It’s a big time of the year for every Division I program in America, particularly for South Carolina.
New year, new coach, new recruiting class.
The recruits Will Muschamp signs Wednesday will represent the first chapter of his South Carolina career, one he’s hoping to start on a high note. So without further adieu, let’s take a look at what Mr. Muschamp is working with this year:
South Carolina class breakdown
Ranking: No. 31
Top targets: Stephon Taylor, Karamo Dioubate, Korey Banks, Randrecous Davis, Jacoby Hill, Jeriko Morris, Aaron Thompson, Malcolm Roach, Hank Tuipulotu
Total projected signees: 25
Names to know
Brandon McIlwain, QB — McIlwain has already enrolled with the Gamecocks but is easily the best recruit the Gamecocks nabbed. The four-star dual-threat quarterback is the nation’s second-best at his position. He was Pennsylvania’s Gatorade Player of the Year and was also an All-American. Additionally, McIlwain will be a two-sport athlete at South Carolina: He chose South Carolina over the MLB Draft and will suit up as an outfielder for the Gamecocks’ baseball team.
Jamarcus King, CB — King has already signed his national letter of intent but has not yet enrolled. He comes to South Carolina from Coffeyville Community College in Shawnee, Kan., where he was the nation’s best junior college cornerback. With almost two dozen freshmen coming in, his experience could serve him well early on.
Kiel Pollard, WR — Pollard was a late pickup for the Gamecocks, but no doubt a good one. The three-star wide receiver committed to Arkansas in September but officially flipped that commitment Sunday. Recruited by at least one school in all five of the NCAA’s power conferences, Pollard received offers from 17 schools and chose South Carolina out of all of them.
Javon Kinlaw, OT/DE — Kinlaw will sign his letter of intent with South Carolina on Wednesday, but he won’t actually play in 2016. According to the State’s Phil Kornblut, Kinlaw is at a junior college in Mississippi, where he plans to stay until the summer of 2017. After that he’ll be Columbia-bound for his remaining three years of eligibility.
Storylines to watch
Can South Carolina bounce back from an abysmal 2015? After Steve Spurrier unexpectedly left the program, the Gamecocks went 3-9 with only one conference win in 2015. The three wins were the lowest output by a South Carolina team since 1999-00, when the Gamecocks went 0-11. Needless to say, all eyes are on the Gamecocks to see if they can rebound in the always-competitive SEC this year. It’s important to remember this was a team that won 11 games in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It’s not like success is lost on this program. Fans expect a perennial powerhouse and Muschamp only gets one first impression.
Replacing Brandon Wilds: Wilds was a senior in 2015 and the team’s leading rusher for the season, despite only playing in nine games. South Carolina only has two running back recruits joining the 2016 team, now that Tyren Jones won’t be signing for 2016 because of academic issues. CJ Freeman — who has already enrolled — and Rico Dowdle could be tasked with picking up the pieces.
Looking at South Carolina’s (potential) receiving corps: Perry Orth could have some real talent to work with if South Carolina can snag two three-star wide receiver commits in Randrecous Davis and Korey Banks. Both are out of Georgia, with Davis deciding between South Carolina and Miami, and Banks choosing between South Carolina, North Carolina and Alabama. If one or both could join the corps, it might help make up for the void Pharoh Cooper is leaving behind now that he’s declared for the NFL draft.
It’s hard to imagine a circumstance in which South Carolina struggles in 2016 like it did in 2015. This is the year to clean up last year’s mess and make strides toward being dominant again. It starts with these recruits, so don’t miss out on Wednesday’s festivities.