CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Even though the game is about four months away, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp made the quick jaunt to the Queen City on Monday to discuss North Carolina State.
The Gamecocks and Wolfpack will play in Charlotte on Sept. 2 at Bank of America Stadium in the Belk College Kickoff.
“I love neutral site games, especially in the footprint of your recruiting base and [athletic director Ray] Tanner and I have talked about that. Whether it’s in Charlotte or Atlanta or anywhere in the state of Florida, that’s where we go recruit,” Muschamp said. “To be able to have the exposure in your recruiting footprint is important.”
Muschamp has three assistant coaches who recruit Charlotte on a full-time basis. Six work the state of North Carolina. He said it’s “critical” for the Gamecocks to successfully recruit that state, given South Carolina’s small in-state population.
However, winning on Sept. 2 isn’t necessarily a make-or-break opportunity.
“I don’t know that one game defines you with a recruit,” Muschamp said. “If it does define you, I don’t know if you want the recruit, but I think the exposure, as much as anything, the style of offense, the style of defense, special teams, the way your team plays, I think can help you with a recruit.”
In 2016, N.C. State went 7-6 (3-5 ACC). Back with the Wolfpack are starting quarterback Ryan Finley and multi-dimensional tight end Jaylen Samuels, who caught 55 passes for 565 yards and 7 touchdowns and rushed 189 yards and 6 scores.
Muschamp labeled Finley as “very talented.”
“He’s a guy that runs it extremely well, throws it extremely well, understands what they do. They put Samuels in a lot of different spots. They’ve got some good speed, overall. … They’ve got a bunch of returning guys. They’ve got eight starters returning on both sides of the ball.
“It’s a team that’s got a lot of experience probably going against a team that’s got a somewhat inexperienced defense come Sept. 2.”
Defensively, N.C. State has “as good a front four” South Carolina will see in 2017. Muschamp believes four of their defensive linemen will be selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The group is led by second-team All-ACC end Bradley Chubb, who opted to return for his senior season after recording a team-high 10.5 sacks in 2016. His 22 tackles for loss last season was the second-highest single-season mark in school history.
“I think it’s good to lead the season off against a really good football team,” Muschamp said. “I think it’s extra motivation for your players during the summer, to be ready to go. We’ve got to be ready when we report to camp July 27, be in great condition [and] ready to kickoff the season.”