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A Harder Sell
Kelley King
December 20, 2004
Everyone wanted to play for Steve Spurrier at Florida. Recruiting for South Carolina may not be as easy
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December 20, 2004

A Harder Sell

Everyone wanted to play for Steve Spurrier at Florida. Recruiting for South Carolina may not be as easy

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Steve spurrier has made some impressive drives recently, and not just off the tee. After forsaking a life of leisure to take the South Carolina coaching job on Nov. 23, Spurrier hit the road in pursuit of blue-chip recruits to upgrade his roster. He traveled to Greenbelt, Md., to visit wide receiver Derrick Williams; turned up in Hope Mills, N.C., to talk to the family of tight end Jonathan Hannah; and crossed the Palmetto State to chat up Conway High running back Bobby Wallace and defensive lineman Hivera Green before signing autographs for everyone at the school who asked. ?I was astounded by how available he made himself,? says Conway coach Chuck Jordan. ? Steve Spurrier?s recruiting hard, no doubt about it.?

Yes, it?s the same Steve Spurrier who, by the end of his highly successful 12-year run at Florida (an .817 winning percentage and the 1996 national title), was weary of tap-dancing in recruits? living rooms. However, in returning to the college game after a failed two-year NFL stint with the Washington Redskins (he resigned in December 2003 after going 12?20), Spurrier has been leading the rush to bolster an incoming class that had only six oral commitments. ?Hitting the recruiting trail in full force is vital,? Spurrier says. ?We?ve been working it fast and furious.?

He has no other choice if he intends to re-create the success he had in Gainesville. Spurrier will find that luring the nation?s best talent to the Southeast, especially to a team that lost four of its last six and finished 6?5, will be harder than it was before he left the Gators. In his absence Georgia?s Mark Richt and LSU?s Nick Saban strengthened their recruiting bases. Spurrier?s biggest challenge might be fending off Florida, where his successor, the fired Ron Zook, bequeathed a solid commitment list to newly hired Urban Meyer, who established himself as a savvy recruiter at Utah. ?Recruiting is all about maintaining relationships,? says Jamie Newberg, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, ?and Spurrier?s been out of the game for a few years.?

Two other schools hired coaches last week who haven?t had much time off at all. In fact, new Stanford coach Walt Harris now has two jobs. He is preparing his old team, Pitt, for its Fiesta Bowl game against Utah while also trying to lure recruits to Palo Alto. (He doesn?t officially take over the Cardinal until Jan. 1.) In Seattle former Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham will try to resuscitate Washington?s beleaguered program. He may have an easier time recruiting on the West Coast--he led Stanford to the Rose Bowl in 2000--than he did attracting prospects to South Bend.

As for Spurrier, his years away from college may not have hurt him after all. Conway?s Wallace committed to South Carolina during Spurrier?s visit on Dec. 3. Last weekend the Gamecocks received pledges from two junior college defensive backs, Brandon Isaac of Georgia Military College and Mike West of Butler County Community College in Kansas. Some prospects who had orally committed elsewhere, such as Daytona Beach Mainland quarterback Jonathan Garner (pledged to, of all places, Florida), say that South Carolina has entered the picture. ?Spurrier called my cell during a pep rally, and my friends were, like, Is that really him?? says Garner, a lefthander who would become the cornerstone of Spurrier?s rebuilding effort. ?If there?s any chance that I won?t fit in Meyer?s offense, I?m definitely interested in what else Spurrier has to say.?

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