RECRUITING: The Spurrier Effect

Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier

The potential coaching change at South Carolina could have a large ripple effect throughout the nation with not only the amount of attention but also the recruiting scene. According to a published report in the Nashville <i>Tennessean</i>, Steve Spurrier will take the head coach position at South Carolina when current coach Lou Holtz steps down from the position. However, a large change already happened in Columbia.

"First and foremost, Lou Holtz's legacy is as entrenched at South Carolina as it was at Notre Dame," said Tim Brando, the host of College Football Today on CBS. "He said at his initial press conference that he wanted to win a national championship at South Carolina. In securing Steve Spurrier as his successor, they are in good position to follow what Holtz wanted to do."

If it were to happen, what would happen across the landscape of college football and recruiting? What effect will it have?

"South Carolina is a program that is just screaming to win. They have a great fanbase, and they are making a big splash by getting a coach like Steve Spurrier," said Scout.com national recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg. "If the rumors are true that Holtz is stepping down and Steve Spurrier is taking over, I would imagine offensive prospects from that state and around the South will take a notice about Steve Spurrier and give South Carolina a thought."

The effects of the possible South Carolina coaching change can already be seen. Recruits like wide receiver Rendrick Taylor, from Bennettsville (S.C.), who has committed to Clemson but visited South Carolina several times this season for games, could look at the Gamecocks. Some feel Eric Huggins, one of the top 100 players in the nation, according to Scout.com, but also already committed, could reconsider South Carolina if coached by Spurrier. Martin Frierson, a wide receiver for Irmo (S.C.) who is committed to Notre Dame could try to market himself to the new Gamecock coaching staff. Hivera Green, Huggins' teammate at Conway (S.C.) previously said that while Virginia Tech leads for his services, Spurrier would change his mind.

"A new coaching staff there, I'm coming in new, they are coming in new, that would be perfect man," said Green. "Because Steve Spurrier, he can win."

Spurrier could target already committed players, including Tennessee-pledged All-American quarterback Jonathan Crompton of Waynesville (N.C.) Tuscuola High School. According to sources close to the situation, Spurrier's first call could be to the number four quarterback in the nation. Huggins, committed to Oklahoma, says that the thought of Spurrier could be lucrative for players at his position.

"Especially for wide receivers around here that don't want to go far for a good throwing team, and they know he throws the ball a lot, that could mean they could stay in-state," said Huggins . He said he still remains solid to Oklahoma and will not take a visit anywhere else unless Stoops himself moves on.

Mike Davis, a Columbia (S.C.) running back who has yet to make a commitment, believes that the move would have little effect on his decision due to the positive and negative connotations involved with the Spurrier offense.

"A coach is a coach. The only thing that he and Lou Holtz have different is the style of offense," said Davis. "Really, Lou Holtz has an offense that I like better, but (Spurrier) still has a high-powered offense."

Not known as a national name in recruiting, South Carolina should focus its strategy. According to Tommy Barnhart, national college football editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and a contributor for CBS Sports and Fox Sports South Net, South Carolina primarily keeps the in-state talent, but should start looking into Georgia and Florida.

"Can Steve Spurrier take his brand and put it on the program?" questioned Barnhart. "Can he sweep into Florida and come out with some players because there are not enough in South Carolina?"

"In a lot of cases, he is not going to have to sell the kid. He can sell the coaches and the parents, and that is a big thing," said FloridaKids.us analyst Larry Bluestein, who believes Spurrier's legacy is still very prominent. "He stood up in the face of tradition and said I'm going to do it my way, and that's what parents like. He is also going to name drop and say ‘I coached him, and I coached him' and that's a great thing.

"The coaches know he played his college ball here, he based his University of Florida team on 85 to 90 percent of athletes from this state. So they will definitely look in his direction and always be receptive to him."

However, Spurrier is not known as the top recruiting source in the nation. During his final year at Florida, his class was number thirty in the nation according to Super Prep magazine. Of course that number is about average for South Carolina until Lou Holtz took over the program. Holtz finished last season with the number 23 class in the nation, 10th the year before, and 13th in 2003.

"The Gamecock fans will be able to routinely anticipate classes that are routinely anywhere from ten to twenty, and they might be able to look forward to classes in the top ten," says Scout.com national recruiting analyst Allen Wallace, who also publishes Super Prep. "Only one time in the last ten years has South Carolina had a top ten class."

Spurrier would need to find assistant coaches receptive to coaching with him at South Carolina while also hitting the recruiting trails harder than ever before. Looking down the Spurrier coaching tree, a very solid staff could be available already. Currently on the South Carolina staff, Rick Stockstill is signed through next year and serves as the recruiting coordinator for the Gamecocks and coaches the wide receivers, which includes Troy Williamson who is a finalist for the Fred Belitnikoff Award.

"It wouldn't surprise me to see some of the old Florida coaches that were with Spurrier in Gainesville go to South Carolina," said Newberg. Among the coaches on the current Florida staff, which itself is in limbo, Dwayne Dixon coached receivers, and Charlie Strong was the much-heralded defensive coordinator at South Carolina under coach Holtz for three years.

John Thompson, the head coach at East Carolina resigned from his post on Wednesday, and was the defensive coordinator in 2002 for Spurrier. East Carolina offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Noah Brindise played for and coached for Spurrier, defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach Jerry Odom played and coached for Spurrier, and strength and conditioning coach John Greco also played for and coached for Spurrier.

Those coaches alone, not to mention the many other coaches spread across the nation secured in their current posts, such as Spurrier's son, Steve Spurrier, Jr., a wide receivers coach at Arizona, could present a formidable team on the field and the recruiting trail.

An impact could be seen on even this year's squad. With the last game of the regular season on Saturday against Clemson, the Gamecocks are already bowl-eligible. Currently tied for fourth in the conference with Florida, bowl committees would normally not take South Carolina over the Gators. However, this year the bowl committees could look at the coaching hires of both schools before offering a spot in their respective games. As reported by GatorCountry.com, if Urban Meyer is the new head coach at Florida, it would bring an interesting scenario to the Peach Bowl, which gets the SEC number four bid. No matter what, the hiring will certainly help the conference tremendously.

"This cements the league even further as the best in the country," added Brando. "It is a great day for SEC football. Steve Spurrier brings energy into a league that already has an extraordinary amount of energy."

The energy will also rise during the SEC Media days with the potential of the SEC East region having Spurrier, Meyer or Stoops, Richt, and Fulmer alone.

"How good will the storyline be for South Carolina against Florida for the next few years," said Barnhart.

However, it could take some time before the Gamecock fans can see the true effect on recruiting. As the past has shown with other coaches, there can be a transition year. Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan had trouble in his first year recruiting, just one player with four or five stars, according to Scout.com. Pete Carroll had the same trouble at Southern Cal his first recruiting year, but secured the top recruiting class in the nation last spring after winning the national championship.

"It was a very interesting class because so many guys did not turn out, but there are several guys that are very important to the team," says Wallace. "Two guys in particular, Matt Leinart and Shaun Cody. It was a very uneven class, and we ranked the class number nineteen in the country. For USC, that was the worst class that had in seven years. I think everybody assumes there would be a major influx of talent into South Carolina if Spurrier ends up moving forward with that position, but it may not happen this year."

This is not the normal coaching coach. This is the Ol' Ball Coach going back to the SEC. Midway between his last two college coaching stops, Duke and Florida, South Carolina brings a unique situation. Spurrier has a chance to make an impact bringing in his coaches, talented players already on the team, and cement his own legacy. For now, he and Coach Holtz have recruits acting like college football fans. Waiting, watching, and hoping to find out what happens.

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