By the time the last weekend of the recruiting season rolls around, coaches like to think they have a pretty good handle on what’s going to happen on the big day. But given the Gamecocks’ approach to this year’s effort, emotions could run the full spectrum when Wednesday gets here.
It truly is only then they will know just how good it was.
“We’ve got all the scenarios from the best ever to whoops,” JSU coach Jack Crowe said. “We’re in a position to be good and posturing to be outstanding.”
The Gamecocks aren’t just recruiting for the Ohio Valley Conference anymore. A potential move into the Football Bowl Subdivision prompts their pursuit to an even higher level of player than they’ve sought in recent years. And those lofty targets carry rewards and disappointments.
The Gamecocks are expecting to sign a smallish class of 15 to 18 targeted players, which includes the mid-year junior college transfers, with a leaning toward defense. Among them are said to be between three and six prospects from the immediate area. Heavy recruiting battles being waged with Conference USA and Sun Belt level schools.
If they do make the move up, they’ll be prepared for their new peer group; these signees would be juniors when the Gamecocks become a full-fledged FBS program if they declare their intentions when the NCAA moratorium expires in August. If they decide against making the move, they’ll have a roster of players to challenge the highest tier of FCS schools.
It’s a lot like when Troy was in the process of moving up. The Trojans dominated their outgoing two years in the old Division I-AA with I-A quality players (some of them transfers) and then easily transitioned into upper division.
“We’ve put ourselves squarely in FBS recruiting,” Crowe said. “If we’re looking at December 2011 being a decision … we’d better already have some kids in this program who can go play Troy and whoever else. It really was a major emphasis.
“(The move) is a policy decision I don’t have anything to do with, but I understand where we were 11 years ago and where we are now, and we’ve come a long way. But we’ve not stopped taking the same approach. We’ve got to get better. The surest way to do better is to recruit at a higher level. The stadium makes the statement and beating Ole Miss, we added some credibility where we were going the whole time.”
While the size of this year’s signing class may prove to be smaller than others, the quality of player is said to be higher than pre-APR or even pre-2007 targets (the year school officials decided to look into a move to the FBS).
“There are three things you evaluate players on — athletic talent, football character and academics,” Crowe said. “I think there’s no question right now when you put all three of those together there’s hardly any comparison, to be honest with you.”
The Gamecocks do have some highly regarded commitments, but the truest measure of the recruiting class won’t be known until Wednesday.
They’re trying to hold a commitment from Piedmont nose man Mickey Jackson. They’re also said to be in the mix with Oxford lineman Bobby McCain, a reported Memphis verbal commitment; Gadsden City’s undeclared Jakari Kinnie and Demopolis running back Demarcus James. Landing any combination of them would put this class over the top.
Now it’s just wait and see what rolls off the fax machine Wednesday.
“You can have all the conversations and smiles when recruiting people, but the decisions are where you find out the truth of it,” Crowe said. “What kid got everything he wanted to Christmas.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.