With the SEC season less than three months away, here’s a look at the potential impact freshmen for each team. Recruiting rankings are based on the 247Sports Composite which calculates the average of all four major recruiting websites (247Sports, Rivals, ESPN and Scout.)
7-6 (3-5 SEC); 5th SEC East
2015 Team Ranking
National Rank No. 20
SEC Rank: No. 9
Top Incoming Prospects
- SDE Marquavius Lewis- 4-star, Hutchinson C.C. (Hutchinson, KS) 6-4, 271 lbs, No. 1 JUCO SDE, No. 2 JUCO overall
- WDE Shameik Blackshear- 4-star, Bluffton (Buffton, SC), 6-5, 240 lbs, No. 10 WDE, No. 151 overall
- SDE Dexter Wideman- 4-star, Camden Military Academy (Camden, SC), 6-4, 260 lbs, No. 1 PREP overall
- ATH Jalen Christian- 4-star, Damascus (Damascus, MD), 5-10, 165 lbs, No. 12 ATH, No. 207 overall
- OG Zack Bailey- 4-star, Summerville (Summerville, SC), 6-5, 315 lbs, No. 17 OG, No. 253 overall
South Carolina managed to finish with a top-20 class despite losing several commitments during the 2014 season. The Gamecocks will need to see production from several incoming signees after fielding the SEC’s worst defensive line.
The Gamecocks signed eight defensive ends including three players with college experience. Marquavius Lewis is the obvious choice to see playing time in 2015 as both the team’s top prospect and the No. 2 JUCO transfer for 2015. The 6-foot-4, 271-pound junior rated as a four-star prospect recorded 61 tackles, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles for Hutchinson Community College in 2014.
Dante Sawyer will also make the leap from the JUCO ranks. He rated as the No. 15 overall prospect and the No. 2 weakside defensive end. The Gamecocks also signed Dexter Wideman, the nation’s top prep school prospect, who stands at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds.
Shameik Blackshear ranks as the team’s top incoming defensive end from the high school level. The four-star prospect ranked as the No. 151 overall prospect for 2015 and stands at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds.
Obviously, not every incoming pass rusher will see the field in 2015. However, with the team’s lapses in 2014 and obvious focus on the position in recruiting, there is a definite need for new players to fill voids on the d-line.
South Carolina saw a tremendous season from rising senior Pharoh Cooper, who is projected by many to be a repeat All-SEC wide receiver. However, the team saw less production from his counterparts and needed to fill the void left by the departures of Nick Jones, Shaq Roland and Damiere Byrd.
Four-star athlete Jalen Christian is expected to see action as a slot receiver in his debut season. He patterns his game after three former South Carolina standouts, including one who he hopes to replace in 2015.
“Bruce Ellington, Ace Sanders and Damiere Byrd,” Christian told TheState.com. “Just because of their height and how much heart they play with. It’s not all about the size. They were just great players. They fit perfectly in Steve Spurrier’s offense.”
Christian served several roles for Damascus High School in 2014. He rushed for 434 yards and two touchdowns, made 19 catches for 274 yards and five touchdowns and had 15 tackles and two interceptions on defense.
South Carolina signed a respectable class considering how much was lost leading up to National Signing Day. The team addressed an obvious need on the defensive line and also signed a talented wide receiver to add depth.
Though it’s not Spurrier’s best class of his decade-long tenure, the Gamecocks managed to salvage what was left and finish with a top-20 ranking.