Josh Kendall

South Carolina’s recent run of low NFL Draft picks ‘will change,’ Muschamp says

The 2011 South Carolina football team that started the Gamecocks’ streak of three consecutive 11-win seasons had 15 NFL Draft picks on the roster. Will Muschamp’s first three teams as South Carolina’s head coach have had four.

“Moving forward, those numbers will change,” Muschamp said.

They will have to if the Gamecocks are going to get back to double digit win totals. South Carolina had 33 players drafted from 2009-2016, the most of any eight-year stretch in school history, but they’ve only had one drafted in the last two cycles, tight end Hayden Hurst, a first-round selection last year.

That number will grow this week when the NFL Draft is held in Nashville, Tennessee, starting on Thursday, but it might not grow by much. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel is expected to be an early round pick, but there are no guarantees after that.

Cornerback Rashad Fenton, offensive linemen Zack Bailey and Dennis Daley and linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams all have a chance to be picked between the fourth and seventh rounds, NFL analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said.

That group will mark the last of the Steve Spurrier signees to cycle through South Carolina. Muschamp’s first recruiting class, the 2016 group, will have its chance to start entering professional football beginning next year.

“We will see how [Thursday] night goes, but I think next year’s class will be indicative of what we have done from a recruiting standpoint and development standpoint and how we continue to close that gap,” Muschamp said. “I think we are getting much closer to that situation.”

Muschamp inherited a roster that former Spurrier acknowledged had fallen below SEC standards. The 2017 draft was the first to pass without a Gamecock being selected since 2001, and having one draft pick in a two-year span is a first for the program since 1949-’50.

During a career that has seen stops at Auburn, LSU, Texas and Florida, Muschamp has coached 85 players who have gone to be drafted. That figure is “critical to recruits,” he said.

“I do think that part of it is important and our staff has a very impressive track record as far as guys being developed and getting drafted,” he said. “That is something we are very proud of and we are looking forward to establishing that here at the University of South Carolina.”

NFL Draft TV schedule

Thursday, 8 p.m., Round 1: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes

Friday, 7 p.m., Rounds 2-3: ABC, ESPN/ESPN2, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes

Saturday, noon, Rounds 4-7: ABC, ESPN, NFL Network and ESPN Deportes