- Gerry Hamilton, ESPN Staff Writer
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In five years as South Carolina’s quarterbacks and tight ends coach, G.A. Mangus has become a key cog in the Gamecocks' recruiting efforts. As a lead recruiter for prospects from New Jersey to Tampa, Mangus has a true feel for how the Gamecocks’ recruiting brand has risen in recent years with the three straight top-10 finishes, 11-win seasons and marquee players that have been drafted in the NFL.
Since you got to Columbia in 2009, how has the perception of South Carolina football changed outside the state?
G.A. Mangus: Well, I think it has changed a whole lot. I’m going into my sixth season here with Coach [Steve] Spurrier, and things have really changed in many aspects in terms of recruiting, but in the last three seasons, finishing in the top 10 three years in a row and the highest ranking we’ve ever had last year, the TV contract we have in the SEC … recruiting in New Jersey, or Florida and up and down the Eastern seaboard, there are definitely a lot more people that recognize South Carolina as one of the big boys now. I don’t know that was the case up and down the Eastern seaboard, and nationally five or six years ago.
Evaluating and projecting quarterbacks can be the toughest position to conquer. What is it you and the staff looks for in a quarterback prospect?
GM: … We put a lot into the intangible part of it. The biggest part of it is getting around these young men. You can watch tape and watch them play, but getting around them as a person is the best way to find out what their makeup is … and that’s what the most important thing is and that is something I learned from Coach [Steve] Spurrier a long time ago. I think good feet are imperative in today’s game and you have to have an ‘it’ factor. I don’t necessarily know how to define an ‘it’ factor, but you know it once you are around a guy. That’s why it’s important to be around those guys as much as possible … Obviously, the neck up is huge. You have to be a quick decision maker, a quick thinker. This game today, as athletic as everyone is on defense, you just don’t have a lot of time. You have to have quick feet, make quick decisions and have an ‘it’ factor on top of that. One of the things Coach Spurrier always emphasized is the courage. The ones that have courage is the common denominator. The ones that I’ve always been around that have courage were the best ones. You have to be able to hang in the pocket and take one on the chin every now and then, and then how they play the next play tells a lot. And the other thing is accuracy. You have to be accurate, and if you combine that with the good feet, quick decisions and courage … that’s what we are looking for.
The Gamecocks have the makings of a class that can finish in the top 10. With 15 commitments already in the books, what are the key positions remaining?
GM: We have the ability in this class to take a larger number than we did a year ago, so we are always looking for good players. The big thing when trying to kind of close out a class, I guess, is to have room for difference-makers, whatever position that may be. Closing with some offensive tackles, tight ends on the offensive side of the ball, and defensive ends on the defensive side of the ball is a priority. Defensive backs also.
What is the most important aspect of recruiting? And has the most important aspect changed in the last two or three years with social media seemingly taking over recruiting in some ways?
GM: It has changed, but I don’t think the meaningful fundamentals of recruiting have changed. … It’s still about relationships, and I think it starts and finishes with the families and the high school coach. I think the day the families and high school coach get removed from the process is probably the time I’ll really be glad I’m not a young coach just getting out of college because it’s just all over the map if we lose those fundamentals in recruiting. Social media has changed some things, and it has made it a little more wide open. Parents are on Facebook, and kids are on Twitter, and like kids like to say, Facebook is for old people and Twitter is for young people. I’m a little of both, I guess, I’m middle age (laughs). It’s more of a 24/7 with the social media, and I don’t think it’s going to stop. Every year there is new social media site that kids are becoming a part of and trying to be the fad, and again it’s all things we have to be flexible on as coaches.
Would the ability for prospects to make official visits in the spring of junior year help the process as a whole?
GA: I don’t know that it will help, or change a whole lot because so many of these kids are going on all these unofficial visits. I think it would be nice to be able to pay for the trips if the kids are going to make the visits. ... So many of these kids are changing to early commitments, and I’m all for an early signing period; if a kid’s ready to get it done, then get it done. Contrary to what everyone talks about, there are still a lot of kids out there that do it the right way and make a decision and that’s the end of it. Kids today don’t get to take their official visits that get it done. That’s the one thing I do feel bad for the players today is they don’t get to enjoy that part as much, as maybe my age group did. Kids today, they commit and take the one official and that’s it. And when they do take an official visit somewhere else, then it’s all over Twitter and creates a lot of drama. I do think we could eliminate some of the drama if kids could make official visits in the spring of their junior year.