Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney (right) and South Carolina Shane Beamer during the 2023 Southern Company Peach Bowl Challenge, Tuesday, May 2, 2023, in Greensboro, Ga. (Paul Abell via Abell Images for the Southern Company Peach Bowl Challenge)
It’s been 11 years since South Carolina football finished ahead of Clemson, its biggest rival, in the 247Sports Composite team recruiting rankings.
Could the Gamecocks snap that streak this cycle?
With the star-studded 2024 recruiting class coach Shane Beamer and his staff are assembling, they’re certainly off to a good start.
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There’s a long way to go until the December early signing period. But South Carolina’s current signing class ranks No. 10 in the 247Sports Composite — which factors in ratings from multiple websites and is considered the industry standard — while Clemson is sitting at No. 21.
South Carolina is also significantly outpacing Clemson in 247Sports’ average recruit ranking metric, which is based on the average player grade (out of 100) for each recruit in a class. Those grades ultimately determine a player’s star ranking. The Gamecocks’ nine verbal commits have an average ranking of 92.95, while the Tigers’ eight commits have an average ranking of 89.64.
Last year, for the 2023 cycle, Clemson and South Carolina finished No. 11 and No. 16 in the final composite rankings, respectively. That five-spot difference was the closest they’d finished in the rankings since 2017, when Clemson was No. 16 and South Carolina was No. 21 (also five spots).
Recruiting isn’t everything, of course: Players can have all the skill in the world and still need to execute, as do their coaches. But consistently stacking up top talent year by year — specifically, four- and five-star recruits, is a quick route toward the upper echelons of college football.
USC hasn’t finished ahead of its rival in the 247Sports Composite rankings since the 2012 cycle, when a 25-player Gamecocks class headlined by wide receiver Shaq Roland and running back Mike Davis finished at No. 15, five spots ahead of No. 20 Clemson.
2024 recruiting trends
South Carolina — which beat Clemson in football for the first time since 2013 last fall in Death Valley — ended the 2023 recruiting cycle with a bang by landing five-star Washington, D.C., athlete Nyckoles Harbor, the country’s No. 15 overall recruit, on national signing day in February.
The Gamecocks have continued that trajectory for 2024, most notably with three commitments from in-state offensive linemen who also held Clemson scholarship offers.
Four-star Woodland offensive tackle Kam Pringle (No. 44 nationally), four-star Dillon offensive tackle Josiah Thompson (No. 71) and three-star Greenville offensive guard Blake Franks (No. 462) have all opted for the Gamecocks over the Tigers, among other suitors, since January.
Even after the recent decommitment of three-star offensive tackle Mike Williams, South Carolina remains at No. 10 in the composite rankings thanks to commitments from five more four-stars, including top 150 Georgia tight end Michael Smith and Georgia linebacker Wendell Gregory.
The top commits in Clemson’s 2024 class are four-star Illinois tight end Christian Bentancur (No. 83), four-star Georgia defensive lineman Hevin Brown-Shuler (No. 205) and four-star Florida cornerback Tavoy Feagin (No. 227).
The Tigers were in a similar position last summer. They had four commitments entering June 2022 before adding most of their pledges and star power, including Alabama defensive tackle and No. 33 overall recruit Peter Woods, during a furious summer recruiting stretch.
That came on the heels of a blowout summer official visit weekend to start June — the first time the Tigers had offered that option to recruits under coach Dabo Swinney (with the requirement that anyone participating must have already visited campus).
Clemson had previously held off on summer official visits, sticking just to fall official visits even after a 2018 NCAA rule change allowed schools to hold them in June.
That didn’t hurt the Tigers too much. Despite that unique approach, they continued to finish in the top 15 of at least one primary recruiting service (ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports) every year since 2011, per the school, and often much higher.
Amid a rise to national prominence that included six consecutive College Football Playoff appearances and two national championship game appearances from 2015-2020, Clemson routinely finished 10 or more spots ahead of USC in the composite recruiting rankings.
In 2020, for example, Clemson had the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class and South Carolina was No. 19. In 2021, Clemson pulled in the No. 5 class nationally while USC, smack in the middle of a coaching transition from Will Muschamp to Beamer, finished at No. 80.
Now that gap is shortening, adding an extra layer to the state’s top rivalry as USC tries to pull something off that hasn’t been done since the Steve Spurrier era.
Clemson vs. South Carolina football recruiting
Final rankings in the 247Sports Composite team recruiting rankings dating back to the 2010 cycle. ** denotes in progress.
- 2024: South Carolina No. 10, Clemson No. 21 **
- 2023 : Clemson No. 11, South Carolina No. 16
- 2022: Clemson No. 10, South Carolina No. 24
- 2021: Clemson No. 5, South Carolina No. 80
- 2020: Clemson No. 3, South Carolina No. 19
- 2019: Clemson No. 10, South Carolina No. 21
- 2018: Clemson No. 7. South Carolina No. 18
- 2017: Clemson No. 16, South Carolina No. 21
- 2016: Clemson No. 11, South Carolina No. 25
- 2015: Clemson No. 9, South Carolina No. 20
- 2014: Clemson No. 16, South Carolina No. 19
- 2013: Clemson No. 15, South Carolina No. 20
- 2012: South Carolina No. 15, Clemson No. 20
- 2011: Clemson No. 10, South Carolina No. 17
- 2010: Clemson No. 27, South Carolina No. 34