COLUMBIA — Signing day is replete with big displays of drama and brashness, as college football recruits try to make their immediate marks by keeping fans in suspense about their choices until last-minute press conferences, then saying how they plan to impact those programs.
And there was certainly no shortage of boldness Wednesday at University School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where outside linebacker Skai Moore picked South Carolina over Rutgers and Vanderbilt, and wasn’t shy about telling everyone why he did it.
According to The Miami Herald, Moore said he saw “an open playing field” for playing time, with USC losing its top two players at the weakside linebacker spot, and its starting spur outside linebacker. He talked about looking forward to playing on “a defense with some dogs on it,” which he meant as a compliment to the Gamecocks.
“My opportunity to go in there pretty early and play is a great one,” he said. “So if I do what I’ve got to do, I could be starting from Day 1.”
Moore was committed to Rutgers, but changed his mind in January after getting heavy interest from USC following the season. He got a last-minute scholarship offer from Miami on Tuesday night and learned about it Wednesday morning.
“I feel like it was a little too late in the process,” Moore said. “Honestly, if they would’ve come in two or three weeks ago, this might have been a whole different day for me.”
If he does nothing else in his USC career, Moore at least added some pizzazz to USC’s low-key 2013 signing day. He was the only recruit to pick USC on Wednesday. All the others who signed had previously committed, or at least strongly hinted at their intentions.
Moore’s a fine recruit, the eighth four-star prospect in USC’s class, as rated by Rivals, which ranks him the nation’s No. 19 outside linebacker. Rivals ranked the Gamecocks’ class No. 16 nationally, its highest mark since 12th in 2009, a group that went 38-15 in its career and set a school record for wins by a class.
Even with that strong team ranking and Moore’s decision, Wednesday seemed to lack buzz and star power for the Gamecocks. For the first time since 2008, they did not sign a recruit in Rivals’ top 100 overall prospects. Their highest-rated was No. 112 – outside linebacker Larenz Bryant, one of five USC recruits who made Rivals’ top 250.
And really, Moore’s announcement wasn’t dramatic at all for USC’s coaches. Head coach Steve Spurrier said Moore told him beforehand that he was coming to Columbia, which Spurrier said is standard procedure for recruits announcing on Signing Day, based on his experiences.
Coming off back-to-back, program-best 11-2 seasons, USC was not among the programs featured on ESPN’s on-site reporting, which now
includes some coaches shouting joyously and pumping their fists in conference rooms as they watch recruits’ press conferences on TV.
Spurrier didn’t even conduct a phone interview with ESPN. And that’s fine by him. He was content to do his regular one-hour morning workout, call a few recruits who signed and watch other coaches celebrate on his TV.
“You’re not going to see me doing a whole bunch of rah-rahing on signing day,” he said. “I don’t think I ever have too much. It’s an important day. I’m not trying to sound like it’s not important. But we’d rather make our noise out here in Williams-Brice (Stadium) on gameday.”
Said recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr.: “I think some schools like to celebrate this day a lot, too. I don’t think that’s necessarily our ultimate objective, to make this one of the most important days of the year.”