When Will Muschamp was named head coach at South Carolina on Dec. 7, the Gamecocks’ 2016 recruiting class was in bad shape. There were 12 recruits listed as “committed,” and more than a few of those were wavering after a 3-9 season and the uncertainty of the coaching situation.

But the former Auburn defensive coordinator and Florida coach went to work. He hired top-notch recruiters Travaris Robinson, Bryan McClendon and Lance Thompson and hit the road.

Today, the fruits of that labor are the 10th-best class in the SEC and the 26th-best class in the nation. Muschamp is excited about the class, but he knows its only half the battle.


It’s pretty clear that Muschamp and company watched game tape from the 2015 Gamecocks and came away thinking about wholesale changes on the defensive front. Eight players from the Class of 2016 are either defensive ends or tackles. Four-star tackle Stephon Taylor and three-star end Aaron Thompson were Signing Day additions to what should be a spirited competition for playing time in the late summer.

There’s instant help coming at running back (Rico Dowdle and CJ Freeman), receiver (Bryan Edwards, Kiel Pollard and Randrecous Davis) and corner (JaMarcus King) in this class as well.


An optimist would say that when the best recruiting class in the nation (LSU) flips one of your commitments on the eve of Signing Day, as the Tigers did with three-star guard Lloyd Cushenberry, then you’re making good choices on the recruiting trail.

Still, the additions of Thompson, Taylor and three-star WR Korey Banks — among others — on Signing Day softened the blow a bit.


As Muschamp added ace recruiter after ace recruiter to his staff, this year’s class began to pick up steam.

After signing this class, the challenge will be to have enough success on the field in 2016 to carry that momentum forward into a full recruiting cycle next season.

Adding a class like this may help him achieve that.


JaMarcus King CB, 4 stars
Stephon Taylor DT, 4 stars
Kiel Pollard WR, 3 stars
Randrecous Davis WR, 3 stars
Rico Dowdle RB, 3 stars
Korey Banks WR, 3 stars
Darius Whitfield DE, 3 stars
Aaron Thompson DT, 3 stars
Evan Hinson TE, 3 stars
Akeem Cooperwood T, 3 stars
Sadarius Hutcherson DE, 3 stars
TJ Brunson LB, 3 stars
Chavis Dawkins WR, 3 stars
Robert Tucker LB, 3 stars
Pete Leota T, 3 stars
Dennis Wonnum DE, 3 stars
Will Putnam T, 3 stars
Griffin Gentry DE, 2 stars


Brandon McIlwain QB, 4 stars
Bryan Edwards WR, 4 stars
Keir Thomas DE, 3 stars
CJ Freeman RB, 3 stars
Kobe Smith DT, 3 stars
Chris Smith CB, 3 stars

Editor’s note: Saturday Down South’s references to recruiting rankings are to the 247Sports.com industry composite ranking.