Muschamp doesn’t care about re­cruit­ing rank­ings

The Island Packet (Sunday) - - Sports - BY JOSH KEN­DALL jk­[email protected]­tate.com

South Carolina will sign up to four more play­ers in Fe­bru­ary as col­lege foot­ball wraps up the Class of 2019. It will not be enough play­ers to sig­nif­i­cantly af­fect the Game­cocks’ na­tional re­cruit­ing rank­ing, which cur­rently stands at No. 21, and USC head coach Will Muschamp will con­tinue not to care the least bit about that fact.

“I never in my life looked at a re­cruit­ing rank­ing, nor will I ever be­cause I know a lot more than they do,” he said.

Muschamp came to South Carolina with a rep­u­ta­tion as a strong re­cruiter, and it be­came clear quickly upon his ar­rival that his opin­ion of the eval­u­a­tion of play­ers made by peo­ple out­side the sport was low. The Game­cocks’ class is con­sid­ered the na­tion’s 21st-best at the mo­ment by the 247Sports Com­pos­ite rank­ings, which com­piles the rank­ings of the var­i­ous re­cruit­ing ser­vices that have grown around the sport in the last two decades. Those rank­ings are made by an­a­lysts who watch film, at­tend games and ar­range camps for high school ath­letes but in most cases have no coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Play­ers are ranked into star group­ings from two-star to fives­tar with five stars be­ing the most rare and most elite of the group. De­fen­sive line­man Zacch Pick­ens, who signed with the Game­cocks last month, is the first five-star signee of the Muschamp era in Columbia. Not that Muschamp is pay­ing any at­ten­tion to that.

“What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween a three-star and a fourstar ( player)?” he asked. “I don’t un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence. I have coached a lot of guys who were re­ally good foot­ball play­ers who didn’t have any stars. They weren’t even ranked.”

Muschamp be­lieves star rank­ings are of­ten based on which schools of­fer a cer­tain prospect and how many re­cruit­ing “com­bines” that player at­tends.

“When I was at Texas, we had guys who weren’t even be­ing re­cruited and when they com­mit­ted to us, sud­denly they were five stars. That hap­pened 100 per­cent,” he said. “What I’m say­ing is, it’s not about the rank­ing, it’s about who’s re­cruit­ing you. That, in my opin­ion, is a huge in­dict­ment on the rank­ing sys­tem.”

Muschamp is pas­sion­ate when he pokes holes in the rank­ings sys­tem de­spite the fact there is a

cor­re­la­tion over time be­tween the teams that recruit among the na­tion’s elite and the teams that com­pete for the sport’s na­tional ti­tle. Muschamp is quick to point out that his team did not of­fer some play­ers who were ranked higher than play­ers they signed.

“We had a bunch of guys who were ranked four stars who we didn’t even of­fer, that wanted to come to South Carolina,” he said. “Then all of a sud­den this team’s rank­ing is 11th in the coun­try or what­ever and we turned down guys they signed. That’s frus­trat­ing to me. If I was wor­ried about rank­ings, I would have taken that guy be­cause he’s got more stars than this guy, but this guy, in our opin­ion, was the bet­ter player.”

South Carolina’s class is ranked 10th in the SEC and the na­tion’s top four re­cruit­ing class this sea­son — Alabama, Ge­or­gia, Texas A&M and LSU — all be­long to con­fer­ence teams. That il­lus­trates the dif­fi­culty Muschamp and his staff face in re­build­ing the Game­cocks pro­gram, or it would if a per­son be­lieved in the va­lid­ity of re­cruit­ing rank­ings.

“We are sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved. Are we where we want to be? No, but we never will be. We al­ways are go­ing go to strive to im­prove and get bet­ter,” Muschamp said. “Have we closed the (tal­ent) gap? Sure. Where do we rank? I can’t sit there and put a num­ber on that, but we’re much bet­ter now than where we were day one, I can tell you that. That’s night and day dif­fer­ent.”

The Game­cocks fin­ished Muschamp’s third year 7-6 over­all and 4-4 in the SEC. They are 22-17 over­all and 12-12 in the SEC in his three sea­sons. Muschamp be­lieves South Carolina can build an Alabama-style pro­gram in Columbia, he said. The Game­cocks were ranked No. 21 in the na­tion in 2018 in 247Sports’ col­lege team tal­ent com­pos­ite rank­ings. They ranked eighth in the SEC.

“Does it hap­pen overnight? No,” he said. “The most im­pa­tient per­son in the world is me. We are work­ing ev­ery single day to cre­ate that. Again, we play in the tough­est divi­sion in the tough­est con­fer­ence in the coun­try. We know that and we em­brace that.”

The key to build­ing the pro­gram Muschamp en­vi­sions is re­cruit­ing, he said.

“The next step is to get to At­lanta (for the SEC Championship Game),” he said. “There are a lot of lit­tle things in­volved in that, but it all goes back to re­cruit­ing and con­tin­u­ing to put to­gether classes that can win in our league.”

Muschamp be­lieves the Game­cocks are do­ing that de­spite what any re­cruit­ing rank­ings say.

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp’s lat­est foot­ball re­cruit­ing class is ranked No. 21 in the na­tion.

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