It wasn’t long ago that South Carolina was a recruiting force in the city of Atlanta.
Woody Wommack, Southeast recruiting analyst for Rivals.com and an Atlanta resident, saw it with his own eyes.
“It just seemed like these last few years, things tailed off and they just weren’t in the conversation, especially here in Atlanta – and that’s a key spot for them,” Wommack said.
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That recruiting lethargy across the border and throughout the region caught up with the Gamecocks on the field in 2015, leading to a 3-9 season during which coach Steve Spurrier resigned. Will Muschamp was hired to replace Spurrier, in large part because the last thing Muschamp is is lethargic on the recruiting trail.
Since being hired on Dec. 6, the Gamecocks’ new coach has devoted substantially more resources to the identification and pursuit of the region’s top high school football players, and the results are starting to show in the first seven weeks of his tenure, according to those who follow recruiting closely.
“There is definitely more buzz and more energy around the South Carolina name on the recruiting trail,” Scout.com national recruiting analyst Chad Simmons said. “You definitely hear just a different buzz about them being a little more relevant, a little more upbeat on the road.”
That buzz is the result of more bucks as Muschamp follows through on a promise he made during his introductory press conference to beef up the Gamecocks’ recruiting efforts. An exact comparison of the recruiting offices under Spurrier and Muschamp isn’t available, but it’s clear the Gamecocks are spending more time and money on their recruiting efforts in 2016 than at any time in recent memory.
Muschamp declined to talk for this article, and declined to provide an exact accounting of the size and scope of his new recruiting office, but he has announced hires for several new positions since being named coach.
Longtime South Carolina director of recruiting Robbie Liles was named to the newly created position of Director of Player Personnel. Veteran coach and football operations director Clyde Wrenn was named Director of High School Relations, and Jessica Jackson and Kristin Sheetz were named to two new positions, director of on-campus recruiting and director of external communications, respectively.
Athletics director Ray Tanner told The State in December that he expected the football team to have as many as 10 full-time employees in its recruiting office by the time all the hires were made, and Muschamp said in January that he expected to have between 15 and 18 interns working in the office.
Jackson and Sheetz have been the most public face of the school’s new recruiting efforts through their role in social media promotion. Sheetz is the creator of the “dabbing Gamecock” icon that has appeared in the social media posts of several recent Gamecocks verbal commitments.
The increased social media presence has been a big boost for the Gamecocks recruiting efforts, Simmons said.
“That’s just part of the job now,” he said. “You have to be relevant, you have to play the social media game, you have to take pictures, you have to keep your name out there. Especially being South Carolina, you can’t just cherry pick your home state and get enough guys. You have to work at it.”
It didn’t seem like the Gamecocks were working at it especially hard in the last few seasons, Simmons said.
“You have to say they got kind of complacent,” he said. “They just kind of took kids, in my opinion, to fill a class.”
South Carolina has risen steadily up the recruiting rankings since Muschamp was hired. The Gamecocks are ranked No. 29 with three days remaining before Wednesday’s National Signing Day.
“Their aggressiveness has paid off,” Wommack said. “This class they are getting is not a home run class, but especially considering the short amount of time hey have had to build it, I think it’s pretty impressive.”
New USC recruiting department positions:
Director of Player Personnel: Robbie Liles
Director of High School Relations: Clyde Wrenn
Director of on-campus recruiting: Jessica Jackson
Director of external communications: Kristin Sheetz