The South Carolina Gamecocks football program received a special valentine today as the top defensive end prospect in the country, Jadeveon Clowney, committed to coach Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks on national television.
Clowney's commitment means a top-fifteen recruiting class, according to ESPN.com, and even more momentum for the flowering situation in Columbia.
The Gamecocks are coming fresh off an SEC East title, and many believe they have the caliber players to make a serious run for a conference title in 2011.
On paper, South Carolina indeed has looked like the better team in the SEC East, and Clowney's commitment surely puts a magnifying glass over an otherwise second tier program.
If you look at their personnel and coaching staff, the Gamecocks stand out.
Steve Spurrier is an offensive mind who's seemingly finally found a place to sit with the fans of South Carolina, and offensive weapons like Stephen Garcia, Alshon Jeffery, and Marcus Lattimore are All-SEC caliber players who should make the team look like a sure fire pick in 2011 to win the division.
But, in the famous and over used words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast my friend."
Sure, Jadeveon Clowney is going to be an instant weapon on defense, however the Gamecocks are going to need more than one rush end in 2011 to make another title run.
Clowney's commitment shouldn't change our opinions of South Carolina that much just yet.
With a team coached by Steve Spurrier, the success of the quarterback and the offensive skill players are what get you to the top.
Stephen Garcia needs to be all of the focus for South Carolina fans, as well as the performance of incoming sophomore Marcus Lattimore, who rushed for over 1,000 yards and racked up an outstanding 17 touchdowns in his freshman campaign.
If you look at other years under Spurrier's tenure at South Carolina, you will see plenty of successful defensive ends and outside linebackers who were members of mediocre teams.
Clowney, if he starts right away, will merely be replacing the rush end spot left vacant by a darn good defensive end in Cliff Matthews, who finished his eligibility this past season.
South Carolina has also had very good defenses in the past two years.
What put the Gamecocks over the hump in 2010 was the emergence of their offense, and it's pretty evident this team will sink or swim based on their scoring output, not their stingy defense.
Gamecock fans need to look no further than a few miles north to realize that.
Clemson's DaQuan Bowers, who was the top defensive end of his class and the projected top overall defensive end in the NFL draft, was a four year member of a Tiger team who floated in a pool of mediocrity.
And, not to take any credit away, but South Carolina won the SEC East with a 5-3 conference record.
The chances of an SEC division being that down are pretty slim.
Georgia, who might be South Carolina's biggest competitor in the SEC East next year, brings in an impact running back in Isaiah Crowell who could very well neutralize any championship performances put up by Marcus Lattimore.
Crowell has just as much potential to make an immediate impact at his respective position as Clowney does, but Crowell is at more of an impact position.
Everything Marcus Lattimore did last year proves that. He changed the complexity of the South Carolina offense.
There's just more potential for certain top players to make drastic impacts on teams at some positions more than others, and the case of running back versus defensive end is one both South Carolina and rival fanbases like Georgia and Florida know too well.
Also, both fan bases have learned in recent years that top recruiting isn't everything. Having players like Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Matthew Stafford, and Knowshon Moreno can instantly turn your team into a BCS contender.
It's just the reality. Those positions have proven to matter more.
Do I need to even bring up Auburn's turnaround? Something about a guy named Cam?
What I'm basically telling the reader is simple, and frankly has a dose of irony. South Carolina, a team who isn't a historic recruiting power house, should open its ears to Florida and Georgia faithful who warn them of hype.
But do not fear South Carolina.
The Gamecocks already might have, despite what people may think, those special pieces in place. Marcus Lattimore and Stephen Garcia could be that Tebow and Harvin, or Stafford and Moreno. They could very well lead the Gamecocks to Atlanta again.
If you want me to use an incredibly forced metaphor, Clowney is the unbelievable good tasting fries, but none of that will matter if the burger is undercooked. Spurrier's offensive personnel make up the burger. You dig?
South Carolina is set in what they are doing, and should transition well from 2010 to 2011, especially with Clowney, while Georgia and Florida might still be trying to figure out who they are.
I'll give the Gamecocks the nod in the SEC East, but to say they are an SEC winner means saying they are a BCS contender. With Alabama, LSU, and possibly another Auburn team dominating the West, it's hard to imagine the Gamecocks could win the SEC.
Even if Jadeveon Clowney is an All-American as a freshman.