Will Muschamp off to fast start selling South Carolina's program
Will Muschamp became the new South Carolina head coach on Dec. 6, charged with picking up the pieces from the Steve Spurrier era and rebuilding a team that just endured a 3-9 season.
One of his top priorities was to address the team’s talent issues on the recruiting trail, and on the day he was hired, there were only 12 commitments for the 2016 cycle — and some of those were wavering.
So Muschamp, a man known for his defensive mind and intense sideline demeanor, hit the road and began selling his vision for Gamecock football to recruits.
And it’s going down well in living rooms north and south.
It started with Brandon McIlwain, a four-star quarterback recruit from Pennsylvania. He was already committed to the Gamecocks when Muschamp took over, but the new coach took no chances. Soon after arrival, Muschamp, offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson all made the trip to Newtown to see him.
A week or so later, and he was on board as an early enrollee.
In the next few days after McIlwain’s signing, four-star receiver Bryan Edwards (Conway, S.C.) chose the Gamecocks over Clemson and four-star offensive lineman Javon Kinlaw (Goose Creek, S.C.) picked South Carolina over Alabama and Florida, among others. CJ Freeman, a three-star running back out of Greensboro, N.C., stayed firm on his commitment, spurning late pushes from Wisconsin and Virginia Tech.
Three-star DE Keir Thomas (Miami) joined the fold on Christmas Eve, and heading into the Under Armour All-America Game, Muschamp and company had already added six players who had either signed or committed for the 2016 cycle.
No. 19 could turn out to be the biggest surprise — and perhaps the biggest indicator of Muschamp’s (and Robinson’s) early influence on recruiting.
Cavin Ridley, a four-star receiver out of Deerfield Beach, Fla., and younger brother of Alabama standout Calvin Ridley, stunned recruiting analysts after the game by deciding not to follow his brother to Tuscaloosa, but instead picking South Carolina.
“They were recruiting me since they were at Auburn,” Ridley told the Miami Herald. “They recruit well. They recruit South Florida kids and recruit them the best they can, and I just believe in Coach T-Rob and the things they tell me. I just ran with them.
“It’s a new staff, and I think everybody in the world would like a new start. I feel like I can go in there and make an impact.”
Ridley has now backed off his commitment, but even without him, the 2016 recruiting class is already in far better shape than many imagined.
For a man who has been on the job less than a month, Muschamp is already making waves. If his sales pitch is working now, imagine how much better it might be with a little on-field success to back it up in the years to come.