National Signing Day is less than three months away, but South Carolina’s 2017 class of commitments is close to completion.
Will Muschamp has pledges from a number of prospects who will be counted on as contributors during his second season as the Gamecocks head coach.
Given the current state of the roster, immediate production will be needed from a handful of the incoming freshmen. Below are the prospects believed to be the most vital in the short- and long-term for South Carolina.
Hamsah Nasirildeen, a big-bodied 4-star who could step right into Chris Moody’s position, which stands to be vacant in 2017.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect from Concord (N.C.) High School is listed by 247Sports’ composite rankings as the No. 9-ranked outside linebacker in the class of 2017, but he would play safety for South Carolina.
Nasirildeen has a unique blend of size and speed, to go along with his ability to cover downfield against the pass and play inside the box and stop the run.
The U.S. Army All-American is a wanted man. When Florida State comes calling to the Carolinas, they usually mean business. With Seminoles running backs coach Jay Graham working as the primary recruiter – the former Gamecocks assistant is also from Concord – it could be a battle to keep Nasirildeen on board.
Plus, Florida State has already scored an official visit from Nasirildeen.
In terms of opportunity to make an early impact at South Carolina, one could also make the case for 4-star defensive lineman M.J. Webb, a versatile defensive lineman who could potentially challenge Dante Sawyer for time as the Gamecocks strong-side defensive end.
Webb committed, in part, because of his long-standing relationships with Muschamp and defensive line coach Lance Thompson. The two coaches sold him on the understanding that he would be utilized at a number of different positions along the defensive line.
According to the 247Sports, Webb is the No. 8-ranked strong-side defensive end in the class of 2017. The 4-star prospect is also listed as the No. 25 ranked player from the state of Georgia.
Outside linebacker Davonne Bowen has way too many tools to be listed as the 813th-best player in the class of 2017. Over the summer, Bowen was measured at 6-foot-1, 225 pounds. He also bench pressed 350 pounds and ran a 40-yard-dash in 4.46 seconds.
Though the time was kept by hand, Bowen did run a laser-timed 4.66 40 a few months earlier at The Opening, when he was 215 pounds. Either way, those are some impressive numbers when trying to quantify what kind of a linebacker prospect Bowen will be.
Here’s the rub: Bowen is still learning how to play linebacker after spending most of his career at Woodmont High School (Piedmont, S.C.) as a defensive end. At 1:02 in the highlight below, you’ll see a play that sums up Bowen pretty well right now.
Instead of keeping the proper leverage on the outside containment, Bowen jumps inside to make the play, but it frees up the edge and allows the running back to bounce to the outside. Bowen makes up for his mistake and chases the running back downfield.
Look at the yard markers. It’s third-and-1. Even though the ball is at the Woodmont 37, if Bowen holds the edge and tries to keep stringing the running back to the outside, he’s got a shot to force Hillcrest into deciding whether or not to go for it on fourth down.
With more reps and experience at the position, Bowen will make the right play.
With his size, speed and athleticism, Bowen could end up avoiding a redshirt in 2017 and contributing primarily on special teams. With Skai Moore and Bryson Allen-Williams expected to lead the Gamecocks linebacker corps next fall, Bowen’s impact on defense probably won’t be felt until at least 2018.