COLUMBIA -- If it had even half the star power of last year's class, perhaps South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier would have been a little more giddy about his 2008 recruiting class. A year removed from sitting down, viewing what one service rated the fourth-best class in the country and declaring 2007 would be the year USC would realistically challenge for the SEC title, Spurrier returned to the dais Wednesday with a different look.
A good, solid class, he said. Nothing flashy, nothing raising the eyebrows of the nation's recruiting experts.
"We were probably laughing and giggling a lot more this time last year," Spurrier said. "It's very similar, I think, to the other years.
"We've got a lot of good players here right now ... but what's most important, obviously, is what the players do after they come to your school."
The class, featuring 22 players, six who are already on campus and will participate in spring practice, ranked No. 22 by Rivals.com, but didn't break the Top 25 in any other major service. Spurrier paid the ranking no mind, saying the Gamecocks recruited to fill their needs and some of the late players they had targeted didn't fall into place, unlike last year, when all of the late targets decided on USC and the rank rose into the stratosphere.
"Losing your last five games doesn't help you," Spurrier said, referring to the 2007 season that started so promisingly and crash-landed. "We need to coach what we got. We were able to redshirt quite a few last year, so we have a strong nucleus of players with anywhere from three to four years of eligibility ready to go."
Spurrier's fourth class was heavy on the defensive side, signing 13 prospects, five each on the line or in the secondary. After last year's recruiting group was rated the top receiver corps in the country, USC only signed one this year.
The day began with relief and letdown. The one receiver, D.L. Moore, had been a solid verbal pledge until one of his prep teammates committed to Colorado. The Buffaloes also offered Moore, causing him to temporarily de-commit from USC, but Wednesday rolled around and Moore stuck with the Gamecocks.
USC missed on another receiver, Rivals Top 100 prospect Tommy Streeter. Streeter decided to stay close to his Miami home, signing with the Hurricanes.
After that, the Gamecocks collected the signed letters-of-intent from who they knew they had and waited on a few surprises. The only one they got was from Georgia defensive end Chaz Sutton, who picked the Gamecocks after Florida rescinded its scholarship offer.
"We got him up here last week and we think he has a chance to qualify and be, really, a very good player for us," Spurrier said.
According to recruiting networks, the Gators pulled the offer because Sutton hasn't qualifed and it doesn't look like he will. Spurrier said he thinks Sutton will have the necessary grades and test scores to report in the fall, although it will take some work.
USC signed six four-star prospects according to Rivals.com and four are already on campus. Antonio Allen, Akeem Auguste and Eric Baker signed last year but spent the season at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, qualifying and leaving them four years of eligibility. Chester native C.C. Whitlock also reported early after a standout career with the Cyclones and is already being touted as a multi-tooled athlete who can play defensive back and receiver.
Sutton was one of the other four-stars and defensive end Jarriel King rounded out the list. King signed with the Gamecocks three years ago, couldn't get the qualifying test score and enrolled at Georgia Military College. He was kicked out last year for allegedly stealing money from a teammate, but Spurrier said the problem is behind King and should he qualify, King could be on campus for spring practice.
"He's paid his dues," Spurrier said. "We're going to give him a chance to be a Gamecock."
The Gamecocks again signed only two offensive linemen, echoing their 2007 effort. With the line bearing the heat for much of last season's offensive problems, recruiting coordinator David Reaves said signing too many linemen wouldn't fix the problem.
"We have 14 offensive linemen on scholarship," Reaves said. "You can't start filling up on one position because you're taking from another. We've got to start coaching the guys we've got."
Overall, a need-filling class. The plan is to hopefully redshirt most of it, but try out the ones who look like they can play right away, as the Gamecocks seek to erase the sour memories of 2007.
"Obviously, we need to win games in helping with recruiting," Spurrier said. "We have a lot of good players here, we really do, we just have to coach them better and they have to play better and we will be fine."
• NOTE: Spurrier also announced that defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis will be suspended the first three games in 2008 for violating university policy, although he wouldn't clarify which policy Ellis broke. Mike Davis, the Gamecocks' most experienced returning tailback, is also facing a suspension but it's not "set in stone," according to the coach.
The troubled Lindsey twins, Jordin and Dustin, about to enter their fifth years, are also on the block. Neither is qualifed academically, but Spurrier said he was optimistic the twins could get past their hurdles for a final season.