South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, one of the best in the nation, comes from Calhoun County. Gamecock tailback Marcus Lattimore, also one of the best in the nation, comes from Duncan, S.C. Corner Stephon Gilmore, a preseason All-SEC pick, comes from Rock Hill, S.C., as does the top recruit in the nation last February, defensive lineman Jadaveon Clowney.
The long list of South Carolina natives who became All-Americans elsewhere -- Penn State defensive lineman Courtney Brown and Florida State linebacker Peter Boulware come immediately to mind -- have been the Gamecocks’ biggest roadblock to winning their first SEC championship.
It’s no coincidence that, as Steve Spurrier prepares for his seventh season in Columbia, the Gamecocks’ fortunes have improved as they have signed the state’s best players. Spurrier doesn’t stray much farther than North Carolina or the Atlanta area. He said improved fundraising has allowed South Carolina to bring its facilities up to SEC standards. The fact that he’s never had a losing season, and that the Gamecocks have played in five bowl games in his seasons has helped, too.
“We’ve won a few games, enough games along the way to convince the in-state kids, 'Hey, we can win big at South Carolina,'” Spurrier said. “We still haven’t hit it big. We haven’t gone to a major bowl, we haven’t won the SEC, haven’t finished in the top 10. But we did have some firsts last year. Winning the east, beating the No. 1 team in the country [Alabama] at home there, beating Florida for the first time ever in the Swamp. We accomplished a few firsts but there are many, many more out there we’re going to be shooting for.”