Josh Kendall

The strength of the class: South Carolina signing class strong up front

After Wednesday’s start to the early signing period, South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp said he thought his team got better as a result of the day. That’s particularly true along the defensive line, said one recruiting analyst.

The Gamecocks’ 2019 signing class was highlighted by the first five-star signee of Muschamp’s tenure, 6-foot-5, 290-pound defensive lineman Zacch Pickens of Anderson. They also added 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end Joseph Anderson out of Murfreesboro, Tenn., 6-foot-4, 280-pound defensive end Devontae Davis out of Georgia Military College and 6-foot-2, 232-pound Rodricus Fitten, who could eventually play the team’s Buck end position.

“I am excited about the athleticism, the length and the depth and quality depth that you have to have in our league,” Muschamp said of his defensive line signees.

Pickens, Anderson and Fitten will join the team in January and participate in practice. Davis already has joined the team and is participating in on-campus Belk Bowl practices. Mike Farrell, the national recruiting director for Rivals, said the defensive line is the strength of this class for the Gamecocks and calls Anderson the third-best player in the group, behind Pickens and four-star quarterback Ryan Hilinski.

Anderson “gets somewhat overlooked because of Pickens because they play the same position, but he’s also a huge defensive end,” Farrell said. “He’s a fast, explosive athlete, not quite as developed as Pickens when it comes to technique, but in a couple years I think you’re looking at bookend defensive ends. If they can fill in at defensive tackle, those guys are the potential building blocks for a defensive line like Clemson’s.”

The Gamecocks added 18 new players overall in a class ranked No. 22 in the nation by 247Sports Composite that factors in all networks. South Carolina added 10 offensive players, highlighted by the California native Hilinski, and eight defensive players.

South Carolina inked four players from the Palmetto State,

“I think first thing you have to be able to do is own your state,” Muschamp said. “We offered four guys in the state of South Carolina and all four came. (Pickens) could have gone anywhere he wanted to, and he wanted to stay at home and play for the Gamecocks.”

The Gamecocks also signed four players from Florida and three each from Georgia and North Carolina.

“This class when you look at it, you have in-state kids, you have a California kid, you see Florida, you see Georgia, which is extremely important,” Farrell said. “They have Tennessee and North Carolina. They are hitting all the areas they need to hit.”

The scholarships for transfer safety Jamel Cook and transfer defensive lineman Josh Belk, who joined the team last year, count toward this year’s class. Both were four-star recruits a year ago. The Gamecocks still plan to sign five players in February during the traditional signing period.

Twelve of Wednesday’s signees will join the team in January and participate in spring practice.

“We got better today,” Muschamp said, “there’s no doubt about it.”