Josh Kendall

Is South Carolina’s recruiting class good enough to compete in SEC?

Whether you call Wednesday the Early Signing Period or just the new National Signing Day, it has become Groundhog Day for South Carolina’s football team.

The Gamecocks signed 18 new players on the first day of the early signing period for a recruiting class that is ranked No. 22 in the nation by 247Sports’ Composite rankings. It is the seventh consecutive year South Carolina has ranked between No. 18 and No. 25 nationally in recruiting.

The problem is, that’s not good enough to get where Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp wants to go, which is the SEC title game and the College Football Playoff. The correlation between elite recruiting classes and elite results is clear in college football.

South Carolina’s class is ranked 10th in the SEC this year, according to 247Sports. Meanwhile, the top four national classes all belong to SEC teams — No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Georgia, No. 3 Texas A&M and No. 4 LSU. The Gamecocks play the Crimson Tide, the Bulldogs and the Aggies next year.

South Carolina’s progress off the field in recent years is obvious and undeniable. Williams-Brice Stadium now looks and feels like an SEC game day destination rather than an industrial park. The Gamecocks are just a few weeks away from moving into a state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line everything, $50 million football operations building. They have two coordinators making $1 million or more per year.

With the help of the administration and the momentum created by Steve Spurrier’s glory days at the school, Muschamp has remade the infrastructure of the program. The only step left is getting the types of players it takes to compete with the nation’s best teams. It’s also the hardest step.

SEC Recruiting Rankings

According to 247Sports Composite, which factors in all networks.

1. Alabama – The Crimson Tide signed 26 players Wednesday. Twenty-five of them were four- or five-star rated players.

2. Georgia – The Bulldogs signed five five-star prospects, which gives them 15 in the last three recruiting classes.

3. Texas A&M – Head coach Jimbo Fisher solidified his reputation as an excellent recruiter with the nation’s third-ranked class. That’s not good news for a South Carolina team that must play the Aggies every year as its cross-divisional opponent.

4. LSU – The Tigers signed a five-star running back, a five-star offensive lineman and another crop of talented defenders. It was a very on-brand day Wednesday for LSU.

5. Auburn – Despite a down year, the Tigers signed the No. 1 ranked linebacker in the country in Owen Pappoe and four-star quarterback prospect Bo Nix, the son of former Auburn QB Patrick Nix.

6. Florida – The Gators had a pretty good haul, including a four-star, dual-threat quarterback to compete with the incumbents. Or, Dan Mullen could make a strong push for Georgia’s Justin Fields, who is considering transferring and fits Mullen’s system well.

7. Tennessee – A seventh-place finish in the conference is not bad for a team that has been one of the league’s worst on the field for a decade. The red flag here is that head coach Jeremy Pruitt lost a lot of good, home-state defensive linemen to rivals, including one to South Carolina.

8. Mississippi State – New head coach Joe Morehead, whose background is at Penn State and Fordham, needed to prove he could recruit in the Southeast despite arriving this season with no connections to the area. He did that with this class, which is substantially better than rival Ole Miss.

9. Arkansas – Chad Morris didn’t have a ton of success on the field in his first year, but he closed strong in recruiting, and he did it signing only five players from Texas. The former Texas high school coach will get more players from there in the future.

10. South Carolina – The Gamecocks signed three players (maybe four depending on how Rodricus Fitten is used) who should make an impact on the defensive line. That and quarterback Ryan Hilinski are the strengths of this class.

11. Ole Miss – The NCAA believes there’s a reason the Rebels were recruiting so well under former head coach Hugh Freeze. New guy Matt Luke isn’t having the same kind of success, which might be a good thing, but it’s going to mean a much-less talented roster soon for the Rebels.

12. Kentucky – The Wildcats are having their best run in football in recent memory, and they only managed the 12th-best class in the SEC? Yep. There’s a reason it’s hard to win consistently on the bluegrass.

13. Missouri – The Tigers have had some success in the SEC East without ever having highly ranked recruiting classes. They’re going to have to replicate that magic again if they want to get back to the top of the division.

14. Vanderbilt – The Commodores had the type of recruiting class everyone expects from the Commodores.