Last year, it was Virginia. Now, Will Muschamp is targeting a new state for South Carolina football’s recruiting operation to tap — Tennessee.
When he signed his 2019 early class, he brought up the Volunteer State in his opening remarks, including it in USC’s core recruiting base.
“(We signed) 16 guys from the footprint of what we recruit: South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida, and I would include Tennessee in that category,” Muschamp said. “We’ve done a nice job there of getting some really good football players.”
Two of the 18 signees hail from Tennessee — wide receiver Keveon Mullins and defensive lineman Joseph Anderson. That will double the number of Tennessee natives on the roster next year, with the pair joining offensive linemen Sadarius Hutcherson and Maxwell Iyama. In addition to the two players on the roster now who are identified as residents, Carolina also has another Tennessee connection in redshirt senior linebacker Eldridge Thompson, who played high school in Memphis but played junior college in Kansas and whose hometown is Houston.
Muschamp’s foray into Tennessee, which included Iyama last year, has already netted as many signees as South Carolina had from that state in the previous 13 years combined, according to 247Sports’ database. From 1999 to 2017, just six Tennessee natives signed with the Gamecocks coming out of high school.
That recruiting success has been a stated goal of Muschamp’s since he took the Carolina job, per ESPN. His reasoning why is simple.
“The football is really improving there, a lot. Number one, Nashville, with the Titans, it’s one of the fastest-growing areas in the United States, so there are a lot of people moving in who aren’t necessarily tied to the state. It’s kind of like Atlanta and Charlotte a little bit,” Muschamp said.
It also can’t hurt that the Gamecocks have reeled off three consecutive wins over the Volunteers and 10 in a row over Vanderbilt, the state’s Power 5 programs. UT in particular has been caught in turmoil with coaching changes and poor results as of late, just as South Carolina has started to target the state and post steady improvement under Muschamp.
Leading the recruiting charge in the state has been running backs coach Bobby Bentley, Muschamp said. Already, it’s paid off with one relationship — Anderson and Iyama attended the same high school, and USC has already offered another player from that team in 2020. All told, South Carolina has offered 13 Tennessee players in 2020, according to 247Sports, fourth most of any state.
While the state may become contested if UT returns to prominence, Muschamp said he doesn’t see why USC’s recruiting radius can’t encompass the state, especially with airlines offering nonstop flights from Memphis and Nashville to Charlotte.
“Nashville is an easy flight to Charlotte, and it’s an hour drive, so for a family, that’s an easy drive to come see their son play. To me, you draw five hours around your campus and figure out where you can recruit the best,” Muschamp said.