By Jeff Owens and Josh Hyber/Photo by Allen Sharpe
Will Muschamp announced his 2019 signing class on Wednesday, and it features several high-profile recruits.
In all, the class features 18 players from all across the country, including five defensive lineman, four offensive lineman and the highest-rated quarterback prospect the school has had in eight years.
Ryan Hilinski, Orange Lutheran (Orange, CA) — The 6-4, 232-pounder is the No. 1 rated pocket passer and the No. 25 overall prospect in the class, per ESPN. He threw for 74 touchdowns, 8,102 yards and completed 64.3 percent of his passes as a three-year high school starter. He threw 24 interceptions. "The future has arrived!" the official Gamecock football Twitter account tweeted at 12:39 p.m. when Hilinski signed. He will enroll in January.
“Ryan Hilinski will be a mid-year enrollee, won multiple national awards as far as the quarterback position is concerned. He is an elite level. He can really spin it,” Muschamp said. “We had him in camp and Dan Werner did a fantastic job with Ryan. Mark and Ken his parents are great people and it’s a great family. We are really excited about him coming on campus here in January. We think he is a really good football player who has a lot of the intangible qualities you have to have at that position.”
Zacch Pickens, T.L. Hanna (Anderson, S.C.) — The 6-5, 290-pound defensive lineman is the No. 4 defensive end and No. 20 player overall in the class, per ESPN. He had 87 tackles and six sacks this past season en route to be named South Carolina’s Mr. Football. His older brother, Kevin, is a redshirt-junior who signed with the Gamecocks as a walk-on defensive back in August. He will enroll in January.
“Zacch led T.L. Hanna to the state championship game this year. He did about everything for them, close to 1,000 yards rushing, a fantastic defensive end that is bringing a lot to our program. He won about every award there was in the state of South Carolina as far as high school awards and was the Player of the Year in the state,” Muschamp said. “He could have gone anywhere he wanted to go and stayed right here at home in the state of South Carolina and to play for his state school. We’re really excited about Zacch. His Mom, Felicia, has been great. His brother, Kevin, is a walk-on on our football team right now, and he’s been outstanding, so we’re excited about getting Zacch back on campus in January.”
Joseph Anderson, Oakland (Murfreesboro, TN) — The 6-4, 260-pounder is the No. 34 ranked defensive end in the class, per ESPN. He had 60 tackles (16 for loss) and three sacks as a high school senior despite dislocating his elbow in week one. He will enroll in January. His dad, Joe, played DB at Mississippi State.
“Joe is a transfer from Siegel, where Max Iyama went to school. He went to Oakland where they won the state championship. He dislocated his elbow in the first game of the year and never missed a snap. He is guy that’s got some toughness about him,” Muschamp said. “Coach (Kevin) Creasy and his staff rave about Joseph and his leadership ability. I think he is a guy that tremendously improved throughout his senior year and played at an extremely high level, especially in the playoffs, and was a very difficult guy to block. We had some coaches at the state championship game, and they were extremely impressed with Joseph and what he did on the field. Joe and Teresa, his parents, were outstanding throughout this entire process.”
Devontae Davis, Georgia Military College (Milledgeville, GA) — The 6-4, 280-pounder — who is originally from Aiken — is the No. 6 ranked junior college defensive end in the class, per ESPN. He had 45 tackles and nine sacks in 19 JUCO games playing for the same school that produced current Gamecocks Dennis Daley and Jabari Ellis. He enrolled at South Carolina mid-year, and actually joined the team in time to go through the Belk Bowl mini-camp in December. He will have three years to play two seasons at South Carolina.
“This one goes back about two years. This is why you have camp. You find guys like this,” Muschamp said. “Devontae was at Silver Bluff High School over in Aiken. You see his length and athleticism. He went to Georgia Military and did a fantastic job there. He’s actually practiced with us the last two days. You have to go through an NCAA period where you acclimatize yourself so he’s only been in helmets and hasn’t been able to get in pads yet. He’ll be in shells tomorrow and Friday and we’re only going to have helmets practice on Saturday. He’s big and athletic and has great length. I’m really excited to finally have Devontae here.”
Rodricus Fitten, Booker T. Washington (Atlanta, GA) — The 6-2, 232-pounder — who is the No. 44 ranked defensive end in the class, per ESPN — was the first commit to be announced by the Gamecocks, at 7:14 a.m. He had 45 tackles, four sacks and one interception as a high school senior while playing defensive end and linebacker. He will play SAM and BUCK linebacker as a Gamecock.
“Rodricus is a twitch guy on the edge. He’s very similar to Bryson Allen-Williams. He gives you a faster twitch on the edge,” Muschamp said. “He was our first commitment in this class, I think it was September of 2017, and has stuck with us ever since. He had an outstanding senior year. We think he has a tremendous upside as a mid-year enrollee here on campus in January.”
Derek Boykins, Central Cabarrus (Concord, NC) — The 6-2, 208-pounder is the No. 11 ranked inside linebacker in the class, per ESPN. He also played running back for the Vikings. As a senior he led the Vikings to an 8-4 record, their best mark since 2013, posting 117 tackles, six for loss, four sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, five quarterback hurries, one receiving touchdown and one blocked punt he returned for a score. He will enroll in January.
“Derek was a guy that played wildcat quarterback, he played running back, he played linebacker, he played safety,” Muschamp said. “He’s a very explosive guy. We had him in camp and saw his movement skills. We’re really excited about him and the upside his has. He’s originally from Beaufort, South Carolina and grew up a Gamecock so we’re excited to have him come home here.”
Jahmar Brown, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, FL) — The 6-foot, 195-pounder attended the same school as fellow recruit Murphy. He is the No. 34 ranked outside linebacker in the class, per ESPN. He had 56 tackles, four sacks and three defensive touchdowns as a senior. Had 86 tackles and six sacks over his final two campaigns.
“Jahmar is another guy from St. Thomas Aquinas, a state runner-up, and I was really impressed with him at camp,” Muschamp said. “He’s got 33-inch arms and 11-inch hands and is a guy we think has a tremendous upside as far as his structure is concerned. He’ll be a 215, 218, 220-pound guy in a year or so. He has really good athleticism and is really smart. He directed the defense the last three years and Jason Taylor is the defensive coordinator, who I coached at the Dolphins. Jason thinks he’s a really smart player and is a guy that gets everyone aligned and can really command the defense, which is obviously something that excites me.”
Cameron Smith, Westwood (Blythewood, S.C.) — The 6-foot, 171-pounder is the No. 29 ranked cornerback in the class, per ESPN. He had 65 tackles, 16 pass breakups and four forced fumbles as a senior.
“Alicia, his Mom, took a job up in Maryland and they moved back to Columbia, thank goodness, for his senior year,” Muschamp said. “Cam is a guy that came from camp and ran a sub 4.5, 36 vertical, 10-5 broad. Those are NFL numbers in the combine as far as explosive power to be a 6-1 corner at 185 pounds. Cam’s got a huge upside. He will be a mid-year enrollee. He doesn’t have anything wrong with his shoulder. There were some claims out there that he had all kinds of shoulder injuries, but he doesn’t. He will actually be playing in the Army game in January.”
John Dixon, Chamberlin (Tampa) — The 5-11, 180-pounder made 15 tackles and had four pass deflections as a high school senior. He had 15 tackles and four pass breakups as a senior. He missed the majority of his junior season with a knee injury. He had been a varsity starter since his freshman season. He collected 102 career tackles with 14 pass break ups and three interceptions in 30 games.
“Two years ago, we had John in camp and we felt like he was one of the best cover corners that we’ve seen in our camps,” Muschamp said. “He had a patella issue with his knee to start his senior year and really didn’t play a whole lot and wasn’t healthy through the entire season. We know what John can do when he’s healthy. We think he’s a lockdown corner, a guy that has a tremendous upside and we’re excited about having John in the program.”
Kevin Harris, Bradwell Institute (Hinesville, GA) — The 5-10, 230-pounder is the No. 59 ranked running back in the class, per ESPN. He had 1,556 yards (141.5 per game) and 22 touchdowns as a high school senior. He finished with 4,100 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns in his high school career. He will enroll in January.
“Kevin Harris really came and earned his scholarship at camp,” Muschamp said. “We really liked his film, but we weren’t totally certain about his top-end speed. But he came into camp and ran 4.55 with a vertical of 35 inches, which is really good. A really big lower body and a very difficult guy to tackle. When you talk in terms of a power running game and getting better there and adding some toughness to that position for us.”
Tyquan Johnson, Fork Union Military Academy (Fork Union, VA) — The 6-3, 185-pound receiver comes from the same academy that produced current Gamecock redshirt-senior Jacob August. Johnson caught 32 passes for 661 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior at Screven County in Sylvania Ga., in 2017, leading the team to an 11-1 record and the quarterfinal round of the AA state playoffs. He had 32 receptions for 661 yards (20.6 per catch) and 10 touchdowns as a senior in high school. He will enroll in January.
“We signed Tyquan a year ago. He went to Fork Union and did a really nice job this fall,” Muschamp said. “Again, he’s another guy who came to our camp a year ago and put up some impressive numbers. He had a 36 1⁄2-inch vertical leap and a 10-4 broad jump. He’s a very explosive guy, especially at that 6-3, 200-lbs. size. We continue to improve our receiver room, and I think he certainly is going to be able to do that.”
Keveon Mullins, Whitehaven (Memphis, TN) — The 6-1, 206-pounder is the No. 48 ranked athlete in the class, per ESPN. He was announced as a receiver. He had 24 catches for 500 yards and nine touchdowns as a high school senior.
“[He] played for the state championship against Joe Anderson and lost in the state championship game,” Muschamp said. “Big receiver, 6-3, 200-plus pounds, came to our camp and really good ball skills. A guy that we are really excited about. Excited about getting Keveon on campus.”
Traevon Kenion, Monroe (Monroe, NC) — The 6-3, 242-pounder is the No. 5 ranked tight end in the class, per ESPN. He had 38 catches for 746 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. He had 68 career receptions for 1,429 yards and 23 touchdowns. He will enroll in January.
“Traevon will be a mid-year enrollee. Tony, his mom, got a job in the Raleigh/Wake Forest area, and he moved up there and won a state championship. He’s a guy at the tight end position that we think is really gifted in the throwing game,” Muschamp said. “He really added some things to their high school football team. When he came to camp, the thing I was most impressed with was his competitive edge. He really competes when he gets on the field, and obviously, you see what he did this past year. We’re really excited about him.”
Keshawn Toney, Williston Elko (Williston, SC) — The 6-2, 236-pounder is the No. 11 tight end in the class, per ESPN. He caught 51 passes for 750 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. He will enroll in January.
“Keshawn is a Shrine Bowl participant and a guy we had in camp. He’s 6-3, 240 lbs., and moves extremely well,” Muschamp said. “When you get the feedback from the Shrine Bowl coaches, that’s one of the things they talked about: how impressed they were with him. I think this guy’s got a tremendous upside. I think we’re just scratching the surface of what he can do. He played mostly wideout for Williston-Elko, but now he’ll be more of an attached tight end for us. He’s another mid-year enrollee, a guy that I think has a tremendous upside.”
Jakai Moore, Patriot (Nokesville, VA) — The 6-5, 290-pound offensive lineman who was a dual-sport athlete at Patriot High School in Nokesville, Va. and led the Pioneers to a 7-4 record as a senior. He also played basketball and was the 2016-17 Manassas Park Basketball Player of the Year after averaging 15 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. He was rated the 13th-best player in Virginia, the 28th-best offensive guard in the country and No. 493 overall, according to 247Sports Composite.
“I saw Jakai play basketball Friday night. It’s pretty impressive to see a 6-4, 300-pounder run up and down the court. He starts on their basketball team,” Muschamp said. “Jakai is a guy we’ve really pinpointed. We enjoyed Friday night sitting with Cynthia, his mom, at the game. He’s a guy that has tremendous upside as a football player. We think his genetic ceiling is very high, as far as a guy that’s got a lot sitting in front of him. We’re really excited about him.”
Vincent Murphy, St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, FL) — The 6-2, 290-pounder is the No. 5 ranked center in the class, per ESPN. He comes from a school that produced Michael Irvin, Joey Bosa, Giovani Bernard and Lamarcus Joyner, among others.
“Vincent is from St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, one of the best programs in the country. They were state runners-up. It’s interesting, Vincent was one of the first underclassmen ever in St. Thomas history to be named a team captain,” Muschamp said. “You talk in terms of leadership ability, we think he’s a guy that can be a center or a guard. Bill and Michele, his parents, have been great. The visited on one of the spring visits we had this past spring, which I thought went extremely well. We’re excited about having Vincent as a part of our program.”
Mark Fox, Northwestern (Miami, FL) — The 6-5, 295-pounder is the No. 31 ranked guard in the class, per ESPN. He comes from a school that produced Teddy Bridgewater, Amari Cooper and current Georgia star Deandre Baker.
“Mark was on a state championship team. They started the season, I think, 0-4, and ended up winning the state championship,” Muschamp said. “They got things turned around. He’s a guy that we had in camp, ad he’s very athletic. We think he can be a three-position guy as far as center, guard or tackle. He gives you a lot of variety as far as his athleticism and length.”
Jaylen Nichols, Myers Park (Charlotte, NC) — The 6-4, 310-pounder is the No. 78 ranked offensive tackle in the class, per ESPN. He will enroll in January.
“Jaylen is from another outstanding program at Myers Park. Scott Chadwick does a fantastic job with their program. He’s a big guy that we had in camp. He’s right at 6-5, 315 lbs,” Muschamp said. “I watched him practice. His team was in the playoffs, I think third round. You watch him athletically, his feet, changing direction, his lower body flexibility – it was extremely impressive, with Jaylen. This guy’s got a huge upside. He’s a mid-year enrollee, so he’s going to be able to go through spring, which I think is really beneficial for any player.”