It didn’t take long for Will Muschamp and his staff to sell MJ Webb on the opportunity to play college football in South Carolina. It was a flat-out coup: Georgia had been involved with Webb ever since the completion of his freshman year, with the Bulldogs being his first offer in April 2014 and Alabama following shortly after. But despite visits to programs like Ohio State, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, the school that ended up sticking out the most was South Carolina. When the Gamecocks gained a commitment from him during an unofficial visit in August despite offering him in January 2016 - and not only that, but having him pledge a full three months earlier than planned - it went down as a huge win for Muschamp and Webb’s primary recruiter, Lance Thompson. Mark Richt’s exit certainly may have had something to do with it. But for the Gamecocks to snag an SEC-caliber player that attended school a half-hour away from Sanford Stadium took some persistence and hard work.
How he fits:
Lewis and English have graduated, so the team will be returning Dante Sawyer and DJ Wonnum at the end position at 2016. That creates an opening for a player like Webb to step in and make an impact right away. He’s shown an ability to get to the quarterback (seven sacks as a junior), but he also is versatile enough to line up inside and be used as a run-stopping threat as well.
Will he contribute as a true freshman?
Lance Thompson loves to rotate players in and out on the line, so I’d expect Webb to get significant time in 2017 - and I’d say that he could very well be a day one starter or see himself in an “OR” scenario with Javon Kinlaw ends up here. Simply put, Webb is too talented to keep on the bench for any length of time, and the attention the staff paid to him during his recruitment showed that he’s to be a major part of what they’re planning. The fact that he practiced with the team during their Birmingham Bowl prep is a huge plus toward his development.
Long term outlook:
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but 2018 could feature a four-man front of MJ Webb/Javon Kinlaw - Josh Belk - Rick Sandidge - Xavier Thomas. That would project to be as promising as a defensive line as the Gamecocks have had in some time. While that might be putting the cart before the horse just a little bit (and while it depends on a number of things to break USC’s way), I like Webb’s potential, and if he’s able to make the transition from high school to college ball, I think that he could have a strong career wearing garnet and black over the next three or four years.