Gamecocks close deal with recruits

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COLUMBIA --- South Carolina didn't need a strong finish last season to keep this year's recruiting class together.

The Gamecocks kept all their early commitments and picked up a few surprises, with 29 players signing letters of intent to wrap up coach Steve Spurrier's second well-regarded class in three years.

"Obviously we didn't finish very strongly, had some lousy games toward the end, but our players didn't waver," Spurrier said.

The Gamecocks finished 7-6 in 2008, losing their last three games by an average of more than 29 points.

But signing day wasn't very dramatic. Spurrier's three favorite recruits -- South Pointe defensive backs Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman and Tampa, Fla., running back Jarvis Giles -- all enrolled at the university in January.

The Gamecocks did pick up one surprise as Calhoun County receiver Alshon Jeffery spurned Southern California to stay closer to home. Fourteen of the 35 passes caught last season by the wide receiver went for touchdowns.

Spurrier barely missed having a second top 10 class in three years.

Both Rivals.com and Scout.com ranked the Gamecocks 12th in the country.

"We feel like we had a very strong year," Spurrier said.

The Gamecocks improved their in-state recruiting, which has been a weak spot, and signed 27 of the 31 players who came to campus for official visits.

Recruiting coordinator Shane Beamer said this year's recruiting class targeted several needs, including linebackers, defensive backs and receivers.

Linebackers Josh Dickerson and Tony Straughter, both from Georgia Military College, can play immediately, which is important for a team that lost senior stars Jasper Brinkley, a Thomson native, and Marvin Sapp, Beamer said.

One of Beamer's selling points was to tell players they can make history at South Carolina.

"You can go to a Southern Cal and win a national championship, which they have done before. You can go to a Tennessee or a Georgia or a Florida and win an SEC championship, which they've done before," Beamer said. "But you can come to South Carolina and do something that has never been done -- that's win an SEC championship."


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