Ever since being introduced as the South Carolina Gamecocks head football coach, Will Muschamp has hit the ground running on the recruiting trail. Muschamp met with six recruits over the weekend and three in particular that will end up shaping how this 2016 class turns out: Conway receiver Bryan Edwards, Greensboro, N.C. running back C.J. Freeman and Newtown P.A.'s Brandon McIlwain.
All three guys have been committed to the Gamecocks at one point or another, with Edwards de-committing and the other two staying on-board, but not without some rumored wavering. If Muschamp can get all three guys on board by February's National Signing Day, it'll start a foundation of recruiting success the Gamecocks have been without the past two seasons and will help stabilize a 2016 class that's been falling apart since Steve Spurrier's announced retirement.
Edwards, who looked like a firm commitment in October, has since re-opened his recruitment, mainly to the upstate Tigers that have dominated the state as of late. The 6-2, 185 pound athlete appears to have narrowed his top two choices down to the Gamecocks and Tigers, but for different reasons. Dabo Swinney believes Edwards to be a more natural secondary player, which may grant him more immediate playing time for Clemson, but might not be what Edwards himself favors. The Gamecocks however, had him committed as receiver, a position that was empty even with Pharoh Cooper still in garnet, and is now desperate for some help. It's possible we'll know as soon as tonight what Edwards decides. A commitment to the Gamecocks will give them their second 4-star recruit for this class.
We'll know for sure where Freeman is headed come Tuesday night during his announcement. After an official visit with the Gamecocks staff over the weekend, he was unable to solidify his commitment. Freeman says he is in the midst of choosing between the Gamecocks, Louisville and Wisconsin. Freeman is listed as a three-star recruit and the 27th ranked player in North Carolina. With Brandon Wilds leaving, David Williams sure could use some help in the backfield next year, and Freeman could be that aid should he stick with the Gamecocks.
McIlwain is the one most fans hear, and care about though. The stud athlete out of P.A. is currently conflicted between choosing to enroll in January at South Carolina (what has been the plan since his committment) and playing out his high school baseball season, and potentially looking toward the MLB draft. It was nothing but positive news after his official visit this past weekend, but like Freeman, McIlwain was unable to solidify his commitment to the Gamecocks, rather stating he'd have to talk it over with his parents. While there's not a direct timetable on his decision, his official visit over the weekend was a positive step, after meeting with the new coaching staff earlier in the week. It's no secret McIlwain is the gold standard of the Gamecocks 2016 class, and losing him will be be the first bad mark for Muschamp as the head coach. With inexperience surrounding the Gamecocks current quarterbacks, they could use a guy like McIlwain to step in at compete for the starting job in the spring.
It won't be marked as a failure if Muschamp ends up losing out on Edwards and Freeman, although both could provide some immediate support and playmaking ability for the Gamecocks next season, but losing McIlwain could be a huge blow. At this point it's just a matter of what we've been reading about this new staff's ability to recruit provides immediate truth.