Gamecocks' challenge: Keeping the best at home

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

I've been asked more times than I can count why South Carolina hasn't been able to break through in football and has spent most of the last 100 years mired in mediocrity.

A good place to start for answers is the NFL draft, which may explain part of the Gamecocks' troubles. That is, their recent troubles.

The state of South Carolina is tied for fifth in NFL first-round draft selections produced over the last decade. South Carolina and New Jersey each have 15.

Not surprisingly, the state of Florida was a runaway winner during that span with 47 first-rounders. Next was California with 34 followed by Texas with 30 and Georgia with 17.

But for South Carolina -- a state that ranks 24th nationally in U.S. population -- to produce that many first-rounders, that has to be good for the Gamecocks, right?

Not necessarily.

Of those 15 first-rounders who played high school football in South Carolina over the last decade, only three signed with the Gamecocks -- receiver Troy Williamson, cornerback Johnathan Joseph and defensive end John Abraham.

But the real killer is this: The state of South Carolina produced 10 first-rounders the last decade who were either offensive linemen, defensive linemen or tight ends, and only one of them signed with the Gamecocks.

That was Abraham, whose last season with the Gamecocks was 1999.

So in other words, South Carolina simply hasn't done a very good job of keeping the cream of the crop from its state at home. Three out of 15 is pretty telling.

But there is hope.

This last recruiting class, Shane Beamer's first as recruiting coordinator, South Carolina signed five of the top seven players in the state, according to the ratings by Scouts Inc. That includes four players who were rated among the Top 10 prospects in the country at their respective positions.

Over the next four or five years, we'll see if those ratings translate into performance.

Here's a look at the 15 first-rounders from the state of South Carolina over the last decade, where they're from, where they were drafted and where they went to college:

  • 2009: Defensive end Robert Ayers, Clio, S.C., No. 18 overall to the Broncos, Tennessee.

  • 2007: Defensive end Gaines Adams, Greenwood, S.C., No. 4 overall to the Buccaneers, Clemson.

  • 2007: Linebacker Lawrence Timmons, Florence, S.C., No. 15 overall to the Steelers, Florida State.

  • 2006: Cornerback Tye Hill, St. George, S.C., No. 15 overall to the Rams, Clemson.

  • 2006: Cornerback Johnathan Joseph, Rock Hill, S.C., No. 24 overall to the Bengals, South Carolina.

  • 2005: Receiver Troy Williamson, Jackson, S.C., No. 7 overall to the Vikings, South Carolina.

  • 2005: Offensive tackle Alex Barron, Orangeburg, S.C., No. 19 overall to the Rams, Florida State.

  • 2005: Receiver Roddy White, Charleston, S.C., No. 27 overall to the Falcons, Alabama-Birmingham.

  • 2004: Tight end Ben Watson, Rock Hill, S.C., No. 32 overall to the Patriots, Georgia.

  • 2002: Defensive tackle Ryan Sims, Spartanburg, S.C., No. 6 overall to the Chiefs, North Carolina.

  • 2002: Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, Hartsville, S.C., No. 15 overall to the Titans, Tennessee.

  • 2001: Defensive tackle Richard Seymour, Gadsden, S.C., No. 6 overall to the Patriots, Georgia.

  • 2000: Defensive end Courtney Brown, Charleston, S.C., No. 1 overall to the Browns, Penn State.

  • 2000: Defensive end Shaun Ellis, Anderson, S.C., No. 12 overall to the Jets, Tennessee.

  • 2000: Defensive end John Abraham, Timmonsville, S.C., No. 13 overall to the Falcons, South Carolina.