South Carolina has six newcomers already on campus, including highly-touted quarterback Brandon McIlwain.
Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp told the media during halftime of Saturday’s basketball game against Missouri that those players will benefit greatly from enrolling early.
In addition to McIlwain, wide receiver Bryan Edwards, linebacker Keir Thomas, running back C.J. Freeman, defensive tackle Kobe Smith and defensive back Chris Smith are already in Columbia attending classes and working out for the upcoming season.
Muschamp said he would like to have more freshmen already enrolled.
“I would like to have as many as we could because there’s no question how much they benefit coming in at this time of the year,” he said. “It’s a slower pace in the weight room, a slower pace academically. They’re not getting ready for a season. They’ve got a lot less on their plate right now as a student-athlete as opposed to when they start school in August. I think it’s a much better transition.”
He added that it can also be helpful as far as grades are concerned instead of having to attend college classes for the first time while trying to play Division I football.
“Historically their grades are better in the fall than they were if they start school in the fall, because they’ve experienced the college campus,” he said. “They get through the maturation process much quicker than if they come through in the summer. It’s a huge benefit for the student-athlete if that’s what they want to do.”
With that said, he understands some prospects would like to participate in spring sports in high school and some may not have the grades necessary to begin college in January. He does allow players to attend prom as more of an incentive to enroll early.
‘We’re not going to get outworked’
Muschamp addressed the crowd at halftime prior to speaking with the media and introduced USC’s assistant coaches saying, “I want to introduce these guys to make sure you understand who’s going to bring a championship to Columbia.”
Muschamp did not promise a win total or make any guarantees about his first year running the Gamecocks’ program, but did say, “We’ve got a lot of work in front of us. We’ve got 228 days until we kick it off in Nashville, 244 days before we kick it off here at Williams-Brice in front of the best fans in the country. I can only guarantee you one thing, we’re not going to get outworked. Spurs up.”
Waiting game for final assistant
South Carolina still has one open spot on its staff available, and Muschamp would like to make sure he fills it with the right fit.
The staff would ideally be completed, he said, but he didn’t want to rush into a hire. The position has not been offered to anyone yet, according to Muschamp.
“I’m still working through that right now,” he said. “Like I’ve said before, I would have liked to have had it before we got on the road recruiting. Ellis Johnson gives us a little flexibility. He’s got an off-field role, but he’s a guy that can go on the road recruiting if he passes his NCAA test, which he did.”
Johnson, who has an off-the-field role with USC, was out recruiting for the Gamecocks on Thursday and Friday.
Muschamp said he and the staff have received a warm welcome everywhere they have been in Columbia.
“It’s been really amazing, it really has. It’s been so positive,” he said. “Everywhere you go it’s so welcoming. My staff has commented to me several times about how welcoming it is.”