By Jeff Owens | Photo by Allen Sharpe
Will Muschamp was at Pro Timing Day at the Jerri and Steve Spurrier Practice Facility Thursday, watching his former players work out and chatting with a couple of former Gamecocks now in the NFL.
To Muschamp, the workouts for 52 NFL coaches and scouts from all 32 teams is part of his program’s recruiting process. He is hoping future recruits see former Gamecocks stars like Deebo Samuel, Zack Bailey and Bryson Allen-Williams getting an opportunity to play at the next level.
“This is always everyone’s dream,” he said. “Education is obviously number one, but having an opportunity to continue to play is really important and having the development we have here, a young man can benefit from being a part of that.”
South Carolina has had just one player drafted in Muschamp’s first three years — tight end Hayden Hurst was taken in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens last year — but linebacker Skai Moore and defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth both signed free agent contracts last year and played this past season. Stallworth was at Pro Day Thursday, chatting with and supporting his former teammates, and got a hug from Muschamp as the Gamecocks coach addressed the media.
Samuel is expected to be selected in the first two rounds on April 25, while Bailey is considered a strong offensive line prospect. Other players like Allen-Williams, offensive lineman Dennis Daley and defensive back Rashad Fenton are hoping to be late-round picks.
Muschamp hopes getting those players into the NFL will attract other highly touted players to his program.
“Continuing to recruit at a high level is going to be important for us moving forward and we need to increase our draft numbers, bottom line,” he said. “We are recruiting kids who want to continue to play after college and they want to be able to see a track record. Our staff has a great track record, not necessarily here at South Carolina in our first three seasons, but I certainly hope that is going to change.”
The Gamecocks had 13 players work out for pro scouts Thursday. The top attraction, of course, was Samuel, whose versatile all-purpose game is expected to play well in the NFL. Muschamp has heard from coaches and scouts who are impressed with Samuel not only on the field but off it.
“Deebo is Deebo, he hasn’t changed a bit,” Muschamp said. “It’s been very impressive to hear the scouts and a lot of the coaches here today talk about him and how he has handled this process and how impressive he was in interviews. And that really goes for all of our players. It’s been great to hear a lot of very positive comments today about how they have handled this process.”
Muschamp, a former NFL assistant under Nick Saban, allows NFL scouts to attend South Carolina practices and allowed several to hold meetings with his former players this week at the new Long Family Football Operations Center. He is asked often about his players, but it’s not their on-field performance and success they want to know about.
“I always tell our guys, it’s their determination if he’s a good enough player for their organization,” he said. “They are not asking if he’s good enough, they are asking about his work ethic, what kind of person he is, how durable he is. Those are the questions that I get asked and we’re honest with every team, because we want them to respect us and our opinion, and that’s helped us with a lot of guys who have played for me because they know if I put my name on one he is going to be a good representative of their football organization.”