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Gamecocks fill needs on National Signing Day

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There was little fanfare surrounding the University of South Carolina recruiting class, and that's just the way Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier likes it.

The Gamecocks class, which was ranked 17th by ESPN, appeared to satisfy the team's needs.

"If you don't have a very good season, you need something to get the fans excited for next year," said Spurrier. "I've never tried to overhype it. I hope I haven't. It's a good, solid group of guys here. A lot of them are going to be very good players."

Determined to continue its ground attack, despite the loss of tailback Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina put together another outstanding offensive line class that should finally put the team where it needs to be up front. The group of five is led by tackle Na'Ty Rogers and guard D. J. Park, who enrolled for the spring semester. With all but one of the 2012 starting linemen returning, plus some talented redshirts, the group should be primed to have its best season in recent years at the position/.

USC also added quarterback Connor Mitch, considered one of the top at his position in the area. Like Park and junior college transfer Ronnie Martin, a cornerback, Mitch is already enrolled.

"Connor Mitch is on campus here now. I saw him out on the field throwing as I looked out through my window (Tuesday and Wednesday). He's thrown about every day, seems like he's grown a little bit. He's a good 6-3. He's a young man that really likes football and likes throwing it around. We'll see how he develops as he goes through his career here."

USC concentrated on defense where is lost the most players. The biggest void was at linebacker where both starters and reserves, along with the starting spur, graduated.

The Gamecocks signed four linebackers with Charlotte, N.C.'s Larenz Bryant the most highly regarded. They also picked up two more players at the position on Wednesday when Cooper City, Fla. produce Skai Moore and Daphne, Ala.'s Jonathan Walton committed and signed with the team.

Anticipating the loss of Heisman Trophy Candidate Jadeveon Clowney following the 2013 season, USC picked up three defensive ends -- Devan'te Covington, Gerald Turner and Devin Washington. Kelsey Griffin, rated the seventh best tackle in the country, was the lone signee in the trenches.

TOP OF THE CLASS

LB Larenz Bryant (Charlotte, N. C., Vance High) -- Bryant played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl following his senior season. He rushed for 1,423 yards and 22 touchdowns as a junior while recording 154 tackles with 23 tackles for loss. Defensively he returned three of his four interceptions for touchdowns. He is a player who could make an immediate impact.

DT Kelsey Griffin (Hoschton, Ga., Mill Creek High) -- At 6-2, 290 Griffin is viewed as a perfect fit in the Gamecocks 4-2-5 scheme. Was rated the number six defensive tackle in the country, but will probably be given the opportunity to redshirt and get stronger.

RB David Williams (Philadelphia, PA, Imhotep Institute Charter) -- USC targeted Williams early and opted to pass on other highly regarded backs who displayed interest. At 6-0 1/2, 195 he appears to have a good mix of strength and speed which will allowed him to immediately enter into the battle to replace All-American Marcus Lattimore.

SPRING SNAPSHOT

--Quarterback Connor Shaw will sit out of spring practice following foot surgery, meaning Dylan Thompson will get a lot of work. The coaching staff also hopes to a get a long look at redshirt freshman Brendan Nosovitch who impressed them in practice sessions in the fall.

A long list of running backs will battle to replace Marcus Lattimore, led by Mike Davis, Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson, who could miss time due to playing with the baseball team.

The Gamecocks lost all three of their starting linebackers and redshirt freshman Cedrick Cooper, considered possibly the most talented of the returners, will miss the spring following knee surgery.

PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2013

--DE Jadeveon Clowney, a consensus All-American returns for what appears to be a legitimate Heisman Trophy run. After leading the Southeastern Conference in sacks and tackles for loss, the rising junior was named the league's defensive player of the year.

--WR Bruce Ellington, currently the starting point guard on the USC basketball team, has yet to confirm he will return to the football team for the 2013 season. Steve Spurrier hopes he does as he led the squad in receptions as a sophomore. It is believed he will come back to the squad.

--DE Chaz Sutton has his best season as a Gamecock, finishing second to Jadeveon Clowney in sacks. He will move into the starting defensive end position left by Devin Taylor, who graduated.

--QB Dylan Thompson, a backup to Connor Shaw for most of the 2012 season, he proved he has what it takes to challenge for the starting spot after lead his team to road win over arch rival Clemson and then leading the Gamecocks on a last-second game winning drive against Michigan in the Outback Bowl. He will receive most of the team's spring practice snaps as Shaw is recovering from post-season foot surgery.
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