Muschamp trying to choose a staff that can find a winning path for South Carolina
If Will Muschamp couldn’t win big at Florida, how he’s going to do it at South Carolina?
That’s a question that’s circulated throughout the college football world since Muschamp was announced as the Gamecocks new coach on Sunday. Some pundits, including some in his home state of Georgia, have ridiculed the hire.
Returning the Gamecocks to the success they enjoyed from 2011-13 won’t be easy, considering the losses.
Coach Steve Spurrier was so frustrated he left at midseason. Interim coach Shawn Elliott couldn’t right the ship, so the Gamecocks finished 3-9, including an embarrassing loss to The Citadel. At season’s end, star WR Pharoh Cooper announced he was leaving for the NFL Draft.
Rebuilding the Gamecocks will start with recruiting. Muschamp’s late start this season will hurt his first class. His most important target should be four-star recruit Brandon McIlwain, the Pennsylvania native who committed to Spurrier’s staff and was considered the likely candidate to fill the trouble spot at quarterback.
McIlwain is scheduled to visit Muschamp and South Carolina this weekend. If Muschamp loses McIlwain, he must find another quarterback, or go with Connor Mitch, Lorenzo Nunez or Perry Orth, the three candidates who were largely ineffective this season.
There are plenty of other holes to fill for next season. But Muschamp needs a long-range plan for lifting the Gamecocks into the upper echelon of the conference and keeping them there.
Again, that begins with recruiting and Muschamp knows that.
Spurrier didn’t like recruiting, though he knew it was important. Muschamp should be more active on the trail than the 70-year-old Spurrier.
All of Muschamp’s reported staff hires and potential assistants enjoy reputations as great recruiters, beginning with defensive coordinator candidate Travaris Robinson, who Muschamp is expected to bring with him from Auburn.
A defensive player and coach, Muschamp has already drawn heavy criticism for his most important hire reported — an offensive coordinator. Kurt Roper failed miserably when brought in by Muschamp for his final year at Florida.
But Roper does have the support of former South Carolina QB Connor Shaw, a hero during Spurrier’s run of success. Shaw, who is on the Cleveland Browns roster, knows Roper, who is working as an assistant with the team.
Before hiring Roper, Muschamp reportedly contacted Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, the son of Brad Scott, a former Gamecocks head coach and Clemson assistant. An excellent recruiter at Clemson, Jeff Scott began his coaching career by leading Blythewood High in suburban Columbia to a state championship.
Spurrier dominated in-state recruiting until the last few years, signing stars such as Jadeveon Clowney, Marcus Lattimore, Stephone Gilmore, Alshon Jeffery. From 2009-2011, Spurrier signed 11 four- and five-star players from South Carolina. From 2012-2014, he signed five.
Like Clemson, South Carolina has to find playmakers in Florida. The Gamecocks also need to recruit better in their traditional prime spots, Georgia and North Carolina.
Muschamp should explore the Midwest and Northeast, too. South Carolina has only one scholarship player on its roster from north of the Mason-Dixon line, RB David Williams of Philadelphia, and none from Ohio.
Muschamp seems to believe that the path to success at South Carolina leads through locker rooms in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida, though a few trips to Ohio and Pennsylvania may be necessary as well.
Here’s a list of potential assistants listed by various media outlets with their recruiting credentials:
Travaris Robinson: The former Auburn defensive back was graded the No. 1 recruiter in the nation in 2013 by an ESPN panel of recruiting analysts.
Bobby Bentley: The Former Presbyterian College coach, who served as an offensive analyst for Gus Malzahn at Auburn in 2014, spent 12 seasons at national prep power Byrnes High in South Carolina.
Marcus Lattimore: One of the most popular Gamecocks players ever, Lattimore played for Bentley at Byrnes, and has been a popular ambassador while working in an official role with the university. He was credited as an outstanding recruiter at the Gamecocks summer football camp.
Ellis Johnson: In addition to serving as assistant head coach at South Carolina and defensive coordinator at Clemson — coordinator at Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State, too — the South Carolina native was a high school football coach in the Palmetto State.
Brad Lawing: The Florida State assistant, who served under Muschamp at Florida, has 17 years as a recruiting coordinator, including 10 with the Gamecocks and three at North Carolina, another important recruiting state for the Gamecocks.