South Carolina

Why Isn't the Palmetto State Producing Blue Chip Football Talent?

Offsides with Marc Ryan
June 23, 2020 - 11:54 am

The Palmetto State is proud of its high school football, and that truly is a beautiful thing. Friday night lights are as meaningful as any other high school football loving community in the country, if not more.

Yet, something's missing. Coaches will often say "It's not about the x's and o's. It's about the Jimmy's and the Joe's." And the state of South Carolina just isn't producing many of them. In this column, we'll provide data you likely haven't seen, and ask the very important "Why?"

Of the ten states represented in the Southeastern Conference, the Palmetto State ranks sixth in population. Thus, if the state was producing up to expectations in terms of four and five star recruits, one could expect it would be producing the sixth most blue chip prospects. And given that Missouri isn’t really considered to be in “The South,” and by a star player’s estimation, is really a better fit for the Big Ten or Big Twelve, one could reasonably expect top five or top half blue chip production from the Palmetto State.

SEC states ranked by population (in millions)

1. Texas 28.9

2. Florida 21

3. Georgia 10.6

4. Tennessee 6.8

5. Missouri 6.1

6. South Carolina 5.1

7. Alabama 4.9

8. Louisiana 4.6

9. Arkansas 3

10. Mississippi 2.9


Yet, as you’re about to see, that isn’t close to being the case.

In the last five years, the state of South Carolina has produced a grand total of 19 four and five star recruits. That’s an average of 3.8 per season. “Well, Marc Ryan, that doesn’t sound so bad.” Not until you compare it to what the other states in the conference are producing.

Alabama, smaller than South Carolina by population, has produced 67 four and five star recruits the last five years, dating back to 2017. That’s an average of 13.4 per year. Yikes.

You could ask “Does the caliber of college football programs in a given state have a positive effect on the number of blue chip recruits a state produces?” But that argument immediately falls on the sword of Clemson’s dominance. For as incredible as the last five seasons have been for the Tigers, it hasn’t given birth to an increase in blue chip talent.

It gets worse for the Palmetto State. Over the past five years, Georgia has produced 175 four and five star college recruits. Georgia is almost exactly twice as large as South Carolina, and it would stand to reason if SC was doing its job in talent production, the state would be producing half. That would mean 88 four and five star recruits the past five seasons. Again, the Palmetto state has produced 19. NINETEEN.

In fact, the only state out of ten that South Carolina is out-producing in blue chip talent is Arkansas, 19 to 11 over the last five seasons. Yet when you consider the population difference, (5.1 million to 3), even Arkansas is producing per capita what SC is. And how is their football program doing?

Four and Five Star Recruits by State the Last Five Seasons (data from 247 Sports)

State population in parenthesis

Georgia – 175, an average of 35 per year, (10.6 million people)

Alabama – 67, an average of 13.4 per year (4.9 million people)

Louisiana – 68, an average of 13.6 per year (4.6 million people)

Mississippi – 38, an average of 7.6 per year (2.9 million people)

Missouri – 24, an average of 4.8 per year (6.1 million people)

South Carolina – 19, an average of 3.8 per year (5.1 million people)


And then there’s perhaps the most telling statistic, and the real reason behind Muschamp’s struggles in Columbia: In the 2021 recruiting class, NEITHER CLEMSON NOR SOUTH CAROLINA PRESENTLY HAVE A SINGLE COMMITMENT FROM THE STATE.

Read that again, and do so loudly. It’s unbelievable. And because Clemson has become a top national brand, having led the nation in number of states represented in their class last season, the Tigers are fine. But as the Gamecocks are still a local brand, they haven’t been ok, if you haven’t seen.

And while you’ll never hear Dabo Swinney or Will Muschamp diss the in state talent, their actions speak louder than words ever could. Dabo knows he can’t win with South Carolina kids, and has other options. Will Muschamp also knows he can’t win with South Carolina kids, and doesn’t.

All of which brings us back to the central question of this blog; “Why is the Palmetto State under producing blue chip talent?”

Two different area high school football coaches have told me the South Carolina High School League’s archaic policies severely limit coach and player contact. Other states don’t have these limitations. It hurts player development dramatically, which is actually really bad for our kids. Clemson’s last two quarterbacks have come from Georgia. There’s a reason. Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence were able to spend an obscene amount of hours honing their craft by the 8th grade. And in truth, Deshaun Watson won the starting quarterback job at his high school as an 8th grader, having completed 22 of 25 passes against the varsity football team at Gainesville High School.

In my opinion, the limitations placed on area coaches by the South Carolina High School League are a significant reason why this state under produces talent, but are there other theories? What are your thoughts?


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