When Will Muschamp arrived to Columbia back in December and was officially named the head coach at South Carolina, while some of his plans going forward were relatively unknown, there were also a couple of things you knew you were getting in him from the very beginning: a great defensive mind, high-level intensity, an SEC-level staff and, perhaps most importantly, a coach who fully embraced the importance, and challenge, of recruiting in college football today. It’s no secret that the previous regime, although very good at certain aspects of running the program, didn’t quite get it when it came to recruiting. Call it complacency, laziness, pride or whatever you want, but there simply wasn’t much happening for the Gamecocks on the recruiting trail in the last few years; which just won’t cut it in college football nowadays.
As soon as Muschamp took over he made it clear from the very beginning that recruiting in Columbia was going to change. He openly told the world when asked about his assistant coaches, "If you can’t recruit, you can’t work here." He obviously wasn’t joking. The Gamecocks current staff is now more equipped than ever before to recruit high-level players to South Carolina.
Once the new staff was put into place, it became apparent to most Gamecock fans, including myself, that recruiting would surely be on the upswing sooner rather than later. On a lot of levels, it absolutely has. There has been more recruiting news day-in and day-out than ever before. But while the emphasis in recruiting is there, in some people’s eyes, the product that’s come from it has been somewhat lacking. High-star, big-name prospects have been difficult to come by, which has led fans to question just how good our 2017 class is really going to be when it’s all said and done.
Over the next couple of days, we’re going to take a look at our 2017 class, breakdown what is going on in recruiting right now for South Carolina and explain why, although the class may not blow you away upon first glance, the Gamecocks staff is doing what they need to do to build for future success.
Commitments (16) - class ranked 21st nationally, 8th in SEC
Shi Smith (4-star WR, Union County, SC) - The crown jewel of the class thus far and the only prospect rated higher than 3-stars. Highly coveted receiver who turned down the likes of Alabama and Oklahoma to join the Gamecocks. Could very well compete for playing time as a true freshman next fall.
Will Register (3-star TE, Chapin, SC) - One of the top tight end prospects in the nation, Register committed to South Carolina over a year ago and has not only remained solid on that pledge, but has been one of the biggest leaders in the class in recruiting other players to join the Gamecocks.
Kyshaun Bryan (3-star RB, Fort Lauderdale, FL) - Talented running back from one of the top high school programs in the country, St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida. Bryan committed to South Carolina earlier than expected and is seen as a player who could end up far outplaying his high-3-star rating.
Shawn Smith (3-star WR, Brunswick, GA) - Explosive receiver from the talent-rich state of Georgia, Smith has performed very well at several elite prospect camps and is another example of a player whose rating isn’t indicative of his talent or ceiling at the college-level.
Dennis Daley (3-star JUCO OT, Milledgeville, GA) - A top JUCO offensive lineman, Daley will have two years of eligibility remaining when he gets to Columbia.
Devonte Wyatt (3-star DE, Decatur, GA) - Big defensive end from Georgia who the Gamecocks’ staff is very high on. They anticipate Wyatt’s recruitment blowing up and other big-name schools getting involved that South Carolina will have to hold off down the stretch.
Eric Douglas (3-star OT, Charlotte, NC) - Offensive lineman from Mallard Creek High School, one of the top programs in the state of North Carolina. Since jumping on board in April, Douglas has been a big recruiter for the Gamecocks, and is proving to be especially valuable with Mallard Creek teammates and South Carolina targets OL TJ Moore and WR Ryan Jones.
Tavyn Jackson (3-star CB, Tallahassee, FL) - A recently committed cornerback whose high school coach says could end up being a first-round draft pick, Jackson was personally evaluated by both Will Muschamp and Travaris Robinson before an offer was extended his direction.
Jaylin Dickerson (3-star S, Southern Pines, NC) - Another under-the-radar safety prospect who worked out individually for both Muschamp and Robinson before receiving his scholarship offer.
Damani Staley (3-star LB, Columbia, SC) - Legacy linebacker from Ridge View, Staley is the son of former Gamecock running back Duce Staley. Staley has had great high school production and numbers.
Jay Urich- (3-star QB, Piedmont, SC) - In-state quarterback with size, mobility and smarts. Urich has tremendous upside and is a guy who could develop into a player in the South Carolina quarterback competition down the line.
Tyreek Johnson (3-star DE, Sumter, SC) - Physically-gifted defensive end from Sumter that in a college weight room and coaching, could grow into a contributor on the defensive line.
Summie Carlay (3-star OT, Laurens, SC) - Another in-state prospect with upside, Carlay shows good feet, mobility and a nasty-streak and should grow into his 6’5" frame more and more under strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman.
Eldridge Thompson (3-star JUCO LB, Coffeyville, KS) - A player who hasn’t been playing linebacker all that long, but led one of the top JUCO’s in the country, Coffeyville, Kansas, in tackles last season with over 100. Thompson has great size and athleticism and is a smart gamble by the Gamecocks’ staff.
Damarri Mathis (3-star CB, Lakeland, FL) - An intriguing cornerback prospect from one of the best high school programs in Florida, Lakeland High School, Mathis has blazing speed and strong cover skills and is seen by the South Carolina staff as one of the biggest steals of the class. Much like Devonte Wyatt, the staff feels they will eventually have to hold off schools like Florida and Florida State for Mathis once they become aware of him.
Davonne Bowen (3-star LB, Piedmont, SC) - A player who plays defensive end in high school, but will pay linebacker for the Gamecocks, Bowen’s speed is incredible. At 6’2, 220 pounds, he ran the 100 meter dash in 10.7 seconds and showed enough lateral quickness that the South Carolina staff wanted him as a linebacker.
Players to Watch
OrTre Smith (4-star WR, Charleston, SC)- The highest rated player in South Carolina and one of the top rated receivers in the nation, Smith is being courted by Clemson, UNC, Florida and Georgia. Muschamp and staff have done a tremendous job making Smith a priority. As of today, most see him going to Clemson (his mother played volleyball there) but the Gamecocks will be in a strong position until the end due to their solid pitch for immediate playing time, as well as the relationships that Smith has built with the South Carolina staff.
MJ Webb (4-star DE, Madison, GA)- One of the top ranked defensive ends in the nation and a top player in the state of Georgia, Webb’s recruitment has come down to the Gamecocks, Auburn and Georgia. Recently there has been traction pointing towards Webb ending up at South Carolina, which would be a huge win for Will Muschamp and staff.
Jamyest Williams (4-star CB, Lawrenceville, GA) - Gamecocks have worked their way into a battle for one of the top rated cornerbacks in the country with Williams. He is set to cut his list down to five teams very soon and the Gamecocks are expected to make the cut along with Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Florida State. Clemson has been trending some with him, but he likes the idea of being an immediate contributor in Columbia and playing for a school that has sent so many defensive backs to the NFL. South Carolina probably isn’t the favorite at this point, but they are absolutely in the hunt. (Williams is set to commit on August 27.)
Tre Shaw (4-star CB, Ellenwood, GA) - The highly touted corner is set to make a commitment on July 18th and most believe it will be to Clemson at this point in time. However, South Carolina has been in the game with Shaw for some time, so you never say never until a commitment occurs. COMMITTED TO NORTH CAROLINA
TJ Moore (4-star OT, Charlotte, NC)- Long considered a heavy South Carolina lean, news that Moore was strongly considering Tennessee came out last week right around the time that Moore was set to make his college announcement. Ultimately, he decided to wait on committing, a move which could help the Gamecocks’ chances with him. (Moore pledged to the Gamecocks on August 1.)
Tank Robinson (4-star S, Santee, SC)- One of the best prospects in the state, Robinson’s recruitment may very well come down to South Carolina and Clemson at the end of the day. The Gamecocks need help in the secondary and Robinson would be a nice addition.