This was never going to a one-class rebuilding project.
No matter how gaudy a group Will Muschamp signed in his first try as South Carolina’s coach, it was going to take more and better down the line to move the Gamecocks from last year’s 3-9 back to the heyday of three consecutive 11-win seasons.
As for the group Muschamp and South Carolina signed Wednesday on National Signing Day, it’s going to take much better.
This is the reason it’s so hard to compete in the Southeastern Conference – a class that ranks a respectable 26th in the country ranks 10th in the SEC, according to 247Sports’ recruiting rankings compilation.
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Muschamp and his new staff did a commendable job given they had two months to put together a recruiting class (which even in the best of circumstances is akin to putting together a puzzle in which any of the pieces can change their shape and color at any time they like), but you have to out-recruit more than Mississippi State, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt to be able to afford the association fees in college football’s ritziest neighborhood.
“The class is a good, deep class,” Muschamp said. “Now we’re in the developmental process. We will know about this class in two or three years. That’s when you find out about your development of these guys and how productive they are going to be. That’s when you truly find out what kind of class you’ve got – how many games did you win?”
Muschamp and his staff inherited a recruiting class that was ranked in the 70s nationally on the day he was hired and closed strong enough to move up to respectability. Four players picked the Gamecocks on Wednesday, giving the class some late momentum but still not a lot of star power. South Carolina signed five players ranked higher than three stars. By comparison, Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss, Georgia and Auburn each signed at least 12 such players.
The hope for the Gamecocks with this class is that there are enough diamonds in the rough to provide critical playmaking potential in the not-too-distant future. Quarterback Brandon McIlwain, wide receiver Bryan Edwards, defensive lineman Stephon Taylor, cornerback Jamarcus King and running back Rico Dowdle look like strong candidates to be difference makers sooner rather than later.
“I am very pleased with where we are,” Muschamp said. “I don’t think you’re ever satisfied. Winning on signing day is not real important to me. It’s about two years down the line, where are these guys? How much do they contribute? How much do they play?”
Muschamp is one of college football’s most dogged recruiters. South Carolina’s recruiting will get better during his tenure.