South Carolina Football: Power Ranking Gamecocks' 5 Best Classes of the BCS Era

Lee Schechter@@leeschechterContributor IIIJanuary 27, 2014

South Carolina Football: Power Ranking Gamecocks' 5 Best Classes of the BCS Era

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    Brett Flashnick/Associated Press

    South Carolina's recruiting prowess has emerged under the leadership of Steve Spurrier in the BCS era. 

    The Gamecocks haven't been a pushover team of the SEC in a number of years, and it all started with solid recruiting by the head ball coach and his staff after taking over from Lou Holtz. 

    With the 2014 recruiting year finishing up with what should be a very strong class, let's take a look back at South Carolina's recruiting classes. 

    The rankings were determined by overall incoming talent, careers at South Carolina and those who made it to the NFL. 

    Here are the top five recruiting classes for South Carolina in the BCS era. 

5. 2006

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    Mary Ann Chastain/Associated Press

    The 2006 class started off the chain of above-average classes that helped South Carolina rise to the team we see today. 

    The class may not have been filled with 5-star talents or many 4-stars for that matter, but it did produce a few strong players who contributed heavily to the Gamecocks' success. 

    With Captain Munnerlyn and Eric Norwood as underrated recruits, the 2006 class saw great development out of these two players. 

    Darian Stewart, Jasper Brinkley and Garrett Anderson also had large roles on the team during those years. 

    While not the most stellar class, the 2006 class hit the ground running and set the pace for the years to come. 

4. 2007

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    Brett Flashnick/Associated Press

    While the 2006 class was good, the 2007 class really developed the South Carolina program we see today. 

    Led by Chris Culliver and Melvin Ingram, the Gamecocks had a defensive force from these two players who went on to NFL careers. 

    While Stephen Garcia's career at South Carolina was marred by off-field issues, there is no denying that he was a gifted quarterback who played pretty well in the garnet and black. Sure, he should have been better and yes, his career ended in shame, but he was talented nonetheless. 

    Brian Maddox and Clifton Geathers also started for the team and played a part. 

    Cliff Matthews also headlined the class and is playing in the NFL on the Atlanta Falcons. 

    Despite the struggles with Garcia, this class had a lot of talent that rose to the occasion. 

3. 2011

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    Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press

    The 2011 class was just three years ago now, so there is still some time to assess the success of this class. So, this class could still rise in the rankings. 

    When a program lands a player like Jadeveon Clowney, a once-in-a-lifetime talent, it's going to be a darn good recruiting class. Clowney went on to dominate teams or be the focus of an entire offense's attention just to make sure he doesn't pop off the head of a running back or quarterback. So Clowney carries the class. 

    Though outside of Clowney, there is a lot talent from 2011. 

    Brandon Shell, an all-SEC lineman, and Kelcy Quarles, Clowney's pass-rushing partner on the inside of the defensive line, have had excellent careers at South Carolina. 

    Damiere Byrd's role is increasing, especially with his blazing speed. 

    Marcquis Roberts, Cedrick Cooper and Kadetrix Marcus all had a part on the young defense and will continue to be a major part of the Gamecocks' defensive scheming. 

2. 2009

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    Rich Glickstein/Associated Press

    While the recruiting world definitely improved in the BCS era for South Carolina, the first year of true emergence as a recruiting force came in 2009. 

    The 2009 recruiting class produced two stars of South Carolina. The man diving in the photo is now tearing up NFL defense for the Chicago Bears. Alshon Jeffery came in as a highly touted, physical wide receiver and lived up to all of the hype. 

    Similarly, Stephon Gilmore was one of the top recruits to come to Columbia that season, and he is also playing on Sundays after an amazing career as a Gamecock. 

    But the list doesn't stop there. 

    Throw in DeVonte Holloman, Chaz Sutton, Jimmy Legree and Justice Cunningham, and this class shapes up nicely. 

    And no one will forget the great leadership D.J. Swearinger provided on the defense throughout his days in garnet and black. 

    The 2009 class was one for the ages, so what could possibly beat it? 

1. 2010

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    Associated Press

    It's hard to beat 2009, but 2010's recruiting class did it. 

    Star-studded at the top, the 2010 class produced one of the all-time fan-favorite Gamecocks, Marcus Lattimore. 

    Lattimore suffered one too many serious injuries, but he electrified the crowd, powered his way through defenses and quickly became a legend at South Carolina. His leadership, toughness and talent will always be remembered by Gamecock Nation. Though, Lattimore wasn't the only great player from the 2010 class. 

    Graduating senior Connor Shaw went on to win a whole lot of football games during his four years in Columbia. His leadership and ability to flat-out win football games makes him one of, if not the best quarterback in South Carolina school history. 

    Ace Sanders was a product of 2010, and he dominated in the special teams game with his always entertaining returns, speed and explosive offensive talent. Sanders is now playing on Sundays with the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

    Victor Hampton is entering the draft this season and quickly became one of the better cover-corners in recent years with the Gamecocks. 

    Other notable players from the 2010 class include Ronald Patrick, J.T. Surratt, Nick Jones, Dylan Thompson and Corey Robinson. 

    Not too shabby of a class, right?