By Jeff Owens/Photo by SC Athletics
Will Muschamp calls four-star quarterback Ryan Hilinski an “elite quarterback” with all the intangibles to lead a major-college program in the SEC.
He says five-star defensive end Zacch Pickins is “a fantastic defensive end and a guy who is bringing a lot to our program.”
Hilinski and Pickins highlight a class of 18 new signees who joined the program Wednesday on National Signing Day. They join freshman defensive lineman Josh Belk, who is already on the team and played this season, and transfer defensive back Jamel Cook to give Muschamp 20 players so far in the 2019 class.
The 18 signed Wednesday come from seven states and represent 10 offensive and eight defensive players. Along with Hilinski, the offensive players include one running back, two wide receivers, two tight ends and four offensive linemen. The defensive players include three linemen, three linebackers and two defensive backs.
“We got better today, there is no doubt about that,” Muschamp said.
Hilinski, a 6-4, 232-pound, four-star quarterback from Orange Lutheran High School in California, passed for 2,771 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior and has won numerous awards, including a National High School Player of the Year Award and is one of our finalists for the All-American Bowl Offensive Player of the Year Award. He committed to South Carolina last spring and will enroll in school in January and participate in spring practice.
“He is an elite level. He can really spin it,” Muschamp said. “We had him in camp and [quarterbacks coach] Dan Werner did a fantastic job with Ryan. We think he is a really good football player who has a lot of the intangible qualities you have to have at that position.”
Pickens is a 6-5, 290-pound defensive end who was South Carolina’s Gatorade Football Athlete of the Year and the state’s Mr. Football as the top recruit in the state. He had 87 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and six sacks, as a senior and had an interception return for a touchdown in the state championship game for T.L. Hanna High School. He also rushed for 889 yards and averaged 8.9 yards per carry as a full back. Muschamp said he may serve as a short-yardage or goal-line running back along with playing defensive end.
“He’s a fantastic defense end and a guy who is bringing a lot to our program,” Muschamp said. “He won about every award there was in the state of South Carolina, player of the year in the state and could have gone anywhere he wanted to go and stayed right here in the state of South Carolina to play for his state school. We are really excited about Zacch.”
Pickens, the first five-star recruit Muschamp has signed, was rated as the No. 2 defensive end in the country and the No. 15 overall player. Muschamp said he is “the most low-maintenance guy I have ever recruited in my life.”
“That’s the type of young man he is. He’s is an outstanding young man and he’s going to be a great addition to our team.”
Pickens joins four-star defensive end Joseph Anderson and junior-college transfer Devontae Davis as signees on the defensive line. The Gamecocks also signed four offensive linemen, a priority for Muschamp.
“We are big, long and athletic,” he said. “You’ve got 13 guys that are line-of-scrimmage players and that’s a place we needed to continue to improve our program, is on both lines of scrimmage.
“That was critical for us going into it to continue to have the quality depth we have to have on the line of scrimmage in our league to be successful.”