South Carolina on Friday missed out on its biggest commitment so far in the Class of 2014, when quarterback Drew Barker picked Kentucky over the Gamecocks and Tennessee.
Barker, who is 6-3 and 214 pounds, is from Burlington, Ky., and attends Conner High. Rivals ranks him as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback in his class and the No. 153 overall recruit.
New Kentucky coach Mark Stoops made recruiting Barker a priority since he took the job. Burlington is 77 miles north of Lexington.
Barker is expected to graduate high school early and enroll in January, according to what Barker’s father told Louisville’s Courier-Journal. Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus, who is one of USC’s best recruiters, was the point man for Barker’s recruitment.
Next spring, Barker would have joined rising senior Dylan Thompson, sophomore Brendan Nosovitch and redshirt freshman Connor Mitch in the USC quarterback room. This fall, Thompson is likely to share time with senior Connor Shaw, with Nosovitch as the third-stringer.
Barker would have joined two other former highly recruited players on USC’s depth chart. Nosovitch was rated the No. 22 dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2012. He redshirted last season. Mitch was rated the No. 13 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2013. He enrolled early and participated in spring practices. He is expected to redshirt this fall.
Instead, Barker will play for the Gamecocks’ Southeastern Conference Eastern Division opponent – Kentucky.
USC coach Steve Spurrier won the 1966 Heisman Trophy as a Florida quarterback and won consistently at Florida in the 1990s with strong quarterback play. But he has yet to have a consistently elite quarterback with the Gamecocks. He is entering his ninth season.
That could certainly change this season, or down the road, considering the quarterback talent Spurrier has, even with Barker’s decision to play at Kentucky. Shaw has started since midway through 2011, when Stephen Garcia was dismissed. Thompson led USC to a win at Clemson last year and threw the game-winning touchdown pass in the Outback Bowl against Michigan. And Nosovitch and Mitch give Spurrier hope for the future.
According to Rivals, USC is targeting four other quarterback recruits for the Class of 2014. Here is a look at them, and who is pursuing them for the Gamecocks …
D.J. Gillins (6-3, 185, Jacksonville, Fla.) – No. 4 dual-threat, No. 103 overall (recruited by Steve Spurrier Jr.)
Jacob Park (6-4, 210, Goose Creek, Stratford High) – No. 7 pro-style, No. 168 overall (recruited by Steve Spurrier Jr.)
John Wolford (6-1, 209, Jacksonville, Fla.) – Not rated (recruited by Steve Spurrier Jr.)
Alex Ogle (6-3, 192, Jensen Beach, Fla.) – Not rated (recruited by Grady Brown)
It’s worth noting that while Rivals lists those recruits as targets, none of the four have USC scholarship offers yet, according to the site. So we’ll see how it all pans out.
And here is a look at USC’s Class of 2014 so far …
** TE Kalan Ritchie (6-5, 215, Goose Creek) – No. 7 at position, No. 212 overall (recruited by Steve Spurrier Jr.)
** OLB Bryson Allen-Williams (6-1, 214, Ellenwood, Ga.) – No. 19 at position, No. 247 overall (recruited by Lorenzo Ward)
** ILB Joe Blue (6-0, 235, Dillon) – No. 22 at position (recruited by Shawn Elliott)