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- American football player and coach
While a victory over your most hated rival provides numerous positive dividends for any program, Saturday's renewal of the Clemson versus South Carolina game doesn't figure to have a huge impact on recruiting this season.
"I don't think recruits that are making decisions down to us and Clemson (are) going to make a decision on who wins the game," USC coach Shane Beamer said. "But certainly in any in-state rivalry in the different places I've been when you win that game it gives you a lot of energy. I'm in recruits' homes it certainly makes you feel better if you win the game, but I don't think it's anything we really necessarily sell as a recruiting pitch."
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney also doesn't put a whole lot of stock into any major impact winning the rivalry game has on recruiting simply because it's "not very often" the two programs end up directly competing for prospects during the recruiting process.
"Earlier when I got here we had more competition, but not now," Swinney said. "We're very different. If you love Columbia, you're probably not going to like Clemson and vice versa. They offer different things. We both have the same issues, too. This is a small population when it comes to football players. Atlanta has more prospects than the entire state of South Carolina.
"Throw in position need, academics, fit, all that stuff. The pool gets even smaller. When you're in a state like this with no pro sports and you have a big rivalry, a lot of kids grow up one way or the other. If a kid grew up and he's Clemson and we offer him, it's an uphill battle for them. And vice versa. Every now and then you have a situation that can go either way."
There are 12 remaining uncommitted players for the current class who hold offers from both the Tigers and Gamecocks and Dutch Fork wide receiver Antonio Williams appears to be the lone recruit where the two programs are in a battle for his signature. Williams, rated 149th overall, 22nd at his position and fifth in state by the 247Sports Composite had long been considered a USC lean before the Tigers offered after last Saturday's win over Wake Forest with Williams in attendance.
He is scheduled to Saturday's Alabama at Auburn game barring a late change of plans. Dutch Fork plays Fort Dorchester in Friday's Class AAAAA Lower State championship game.
Of those dozen players holding Clemson and USC offers, the Tigers landed in the final five for Alabama product Khurtiss Perry (the 247Sports Composite's 11th-best defensive lineman) and Indiana's Caden Curry (ranked 12th-best at the same position). Perry's other finalists are Alabama, Auburn, Texas and Central Florida. Curry's include Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon and Indiana.
USC has 45 uncommitted players remaining from the 220 offers it made to the 2022 class while 25 of the 75 players offered by Clemson have yet to declare for a school.
A few days before the 7:30 p.m. kickoff, Dorman offensive lineman Markee Anderson is the lone confirmed uncommitted prospect for either the current class or next year's recruiting cycle scheduled to be at the game in Columbia who holds offers from both schools. He is ranked by 247Sports as the nation's No. 60 overall prospect, No. 2 at his position and best in-state player for 2023.
The Gamecocks were the first of Anderson's seven offers, extending one to him in October of 2020, 10 weeks ahead of his second and final offer before 2020 concluded that came from Florida State. Clemson offered on Sept. 8 while his other offers are Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
Another local player expected to attend the game is Greenville High School's Mazeo Bennett, a 2024 wide receiver whose four offers are USC, Kentucky, Virginia Tech and Coastal Carolina. Catawba Ridge quarterback Jadyn Davis is also scheduled to be there. He's listed as the nation's top overall prospect for 2024 and holds offers from the Gamecocks in addition to Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State. He recently visited Clemson.
Since the 247Sports Composite that compiles and combines ratings and rankings from all the major national recruiting outlets began prior to the 2010 season, the Gamecocks have finished above the Tigers only once in the team rankings. That came via a 15th-place finish in 2012 when Clemson was 20th, the last time the Tigers finished lower than 16th.
The average finish over those 12 years is 12th for Clemson and 27th for USC. That gap diminishes if you remove USC's 79th-place standing last year in the aftermath of coach Will Muschamp being fired with three games remaining and Beamer being announced as his replacement just 10 days before the start of the early signing period. Not including that result (which broke 10-consecutive years of USC having a top-25 class), the Gamecocks average finish is 21st.
Clemson is ranked 11th with 13 commits for the current cycle and USC is 21st with 18 commits. The early signing period begins Dec. 15.
Clemson offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Tony Elliott said Monday the rivalry game "comes down to coaching because on paper it shouldn't be a contest when you look at the recruiting rankings for the schools."
Beamer said following a Nov. 6 win over favored Florida that recruiting had received an immediate boost and that he was able to reach and be reached by prospects he'd previously had trouble getting to via call or text. He reiterated that point Sunday after last week's win over Auburn made his first-year program bowl eligible for the first time since 2018.
"I think it's the fact we're just getting started," Beamer said. "It's year one and I'm really excited about the energy we've created in this program and I think so many recruits see what's taking place here and what this place can be. When you throw in all the resources we have here from an academic standpoint and then the football and beyond, it's a great place to recruit to.
"And when you have a little bit of success early on it's great and frankly I had another day (Sunday) I had some recruits where throughout the season I've been texting and some juniors I've been texting and trying to reach out to that I couldn't even get a response. All of a sudden I'm hearing from some of those guys that in September they wouldn't even return a text -- national recruits, which is pretty cool."
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: What the Clemson-South Carolina football game means for recruiting