"It's an exciting day for the University of South Carolina and our football program. We're signing 24 guys this morning, and I will detail each of those guys as we move forward, but there are a lot of people I need to thank, because they devoted their time and effort for us to have this kind of class. President Pastides was always available for us; anything we needed on campus. Obviously Coach Tanner, whether we needed a plane, or we needed to get somewhere in a hurry. He was tremendous with everything we needed to do. Charles Waddell was present at almost every meal we had to be able to aid us and from an administrative role, so we really appreciate that. Our new Provost, Joan Gable, did an outstanding job speaking at several of our events. We really appreciate her input. Maria Hickman and her staff over at the Dodie (Anderson Academic Enrichment Center) do an outstanding job helping out, not just in a recruiting setting visit. They do a great job with the parents and the kids when they come on campus, but in their day-to-day operation, they do a wonderful job with our student-athletes, and I really appreciate them. Dr. Jeff Guy and his medical staff, and Clint Haggard, our head trainer, all of them coming on the weekends, making sure that the student-athletes are going to be taken care of when they come here. That's very important, and again, they took time out of their schedules. Angie Baskins does a great job as a liaison with football and academics here on campus, and she did a really good job throughout this process. James Quantz is a photographer that does the edits on site. It was one of the best things we did on our visits. The players really enjoyed that part of it. He does a fantastic job. Mary Beth Gomez over at 650 Lincoln; every time we go over there, she's always available, helping our student-athletes out. We really appreciate her. Joe Lisle did a great job putting our video together that we're going to show tonight. He really does a fantastic job.
"All of these people took time out of their schedules on the weekends to help host us and our prospective student-athletes. We really appreciate that. Robbie Liles, in his new role as Director of Player Personnel did a fantastic job of circling the wagons for us as coaches and new staff coming together. It's very difficult to go through this situation. Unfortunately, I've been through it once before so he did a fantastic job, and Jessica Jackson, our new on-campus recruiting coordinator did a fantastic job. All the transcript information, and all of the things we've got to do behind the scenes, those two were invaluable in our process.
"Twenty-seven of our current players hosted recruits for five different weekends that we hosted. They did a fantastic job for us. They really did a great job. That's probably about half of the number that we have on scholarship that we have on campus right now. So that says something about their commitment level to do a great job for our program, understanding that to get a good player is the key to a lot of what we do.
"We visited about 36 or 38 guys, and only six guys that we offered didn't come. So when we got them on campus, we did a great job with them, so that's a credit to all of the people I mentioned before, and the players and the job they did with them on campus. This is a special place. You've got Columbia. You've got the 650 Lincoln, one of the best living facilities that I've been around. The new facility that's going to be built here shortly is really exciting. (We have) one of the best game day atmospheres in the country here at Williams-Brice. There are a lot of things to be excited about right now at South Carolina, and certainly we've got a lot going on.
"We've got 14 guys that I would say would be front-seven people, four of those being offensive linemen. Shawn (Elliott) had all of these guys in camp, and that's really important in this process, is to get these guys on campus and get them to camp. You're able to evaluate how they will get coached. We're going to coach them hard in camp. You're able to see more; sometimes the film can lie, and sometimes the level of competition might not be as good. But you're able to see how they handle hard coaching, see how they respond to that and what kind of competitive edge they have. A lot of the intangibles, you're able to see in those settings. It's critical that we get these guys in summer camp as we move forward.
"(We signed) five receivers, and I'll detail those guys a little bit, but we needed to replenish there. We lose Pharoh (Cooper), we lose Jerrell Adams; Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds were running backs, but they were very productive in the passing game for us. So we've got to be able to get that going.
"The recruiting process to me is about evaluation, doing a great job with film, and doing a great job with summer camps. Obviously selling a great place like South Carolina. And now we're in the developmental process. When we get them on campus, (we have to) develop them as football players, on and off the field, and student-athletes.
"We'll know about this class in two or three years, to just be honest with you. That's when you find out about your development and what these guys do and how productive they're going to be. Out of the last four Heisman Trophy winners, two of them redshirted. That doesn't mean they weren't good players. It's about the opportunity to play as freshmen; it's about maturity as much as anything else. How they're going to handle that process coming into a new situation. So again, in two or three years we'll find out about these guys. We've certainly started on the 2017 and 2018 classes. That's part of what you've got to do now, developing those relationships early. I feel really good about where we are there."
Coach Muschamp's evaluations of each player
WR Korey Banks Jr. -- "He comes from a great program, and he has good top-end speed. He's a guy that can really challenge people vertically down the field."
LB T.J. Brunson -- "He has really good instincts with good contact speed that allows him to run through people."
OL Akeem Cooperwood -- "He is a massive human being that has really good feet and good athleticism for someone that size."
WR Randrecous Davis -- "He can change the game when the ball is in his hands. He's special as a returner and a receiver, and he can play in the slot and outside."
WR Chavis Dawkins -- "He's another big receiver that knows about winning. He knows what to do to be successful."
RB Rico Dowdle -- "He's a guy I am really excited about. He's very explosive and he has a bigger stature than you would think. He has leadership qualities and is a good decision maker with the ball in his hands."
WR Bryan Edwards -- "He can vertically stretch the field and he is another bigger receiver. We certainly will need him."
RB C.J. Freeman -- "We're really excited about him. He gained a bunch of yards in high school."
DL Griffin Gentry -- "He's a guy that plays with a high motor. I'm excited to get him into camp."
TE Evan Hinson -- "He's someone with tremendous upside. He's a basketball player that has great range, and he has great growth potential."
OL Sadarius Hutcherson -- "He has the potential to have a great frame when it's all said and done. We'll get him in the weight room and see if he can gain some weight."
DB Jamarcus King -- "He has really good coverage skills. He is a long guy that has good top-end speed. We're expecting him to come in and compete right away."
OL Pika Leota -- "I am really excited about his upside as a player. I feel good about him."
QB Brandon McIlwain -- "His commitment was huge for us. He's an athlete that can run the ball and throw the ball extremely well. He's doing a great job over at baseball, but he will be full-time at football this spring."
WR Kiel Pollard -- "He's another guy that comes from a winning program. He's a competitive guy that can play in the slot and on the edge."
OL Will Putnam -- "He is another massive human being. We're excited to get him in the fold."
DB Chris Smith -- "He's another guy that we're really excited about."
DL Kobe Smith -- "We were really pleased watching him. He is a guy that moves around extremely well for his size."
DL Stephon Taylor -- "He was a key signing for us today. He's a guy that I really feel good about."
DL Keir Thomas -- "He has some pass rush and has some use on the line of scrimmage."
DL Aaron Thompson -- "You can't ever have enough pass rushers, and we're excited to get him."
TE Robert Tucker Jr. -- "He's another one with tremendous upside as a player. He's a very good athlete."
DL Darius Whitfield -- "He's a guy we knew a lot about and are excited about."
On the defensive linemen he signed in this class
"The most exerting thing you do as a football player is pass rush. You run out of gas pretty quickly, so especially early in the season, as hot as it is in Columbia and in the Southeast, you've got to have as many as you can to rotate up front. It's a developmental position. We needed to gain more girth up front. To be able to get Kobe (Smith) and Stephon (Taylor) and some of those guys to come on board, that was huge for us."
On which members of the signing class are candidates to redshirt
"We never make a decision about anybody redshirting until we get them on campus. We don't make any determination on anybody playing until we get them on campus. I've been doing this a long time. I've been in situations where there was no question in my mind that a young man was going to help us and was going to play for us, and then for whatever reason, whether it was maturity or whatever, he came on campus and just didn't fit. It took him a little while longer to understand the speed of the game, or whatever it was. I've had other guys that I didn't think there was anyway they'd play for us as freshmen, and they ended up contributing for us. We make those decisions in fall camp, and all we ever do in any of those situations is promise a young man an opportunity to come in and compete for a job. If he's good enough, he'll play. If he's the best at his position, he'll start. But we'll make those decisions in August, probably after the second scrimmage, about the 17th or 18th practice. That's when those decisions will get made."
On the role of Brandon McIlwain
"He'll be full-time football. He's on a football scholarship. Chad (Holbrook) and I have talked a lot about it. We're on good ground with what we need to do here. When he's not involved with football, he will be playing baseball."
On the role Shawn Elliott played in the recruiting process
"There's no question, I think Shawn did a great job. Having those guys in camp is critical. I go back, whether it's as a head coach or coordinator, when you've missed on a guy, a lot of times it's because you didn't have him in camp. Film can lie to you at times. You've got to be able to get them into camp, work with them, see how they're going to respond, and him being able to have those guys in camp was huge. He's very well known in the state, obviously, because he's been here a long time, and he's done an outstanding job."
On what made Stephon Taylor a recruit he pursued
"I think they big thing is that you can't coach 6-4 and 300 lbs. He's got good feet and change of direction. He's got good length in his arms. I think he's got 35- or 36-inch arms. Guys that have that length and that girth are hard to find. He's also got good feet, good change of direction and good lower body flexibility, so he can change the direction in line and get some push in the pocket. You can identify some of these guys earlier in the process, which I identified a long time ago as someone I thought was going to be a very good football player. He's turned out that way. He's got a great personality, a great work ethic, he comes from a really good situation, and we're really excited about him."
On the metrics he uses to evaluate signing classes
"Again, when those metrics add up is probably in two or three years. That's when you truly find out if the class was a good class or not. How many games did you win? To me it's about how they're contributing to the team. How are they handling themselves off the field, and are they contributing to the team? Whether it be in a starting role, or as a productive playmaker for us on offense or defense or whatever it is, I don't really have a metric to say what that is. To me it comes down to `this guy was a very productive player for us, and it was obvious we hit on this guy.'"
On the important of signing the first two recruits he visited after becoming the head coach at South Carolina
"Well, T.J. Brunson and Bryan Edwards, both of them. I'm glad we got them. I think they're both really good football players. I think they'll contribute in a huge way here at the University of South Carolina. When you turn the tape on, I offered Bryan as a ninth-grader. I didn't even realize it. I think he was 14 years old. Chuck Jordan, his coach (at Conway High School) has been up there for probably 30 years. He told me when I walked into the home that night. But again, those are two guys we felt like we needed to pinpoint early and make sure they understood how we felt."
On the challenge of simultaneously recruiting both student-athletes to join the Class of 2016 and coaches to join the staff at South Carolina
"I don't know that `challenging' would be the word. There are a lot of these guys that wanted to be here. You had some guys that left their alma maters, guys that left good situations because they wanted to be at South Carolina. So that was refreshing. On the recruiting trail, I felt very good about where we stood with a lot of the student-athletes that we were recruiting. Like I've said, we hit well on the guys we were able to get on campus. So that says a lot about the job we do on campus on the official visits, which is a very good visit."
On how this recruiting process differed from the process at other schools where he's coached
"It's been great. The biggest thing to me is the willingness of everyone on campus to help. That's hard, because this is a lot of these people's free time that they need to be with their families. And they're reaching out to us, `what can we do to help?' That's what makes this place special, is the people that you're involved with. It's been really wonderful."
On the importance of mid-year enrollees
"Mid-year guys -- I'd take as many as I could, every year. Normally, you look at a situation, many of these guys are finishing senior English, and they may play a spring sport. But if they're not playing a spring sports, and they've already got their credits done, it's much more beneficial to them academically number one, socially number two, and athletically, football-wise, number three, to come to campus mid-year. They're at a much slower pace academically, because they don't have the distraction of getting ready for a season and getting ready for a game. You're able to do a much better job with them academically. We're able to do a much better job with them from the standpoint of the weight room, to orient them to all the different lifts and the techniques they're getting exposed to, because for a lot of them, a lot of this is brand new. So it's a much slower environment as opposed to talking in terms of August or September, when they're going to be coming in and starting fall camp. And then obviously being able to go through spring, to learn our schemes and systems and not have the pressure of getting ready for a game. So obviously it's a huge benefit, and about every situation I've been a part of has been a very positive experience.
On the opportunity to play right away for the incoming wide receivers
"I think that, again, they watch the games, and they see the opportunity. They see that (departed player) Pharoh is a very productive player. Jerrell Adams is a very productive player. Brandon Wilds was our third-leading receiver. Shon Carson was fourth or fifth. Really D.J. Neal and Deebo Samuel are the only two experienced players we have at the position returning. They see opportunity, and they were all told that given the opportunity, if they're the best at their position, they're going to play."
On his overall evaluation of the class
"I'll let you know in two or three years. I'm very pleased with where we are. I really am. I don't think you're ever satisfied. That's the way I look at things. I think that this is a two or three year process, that you're going to look back at, you're going to reflect that this was a really good class for us. Winning on signing day is not really important to me. It's about two years, three years down the line, where are these guys? How much have they contributed? How much have they played? How productive were they as players for South Carolina?
On the success he's had with recruits in the state of South Carolina
"I think we have a lot of really good players in this state. I think we've made some good inroads with this year's class, and then moving forward with future classes. I feel comfortable about where we are. I think you look at the concentration in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Because I consider Charlotte, for us, as in-state. Because of the location, I consider Atlanta and Jacksonville as in-state. You're able to get there within a three-hour radius, or a four-hour radius to Jacksonville. That's a day-trip for a family to come see their son play. I think we've made some good in-roads in this state."