On Wednesday, South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp will start signing his second full recruiting class for the Gamecocks.
We say start because NCAA rule changes this year have made the national signing day experience even more confusing by adding a three-day December period to go along with the traditional February date. There are questions across the country about how this will affect the system. How many players will sign early versus waiting for the February date? Who will benefit most from the change, blue blood recruiters or smaller schools? Etc.
What is not in question is that recruiting remains the lifeblood of the sport, which brings us back to Muschamp. The Gamecocks second-year head coach came to Columbia with the reputation as one of the nation’s best recruiters. So, what does South Carolina have to show for that?
In 2017, Muschamp’s first full recruiting cycle, the Gamecocks signing class was ranked No. 21 in the nation and No. 8 in the SEC by 247Sports.com’s composite ranking system. This year’s class is projected to rank No. 18 nationally and sixth in the SEC (at least through the early period).
The casual South Carolina fan might look at those rankings and say, “Huh, that seems awfully close to the same kind of recruiting rankings the Gamecocks had under former head coach Steve Spurrier, who acknowledged that the team didn’t recruit as well as it needed to in his final few years. What happened to Muschamp being this hotshot recruiter?”
Don’t fall for that line, though.
The truth is Muschamp and company may never consistently sign classes that are ranked in the nation’s top 10. In fact, it’s likely they will be in the low teens more often than the top 10, just like Spurrier and his staff. (In 2015, South Carolina’s signing class was ranked 20th nationally and ninth in the SEC; in 2014, 19th and ninth; in 2013, 20th and eighth; in 2012, 15th and sixth; in 2011, 17th and seventh.)
Here’s the difference, though – evaluation. What makes Muschamp a better-than-average recruiter (which includes his personal skill at the sale and how he instructs the rest of his coaching staff about it) is that he will put as much as energy into scouting the 25th-ranked player in the class as the top-ranked player. Where Spurrier’s final two or three recruiting classes featured a lot of players who simply weren’t prepared to compete in the SEC, Muschamp’s will not.
So, don’t hold your breath for South Carolina to suddenly start recruiting the way, say, Georgia is at the moment. But don’t sweat the fact that the Nos. 21 and 22 and 23, etc., players in every Muschamp signing class will be able to help.
That’s recruiting, too.