South Carolina Football: Ranking Gamecocks' Top 10 Recruiting Targets for 2015
South Carolina completed its 2014 recruiting class with a strong bunch of players, but now the eyes of recruiting shift toward 2015.
The Gamecocks have already made a big splash in the 2015 pool of recruits, as they have received some verbal commitments from elite players. However, nothing is final until those prospects sign their letters of intent.
Until the documents are signed, everyone is a target, no matter what his commitment status is. That includes you, Shameik Blackshear.
South Carolina will look to haul in a top-tier class of recruits, given the program's deep pool of talent and player interest in attending the university.
Here is a list of the top 10 recruiting targets for 2015 as of right now.
The even better news for South Carolina is that he is already a verbal commit to play for Steve Spurrier in 2015. I think it is highly unlikely that Blackshear will flip his commitment.
He has an exceptional frame and the explosive quickness to terrorize opposing teams via the pass rush. With quick hands and an attacking mentality, he is the type of recruit who can start right away and have a big impact.
He still has another year of high school, so his frame will fill out and get stronger. With a little more weight and muscle, Blackshear can become an unstoppable force or garner a lot of attention like Clowney, which will open up opportunities for his teammates. Either way, it's a win-win for the Gamecocks, who have him as priority No. 1.
South Carolina just landed three cornerback recruits in its 2014 class with Wesley Green, Chris Lammons and D.J. Smith. So why is the program targeting more?
Well, South Carolina is still thin at cornerback, and Smith might end up playing safety. There are still a lot of question marks.
Mark Fields answers those questions.
He provides the talent of a high-end 4-star recruit who can jump in right away and add depth.
The Gamecocks have a high priority for cornerbacks because they have a need to round out the position for depth purposes and for the extra defensive-back packages.
Fields has average size for a cornerback, but he can be a young piece and develop with the rest of the youthful secondary. He could turn into a star defensive back by his senior season.
Arden Key's name has been floating around the SEC recruiting world for some time now, although a few teams are starting to emerge as the top suitors for the defensive end. South Carolina is in the mix and can use his talent.
Key is raw but one of the more gifted athletes that a coach will find, especially given that he still has a year of high school left.
He is 6'5" and even longer than he looks. He has great reach and makes sense as a weak-side defensive end once he fills out his 200-pound frame. He relies on athleticism right now, but by bulking up, he will become a force on the edge.
If South Carolina can bring together Key and Blackshear as the edge-rushers of the future, they could form the most dominant pair of defensive ends in the SEC for multiple seasons.
A lot of times, it can be a coach's dream to land a recruit labeled as an "athlete." The versatility of an athlete, especially if he is willing to move around to where the team needs him, can be a bonus to a college football program.
Whether he ends up playing wide receiver, cornerback or anywhere in the secondary, he can provide a lot of value as an extremely athletic player with a knack for picking up multiple positions. Spurrier, like most coaches, enjoys a coachable player with a boatload of athleticism.
He is a little small right now but is explosive out of the break with good top speed. Christian can also change direction on a dime, which bodes well for the skill positions of wide receiver and cornerback.
He can turn into a big weapon for South Carolina on both sides of the ball, which makes him a prime recruiting target.
Sherrod Pittman joins Blackshear as one of the hard verbal commits at the moment.
South Carolina will need the linebacker in order to build for the future at the position, as the current crop of younger LBs will be on their way out, except for Larenz Bryant and Bryson-Allen Williams.
Pittman is reliable as a technically sound tackler who is great in pursuit and can develop some good coverage skills. He could play the "Spur," but if Lorenzo Ward plans to shift to a 3-4 defense, Pittman fits the mold as a talented outside linebacker. The combination of speed, run tackling and coverage makes him a triple-threat when it comes to outside linebackers.
His attendance at South Carolina will continue the program's trend of hauling in high-caliber linebacker recruits with versatility and high potential.
Pittman is one of the higher targets on this list.
Sometimes players with a strong interest in coming to a certain school can warrant the attention as a prime target. Michael Bowman is one of those players.
He is a 6'0" wide receiver with fairly average size as he enters his senior year. But he has a strong interest in South Carolina and is a workhorse.
He is constantly improving his game with weight training and conditioning because he is driven to succeed at the next level. He would be great to coach and is also valuable for the leadership he can bring to the team.
Bowman can be a leader of the future for the Gamecocks and a positive influence on those around him. And both of those qualities merit recruiting attention.
Dexter Neal is the last of the verbal commitments in the 2015 South Carolina recruiting class.
He is probably the least likely of the bunch to maintain his commitment, but that doesn't necessarily mean he is going anywhere else.
With good height and speed, he can fit in as a reliable receiver for the Gamecocks offense. He is a 3-star recruit right now but can work his way up with a big senior season.
Neal is also a product of Georgia, which means a lot to South Carolina, as it is able to tap into the state recruiting pool and land some talented players as it has done in the past.
Many will overlook Damon Arnette, a 3-star out of south Florida. But give him another season, and he will climb up recruiting boards quickly.
He is a talented cornerback who is especially intriguing at 6'2". With an exceptional frame that can be built into the new type of big-bodied cornerback with speed and strength, Arnette is a coach's dream.
He is working hard to improve his game, so he isn't just some big cornerback that someone takes a chance on without having other reasons.
Arnette is making a name for himself by training hard to reach a new level, and he is regarded as one of the fastest-rising prospects in Florida.
He will tack on another recruiting star by the end of his senior season and will be a steal. South Carolina cannot let this kid slip away because he is a rare talent who is driven to succeed.
Coming out of high school, D.J. Jones didn't have a lot of coaches from the top programs knocking at his door. But after some time at junior college, he has suitors from all across the SEC.
He should be drawn to South Carolina due to the ability of the Gamecocks staff to develop defensive linemen into talented players who can excel at the next level.
With a big body at more than 300 pounds and the ability to stop the run, Jones can fit into the interior of the defensive line early on in his career.
The South Carolina native will likely pick the Gamecocks.
South Carolina is loaded at quarterback for the next few years with Connor Mitch in line to assume the starting position after Dylan Thompson's 2014 season. However, the Gamecocks need to keep searching for more quarterbacks of the future and could find one in Brandon Wimbush.
He is a dual-threat quarterback who comes out of New Jersey as a heavily regarded 4-star recruit. Spurrier loves a quarterback who can make plays with his arm and his legs. Connor Shaw went on to have a successful career, so Wimbush could follow in his footsteps.
At 6'2" and 205 pounds, he has a good frame and should get bigger by the time he's ready to play college football.
Wimbush is in high demand right now, as teams from the ACC, Big Ten and SEC are looking at him. However, he was excited to receive an offer from South Carolina, according to 247Sports.
South Carolina should pursue Wimbush because he is a supreme talent in the 2015 recruiting class.