Dietzel.
The foundation already laid and the continued commitment of Spurrier to USC is paying dividends on the recruiting trail. Many of the players in the class of 2009 have had contact from South Carolina coaches throughout their high school careers, something Spurrier and staff didn’t have to work with four years ago.
Clemson and Tennessee were both very successful recruiting during the long and stable tenures of Tommy Bowden and Phillip Fulmer. Bowden resigned mid-season of his tenth season; Fulmer will finish out his 17th season before stepping down.
Henry Miller’s reality that comes out of chaos has South Carolina poaching many of the best players already committed to the two schools losing their coaches, and has the orange-clad denizens of Clemson and Tennessee respectively in dismay.
Clemson has already seen one commitment decommit from the Tigers and commit to the Gamecocks, running back Ben Axon of Florida. The Tigers’ top commitment safety Devonte Holloman of South Point has also officially decommitted and is now openly favoring the Gamecocks. There are other Clemson commitments that continue to look around as the high expectations for this season continue to crumble. All these players were recruited by interim Tiger Head Coach Dabo Sweeney and the current staff, and their chances of staying intact as a staff grows dimmer with each loss. The Tigers are now 1-2 since Sweeney took over, and still have to face a much improved Duke, a troublesome Virginia team on the road, before facing the Gamecocks in their season finale.
The Gamecocks played host to two of Tennessee’s top commitments on Saturday, and put on a winning display for running back Jarvis Giles and palmetto state native DJ Swearinger, a safety out of Greenwood. Both indicate that they could be added to the South Carolina commitment list soon. Giles seems to be the perfect remedy to the Gamecocks rushing woes.
Another aspect of how the chaos has affected recruiting in favor of the Gamecocks at the Tiger’s expense is how players who some recruiting experts once had as Clemson “locks” are now either Gamecock commitments, or have USC now leading Clemson. Stephon Gilmore, the highly rated cornerback from South Pointe has committed to the Gamecocks, after Clemson recruiting analysts had firmly stated that he would never commit to USC. Sam Montgomery is one of the top-rated players in the state and another player many expected to don the orange and purple. USC is in good position to land him.
Both Holloman’s and Swearinger’s recruitment is aided by South Carolina’s position with some of their high school teammates. Gamecock commitments Gilmore and Charles Holmes of South Pointe are openly working Holloman to join them in Columbia. Sam Montgomery of Greenwood is one of the top uncommitted players on South Carolina’s board, and is a friend and teammate of Swearinger’s.
The big switch actually began last summer, while Clemson’s season expectations were still sky high, when Damario Jeffery and Chris Payne both committed to Clemson after a strong recruiting visit, only to reconsider a few days later. Both decommitted, and eventually became South Carolina commitments. Payne summed up what many of Carolina’s commitments say when they discuss their commitment, "I love the coaching staff, and I know Steve Spurrier's got a plan. He wants to win an SEC Championship just as bad as I want to win it. I want to make history there. The fans are great. I know we're going to win the SEC.“
A little orange indecision of another kind caused Chaz Sutton to switch his commitment from Florida to South Carolina. Sutton originally committed to the Gators in July of 2007, but when they waivered on their commitment because of concerns about his academics, he went where he knew he was wanted, and became a Gamecock commitment. Sutton came very close to doing everything he needed to do to qualify academically at USC, but ended up at Fork Union prep school for a semester to put together the finishing touches needed for admission. He has reaffirmed his decision to come to USC, and would be counted from a class ranking position as part of the 2009 class upon enrolling in January.
There is one other player who has already made a switch from a commitment to another school and then committed to the Gamecocks - Chaun Gresham. He has a very famous former Gamecock as a relative – his uncle is Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers. The quiet youngster initially committed to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, but the USC staff didn’t stop recruiting him, and after he visited South Carolina for a camp this past summer, he said he knew he had made a mistake. Gresham told GamecockAnthem.com when he made his switch official that, "There's just more opportunity for me (at South Carolina). I like everything there - the academics, the facilities, the coaches, the players they're recruiting, and everything. I just felt like it was the better place for me to go."
A recruiting season that ended with commitments from most or all of the uncommitted players mentioned would easily vault USC into the Top Ten again in national rankings. And they would owe a large part of it to an orange state of chaos.