Josh Kendall

How South Carolina football can win a national title

Phil Kornblut: The message Muschamp must sell on recruiting trail

Phil Kornblut breaks down what Will Muschamp and his football staff are selling on the recruiting trail in the coach's first full year as South Carolina coach.
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Phil Kornblut breaks down what Will Muschamp and his football staff are selling on the recruiting trail in the coach's first full year as South Carolina coach.

It’s going to be a long offseason for many South Carolina fans. Their most-heated rival and up-the-road neighbor just won college football’s national championship and will be enjoying it for a while.

For most Gamecocks, that brings to mind a couple of questions. First, “How am I going to survive the next six months?” And, second, “So how can my team get there?”

Can’t help you with the first question, but the second has a pretty straightforward answer.

It’s called the “Blue Chip Ratio,” and it has special significance now that the college football calendar has turned to the recruiting season. Developed by Bud Elliott at SBNation.com, the Blue Chip Ratio is as simple as it is unforgiving: If you want to win a national championship, you have to sign more four- and five-star recruits than two- and three-stars.

Every BCS and CFB Playoff national champion since 2005 fits the formula. Clemson entered the year with a Blue Chip Ratio of 52. Monday night’s loser, but the winner of the four of the last eight national titles, Alabama has a 77 ratio.

If you want to win a national championship, or even contend for one, and Will Muschamp does, you have to get to that number. South Carolina’s Blue Chip Ratio for the 2016 season was 30. Muschamp’s most important job is getting that number higher, but it’s not going to be easy.

The Gamecocks currently have 22 verbal commitments for the Class of 2017, which can sign starting on Feb. 1. That number includes five players who are already enrolled and one who has signed his letter of intent. Of the 22, five (wide receivers OrTre Smith and Shi Smith, defensive end MJ Webb, cornerback Jamyest Williams and safety Hamsah Nasirildeen) are four-star prospects. The remainder are three-star prospects.

That’s a Blue Chip Ratio of 23.

In order to sign more than half a class of four- to five-star prospects, the Gamecocks, or any team, needs to sign at least 13 players of that rank most years. Considering there are about 300 players rated that highly nationally in each year’s recruiting crop, it’s tough for anyone to get that many highly ranked players, especially an upstart like the Gamecocks who must compete with entrenched recruiting powers like Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan and, yes, Clemson.

There are lots of other things college coaches must do to run a successful program. They must develop and be accountable for the character of their team; they must develop player’s athletic talents; they must hire a good coaching staff; they must make sound game week and game day decisions. All of those things are important but you can combine and double them and they are not as important as recruiting.

So, if you’re a South Carolina fan looking for a port in an orange storm, you can spend the next six months crunching numbers.

USC’s To-Do List

Five things South Carolina must do to get where Clemson is:

Recruit, recruit, recruit

As we’ve mentioned, the correlation between elite recruiting and winning a national title is basically irrefutable. The more 4- and 5-star players the better.

Keep Jake Bentley healthy

You don’t have to have an elite quarterback to win a national title, which Alabama has proved, but it really helps, as Clemson just proved.

Boost defensive depth

South Carolina has a handful of offensive playmakers on the roster and has a couple more on the way, but the back end of the defensive depth chart has to be overhauled.

Improve lines of scrimmage

The SEC is a defensive line league every coach in the conference will tell you, which means the Gamecocks need those type of D-linemen and the O-linemen to block them.

Increase offensive efficiency

Even with a late surge, USC finished 109th in the country in yards per play at 5.15. Defenses don’t win championships anymore, at least by themselves. It’s an offensive game.

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