Many college football fans feel like they actually know their favorite team's recruits after the drawn-out recruiting process culminates in what has become something of an American sports holiday, complete with its own important-sounding title: National Signing Day.
But the reality is, most players who signed letters of intent Wednesday will fade into roster obscurity for the next season or two. Some are never heard from again. The guys really worth knowing right now are the ones who could have an immediate impact come August, when teams gather for preseason practices and welcome the incoming freshmen.
USC had a "peaceful" signing day, as recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. put it. The Gamecocks signed 25 players, in keeping with the SEC's new cap on recruiting class sizes. The haul was ranked by Rivals.com as the nation's No. 18 class (the same ranking USC earned last year). All of the players who had given USC verbal commitments signed; there were no last-minute additions.
It's easy to get tangled up in all the names, numbers, star rankings and coach speak of signing day. In terms of recruiting's immediate impact on a program, the bottom line is this: Don't miss on talented players at positions that need filling.
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And USC certainly didn't.
The Gamecocks' three new wide receivers will have an opportunity to play immediately, because Alshon Jeffery left early for the NFL. USC's second-leading receiver last season was Ace Sanders, a quick player. But he is a 5-7 slot receiver who lacks the stature to play the outside receiver spot the 6-4 Jeffery occupied.
USC got the No. 10, 37 and 51 receivers in this class: 6-1 Shaq Roland, 5-11 Jody Fuller and 6-4 Kwinton Smith.
Spurrier Jr. said the coaches felt that receiver and defensive back "were our biggest needs," just as defensive line was last year, when the Gamecocks signed end Jadeveon Clowney, the nation's top-ranked recruit. This class includes three cornerbacks, two safeties and a spur linebacker who was listed by Rivals as a safety.
Rico McWilliams was rated No. 26 among corners, T.J. Gurley No. 44, though USC has him at safety. Jordan Diggs, listed as a spur, was rated No. 11 among safeties, while Chaz Elder was No. 15 and Kyle Fleetwood was No. 38.
USC will let Elder give corner a shot - a big reason why he chose the Gamecocks. The third corner is Chris Moody, ranked No. 64 among "athletes."
Grabbing a starting spot in the defensive backfield will be tough, because the two open spots, both at corner, likely will be filled by Victor Hampton and Akeem Auguste. But both safeties will be seniors. And Spurrier Jr. noted that defensive backs "are usually your best contributors" on special teams, so you could see the freshmen there this fall.
USC head coach Steve Spurrier Sr. said the two tight ends in this class, Kelvin Rainey and Jerell Adams, will have a chance to play immediately.
The Gamecocks played last year with just two tight ends, Justice Cunningham and Rory Anderson, both of whom will return. When Cunningham hurt his shoulder in the bowl game, Spurrier called a play with a two-tight end formation. His quarterbacks coach, G.A. Mangus, told him, "Coach, we don't have two tight ends."
Spurrier chuckled Wednesday as he recounted the moment, then said, "We'll have more than just two tight ends to play this year."
2012 recruiting class
Kelvin Rainey, te, 6-3, 216, Yulee (Fla.) HS
Brock Stadnick, ot, 6-5, 287, Western Guilford HS, Greensboro, N.C.
Clayton Stadnik, c, 6-2, 265, Western Guilford HS, Greensboro, N.C
Jerell Adams, te, 6-6, 224. Fork Union Military Academy, Pinewood, S.C.
T.J. Holloman, lb, 6-2, 209, St. Pius X HS, Atlanta, Ga.
T.J. Gurley, db, 5-10, 183, St. Puis X HS, Atlanta, Ga.
Jody Fuller, wr, 5-11, 201, Sun Valley HS, Monroe, N.C.
Rico McWilliams, cb, 5-11, 172, Lovejoy HS, Hampton, Ga.
Chaz Elder, cb, 6-2, 187, Banneker HS, College Park, Ga.
Kendric Salley, rb, 5-9, 205, Williston-Elko HS, Williston, S.C.
Brendan Nosovitch, qb, 6-1, 210, Central Catholic HS, Allentown, Pa.
Nick St. Germain, pk, 5-9, 182, McEachern HS, Powder Springs, Ga.
Darius English, de, 6-6, 215 LBS, McEachern HS, Powder Springs, Ga.
Joe Harris, og, 6-4, 309, Lithonia (Ga.) HS
Mason Zandi, ot, 6-9, 266, Chapin (S.C.) HS
Kwinton Smith, wr, 6-4, 206, Dillon (S.C.) HS
Chris Moody, cb, 6-1, 208, Henry County HS, McDonough, Ga.
Kyle Fleetwood, db, 5-11, 199, Stephenson HS, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Jhaustin Thomas, de, 6-5, 229, Columbia HS, Decatur, Ga.
Shaq Roland, wr, 6-1, 173, Lexington (S.C.) HS
Cody Waldrop, og, 6-2, 300, Armwood HS, Seffner, Fla.
Mike Davis, rb, 5-9, 216, Stephenson HS, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Jordan Diggs, db, 6-0, 197, Island Coast HS, Cape Coral, Fla.
Carlos Hood, db, 6-2, 262, Stephenson HS, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Kaiwan Lewis, lb, 6-0, 225, St. Joseph's HS, Hammonton, N.J.