February 04, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is trying to put behind a disappointing 7-6 season, questions about his age and how long he can keep coaching and a recruiting period which saw several commitments to the Gamecocks change their minds.

Spurrier managed to salvage his typical good, if not great class. He signed 32 players Wednesday, finishing in the middle of the Southeastern Conference and just inside the top 20 in most recruiting rankings.

The class was almost evenly split between offense and defense, but Spurrier said his best prospects are on defense and will hopefully shore up a unit that fell from fifth to 13th in total defense in the SEC last season, allowing nearly 73 more yards a game.

''Obviously we needed some help defensively. We've done that.'' Spurrier said.

Several of the recruits are junior college transfers, including best in class defensive end Marquavius Lewis, a 2012 graduate of Greenwood High School who enrolled at South Carolina last month.

This year's singing period was tougher than usual for the Gamecocks. Much was made of Spurrier's age. He will turn 70 in April. The coach didn't help things out when he said just after losing to Clemson he planned to stay two or three more years instead of the usual four- or five-year answer. He clarified about two weeks later that he plans to stay as long as this class of recruits is in school, but he already lost a half-dozen commitments.

Spurrier said Wednesday his team's poor record last season might have been as much of a problem as his age.

''A lot of these kids committed when we were the No. 4 in the nation. We didn't end up No. 4 in the nation,'' Spurrier said. ''But we did end up with a winning record and won a bowl game. So this - the year we had - could have been a lot worse.''

South Carolina also signed a quarterback. Spurrier said Lorenzo Nunez from Kennesaw, Georgia, can pass and run. But he said as of right now, he thinks one of the three quarterbacks already on the roster will be the new starter in the fall. They combined to throw eight passes in all of 2014.

Spurrier said he also has seen an encouraging sign of his team's commitment when he comes to the stadium every day.

''We've got a lot of guys coming in the weight room,'' Spurrier said. ''I'm usually there by myself.''

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SOUTH CAROLINA

Top 25 class. Yes.

Best in class: Marquavius Lewis, DE, Hutchinson CC (Kan.)

Best of the rest: Zach Bailey, OL, Summerville (S.C.) HS; Octavis Johnson, DB, Clinch County (Ga.) HS.

Late addition: Rashad Fenton, DB, Miami Carol City HS

One that got away: South Carolina lost nine commitments with the last coming Tuesday when Arden Key, a defensive lineman from Lithonia, Georgia, changed his mind to go to LSU.

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