Recruits that sealed Muschamp's fate at South Carolina
Plenty of fans and pundits are pointing fingers trying to figure out why Will Muschamp didn’t lead the Gamecocks to the upper levels of the SEC. South Carolina recruited fairly well under Muschamp, but a closer look at the prospects the Gamecocks signed or missed out on under his leadership reveals some glaring misses and errors in judgement at five key positions.
Now, as the Muschamp era in Columbia comes to a close, take a look at the recruits that sealed Muschamp’s fate as the head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks got off to a pretty hot start recruiting talented quarterbacks under Will Muschamp. In 2016, Muschamp’s very first recruiting class, the Gamecocks signed four-stars Jake Bentley and Brandon McIlwain. Unfortunately for South Carolina, McIlwain decided to pursue baseball instead of sticking with football in college.
Bentley showed some promise over four years as the on-again off-again starter but was benched in 2019 in favor of freshman Ryan Hilinski and decided to transfer. South Carolina placed a lot of hope in Hilinski that he could be the starter this year and be a success. He was the highest rated quarterback the Gamecocks had ever signed but he lost the competition for the starting job to Collin Hill, who transferred in from Colorado State.
The receivers South Carolina signed, or the lack thereof, may have contributed more to the losses Muschamp’s teams suffered than any other position. Excluding the 2020 recruiting class, Muschamp only signed six four-star receivers and only two of them (Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith) have really panned out.
There have been a number of receivers that South Carolina was heavily recruiting but they couldn’t close on many of them. In-state standout receivers like Derion Kendrick and Jalin Hyatt would likely be starting for the Gamecocks right now but they chose to go to Clemson and Tennessee, respectively.
The edges of South Carolina’s defensive line have been well tended to under Muschamp but the interior, other than Javon Kinlaw, has been a weak spot.
Excluding the 2020 recruiting class, South Carolina signed only four four-star defensive tackles and none of them have blossomed into the players the South Carolina coaches hoped. To supplement this group, South Carolina landed a transfer from Josh Belk, a four-star from the 2018 class, but he ended up giving up football.
The defensive tackle position has been plagued by failures on the recruiting trail by the coaches and failures in the classroom by players. Four-star Jaquaze Sorrells was committed to and signed with South Carolina but failed to meet the academic requirements to get admitted and ended up being a late addition for TCU. Current Georgia starter Devonte Wyatt was committed to South Carolina before flipping to the Bulldogs. Four-star JUCO defensive tackle Jahkeem Green also flipped away from South Carolina and signed with Nebraska.
The sheer lack of depth at linebacker was difficult for the Gamecocks to manage. South Carolina only signed 10 linebackers in the five recruiting classes Muschamp oversaw and none of them were four-stars. This group was plagued by often injured players and some left via transfer. The Gamecocks also missed on some key targets that would have solidified the position, the most important being local prospect Channing Tindall. The linebacker out of nearby Spring Valley High School chose to sign with Georgia in the 2018 class.
South Carolina recruited the secondary pretty well under Muschamp, but the safety position has let down the defense on multiple occasions. Their lack of talent and overall depth in the secondary led to players being forced to play out of position to make up for holes in the defense. Some safeties that South Carolina signed were forced to play cornerback and other cornerbacks were forced to play safety.
Signing one specific player would have fixed a lot of those issues. Rivals100 prospect Hamsah Nasirildeen very nearly joined his teammate Rick Sandidge by signing with South Carolina in the 2017 class. Instead, he decided to sign with Florida State and developed into a potential high NFL Draft pick. South Carolina also missed on defensive backs Trajan Bandy in the 2017 class and DJ Daniel, who was committed to the Gamecocks before flipping to Georgia, in the 2019 class. Neither of those two players were safety prospects but would have given the Gamecocks more flexibility and talent in the secondary.