Recruiting has played a big part in the Gamecocks' success the the past two seasons.
South Carolina football has been undergoing a change in culture in Columbia, and being able to sign top-notch talent like they have is a big part of the reason for their recent success.
They have been able to sign players like Stephon Gilmore, Alshon Jeffery, Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney in recent years. These were recruits who had offers from teams like Alabama and Southern Cal, but chose to become a part of something big in Columbia, South Carolina.
These players have helped become the face of the program, but you always have to look for the next great group of players and South Carolina is doing just that for the 2012 recruiting class.
So far, the Gamecocks have 20 commitments and should have room for a small number of recruits left on their board.
The next few slides will give you an idea of the top players left on the South Carolina recruiting board and who might help take South Carolina to the next level.
Defensive back prospect Chaz Elder from College Park, Georgia has been on the Gamecock recruiting radar for months now.
He was almost a Gamecock commitment before his senior year started, but decided to focus on his football season and push back his recruitment.
The three main schools that have been in contention for Elder's services are South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt. South Carolina has been the lead position for Elder for a while now and just recently seemed to solidify their standing with Elder.
Chaz Elder plans to take his official visit to South Carolina for the Clemson game over Thanksgiving weekend and it wouldn't surprise me if he becomes a USC commitment shortly after that.
He's a much-needed recruit for the Gamecocks as they lose C.C.Whitlock to graduation after this season and will—more than likely—lose Stephon Gilmore to the NFL draft. Elder will have an opportunity to fight for playing time right away in Columbia.
Expect Chaz Elder to pick the Gamecocks in the end.
Tyriq McCord is a highly-rated defensive end prospect from Tampa, Florida.
As expected with most Florida recruits, he has one of the home state schools in the mix with Florida. South Carolina has been battling the Gators to land Tyriq McCord and it looks like they might win this battle.
McCord took his official visit to South Carolina this past weekend to see the Gamecocks take on the Gators. McCord had rave reviews for the visit and continues to have the Gamecocks as his leader at the moment.
The Gators will have a chance to impress McCord when he takes his official visit to Florida in a few weeks and also plans to see Miami and Georgia as well.
The losses of Melvin Ingram and Byron McKnight to graduation and the potential loss of Devin Taylor to the NFL could open up some spots on the defensive line for South Carolina in 2012.
Never count out Florida schools for a Florida recruit, but it looks like Tyriq McCord will eventually become a Gamecock and take one of the remaining spots for South Carolina.
South Carolina has had some recent success up north with recruiting the last year or so, and there's a big name prospect on the board the Gamecocks are in good shape to land at this point.
The name is Elijah Shumate and he's a top-rated safety prospect from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, New Jersey. Shumate has teams like Rutgers, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Georgia Tech in the mix as well.
Shumate finished up his official visit to South Carolina this past Monday, after coming down to see the Gamecocks take on the Florida Gators. He got to visit with players like Tanner McEvoy and Sheldon Royster, who come from the same area as Shumate and seemed to enjoy his official visit.
South Carolina looked to be the leader before Shumate took his official visit, and certainly did themselves some favors with an impressive showing this past weekend. It looks like his relationship with recruiter G.A. Mangus will be tough for opposing schools to overcome.
Look for Elijah Shumate to end up in a South Carolina uniform.
Running back Keith Marshall is a wanted man.
Arguably the nation's top running back recruit, he has finalized his choices to just a few schools. Clemson, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Notre Dame and South Carolina have all made the cut with Marshall.
Georgia and North Carolina have long been the favorites for Keith Marshall and are expected to be until it's time for Marshall to sign his National Letter of Intent.
South Carolina was able to work their way into securing the final official visit for Marshall after he visited Georgia, Florida, Notre Dame, and Clemson. He plans to visit South Carolina when Clemson comes to town to take on the Gamecocks on November 26.
The Gamecocks can thank the recruiting efforts of Jay Graham for getting in the final mix for Marshall. These two have developed a good relationship and it's at least given the Gamecocks a chance to impress the young running back from North Carolina.
Marshall is expected to pick Georgia in the end, but the Gamecocks have a chance at this point and that's all you can hope for at this moment.
Jonathan Bullard is a hot commodity among his three finalists and is close to making a decision.
Bullard recently visited the Clemson Tigers on an official visit and plans a trip to Columbia for the Gamecocks' matchup in The Citadel this weekend. He then wraps up his visits with a trip to Florida for the Gators versus Florida State matchup.
Bullard has been an interesting recruit to watch for the last few months as he's hard to get a good judge on exactly where he's leaning. He's very highly rated as a defensive lineman in the 2012 recruiting class from Shelby, North Carolina.
There was talk early on that Bullard could join close friend defensive tackle Carlos Watkins at the next level, and it's possible for that to still happen. Watkins is a Clemson commitment and went on the visit this past weekend with Bullard to get a look at Clemson and what they have to offer. Florida also has a Bullard close friend in Rahiem Ledbetter committed as well.
Realistically, it appears that all three schools left on Bullard's list have a legitimate shot at landing the talented defensive lineman. Florida has consistently been at the top for Bullard, and Clemson recently moved up there in the past few weeks. The Gamecocks get their chance this weekend to make an impression.
It's anyone's guess as to which school Bullard chooses right now. The Gamecocks should be in the mix until the end, and the end could come as soon as the beginning of December. There shouldn't be a long wait to see where Jonathan Bullard wants to go to school.
Jordan Diggs has a last name that should be somewhat familiar to South Carolina fans.
His father, Shed Diggs, played linebacker for the Gamecocks in the 1980's. The younger Diggs will end up playing a different position in college and should find himself as a safety at the next level.
South Carolina is recruiting him for their "SPUR" position, which is basically a hybrid linebacker/safety position. He's got the talent to fill that position for the Gamecocks but they've got some competition.
Nebraska and Vanderbilt have put a great effort into recruiting Jordan Diggs and could be ahead of South Carolina at this point in the game. He apparently loved his official visit to Nebraska and had a good time at Vanderbilt as well.
Look for Jordan Diggs to take his official visit to South Carolina the weekend of the Clemson game. There Gamecocks could make up some ground and possibly move themselves into the lead if they push for Diggs.
The numbers are tight for South Carolina so it will be interesting to see how they play the Diggs situation if some of these other targets want to jump on board and Diggs is interested as well.
Diggs looks like a player that could come to South Carolina or end up at somewhere like Nebraska. He's definitely an interesting recruit to watch.
Offensive lineman Joey O'Connor is a new name on the Gamecocks' recruiting board.
O'Connor was recently a Penn State commitment, but the tragic events that led to Joe Paterno's ousting from the head coach position caused O'Connor to look around.
One of the schools that contacted O'Connor was South Carolina. Receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. is the recruiter of record for Joey O'Connor, and the Gamecocks could show some interest.
Other schools on the list include Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Oregon, Michigan, Miami and Utah. There are plenty of others and O'Connor definitely plans to take the rest of his four official visits before making a final decision.
The Gamecocks could be in the mix for one of those final spots, but they may not have room for O'Connor in this class. They already have five offensive lineman committed and appear to be out of room to sign another.
I would expect O'Connor to sign elsewhere at this moment, but if the Gamecocks miss on a few other targets then they could turn the heat up on this big offensive lineman.
Eddie Goldman is big-time recruit for the 2012 recruiting class, and he's got a big offer list from some of the best schools in the country. South Carolina may get a second look from the big defensive lineman.
South Carolina worked on Goldman early in the recruiting period for him, but fell out of his favorite list over the summer. Suddenly, though, it appears they have made their way back into the mix.
Eddie Goldman is reportedly reconsidering the Gamecocks and could potentially take an official visit to the Gamecocks soon.
He's already made a visit to Florida State and Alabama and plans a trip to Auburn for the Iron Bowl rivalry game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Clemson is in the mix for an official visit as well.
This is a player the Gamecocks would love to have, but is one that is considered a long shot at this point. If Goldman wants to come in for a visit, they won't turn him away. South Carolina will make the numbers work if Goldman does in fact want to become a Gamecock.
However, I would put the chances of Goldman choosing South Carolina at slim to none right now. They've at least got themselves a chance, which is great. Just expect Goldman to sign with another school like Florida State.