Reflecting on the past, present, and bright future of Gamecock Football.
In the past, the Gamecocks had individuals with tremendous talent on the roster; Sterling Sharpe, Sheldon Brown, and Sidney Rice stick out as players who did great things in a Gamecock uniform.
The problem was the teams they were on did not.
It was easy to figure out; the Gamecocks had talent in spots, but couldn’t always surround it with more talent.
A great quarterback can’t be great without an offensive line blocking for him. A great wide receiver can’t be great without a quarterback who can get him the ball. A great defensive back can't be great if the opposing quarterback has all day to throw.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
South Carolina’s problem stemmed from an inability to consistently recruit great players. Maybe it was a lack of facilities, maybe it was the city of Columbia not being attractive enough, maybe it was a lack of program history.
None of that matters anymore, however, because none of that is true anymore. That was yesterday, this is…
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17
Today, South Carolina now has some of the best facilities in the country. The city of Columbia is thriving, and the Gamecock program is building tradition by leaps and bounds.
Today, South Carolina has a chance with any recruit they want. Where the program used to only have proximity, family ties, or the promise of early playing time to rely on, it now has something more; prestige.
Prestige is invaluable. It is what gives kids that feeling of excitement when they see a letter from South Carolina come in the mail. It is what gets parents screaming for joy that their child has been offered a scholarship. It is what gets commitments from the best talent in the country.
This prestige came from winning. It came from doing things the right way; from putting in the work and expecting greatness. It came from a community that supports the program with as much vigor as any in the country.
This newfound prestige is the catalyst for all of the great things happening in the South Carolina program right now. The 2012 signing class is the best example:
Fourth Mr. Football in a row? Welcome Shaq Roland.
Georgia wanted Chaz Elder? Too bad, he’s a Gamecock.
Mike Davis’s older brother was a star at Clemson? Mike would rather play at South Carolina.
Many in this class are talented enough to come in and challenge right away for playing time. They realize they will have to attend practice, work hard, and let the coaches know they can be counted on. What they might not realize is how much more they are doing than that. They are giving South Carolina the one of the most important ingredients for a championship caliber team; depth.
Depth gives teams the ability to stay strong throughout the season; to continue to win after a player sustains an injury because the guy behind him has very little drop-off in ability. Depth gives teams the ability to swap players during a game and keep fresh legs on the field at all times. Depth builds programs.
When depth exists it creates an environment of constant improvement. Young players are improving each day, and so must the upper classmen. Older players can’t coast into a starting role, they now have to earn it and then fight to keep it each practice. Depth brings challenge, and challenge brings out the best in us all; from depth more wins will occur, more prestige will be built, more talented recruits will be brought in, and the cycle will be continued…
“The greatest treasures are those invisible to the eye….” - Unknown
Take a look at the players on South Carolina’s commitment list. They all have a certain star next to their name representing a value.
That value exists because of the hard work of individuals whose job it is to study these young men and try to predict their worth to a program. In an effort to make the best prediction possible, these experts study every facet of a player to see what they think about their future potential.
One thing that cannot be predicted, though, is heart.
Heart is what kept the team going last season as they faced great adversity time and time again. Heart created a “win anyway” mentality. Heart brought the most successful season in school history.
Ironic that the least quantifiable object holds the greatest value.
I don’t know the young men coming into the program with this signing class. I have no idea where most of them come from and who they really are outside of the game of football. What I do know is this: when they step foot into the Proving Grounds they will learn that if they don’t already have heart, they need to develop it quickly.
They will learn from current players like Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw and Devin Taylor. They will learn from the legend of former players like Alshon Jeffery, Melvin Ingram, and Stephon Gilmore. Tomorrow will come and it will be up to these young men to find their hearts and maximize their potential; to be the leaders this program will need them to be. It will take every ounce of will power they have and at times the men of tomorrow might now know how to dig quite as deep, to push quite as hard, as they will need to; but the men of today do. We can all rest assured not a day will go by when the current leaders won’t guide the future ones.
Steve Spurrier built a foundation at the University of South Carolina when he won the SEC East for the first time in school history. He built his frame when he won 11 games. Now, with this recruiting class and the influx of talent they bring, Spurrier can accomplish what he set out to do in 2005 when he uttered the words “why not us?”
“When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who wonder what happened, and those to make it happen.” -John M. Richardon, Jr.
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