National Signing Day 2016: Spur of the Moment live blog from Columbia

Richland Northeast linebacker TJ Brunson signs with South Carolina on Wednesday. (David Caraviello/Staff)

3:40 p.m.

Will Muschamp’s National Signing Day presser has just concluded. A few quick notes:

-- “I’m very pleased with where we are,” he said. “But this is a two- or three-year process. Winning on Signing Day isn’t very important to me, About two or three years down the line, we’ll know how good these guys are, how productive these guys are as players for South Carolina.”

-- Of all the players the USC staff visited, Muschamp said only six went somewhere else. The Gamecocks hosted prospects over five different official visit weekends, and Muschamp said most of the players who visited USC signed with the school.

-- Signing quarterback Brandon McIlwain “was huge for us,” Muschamp said. “We needed to sign a quarterback in this class.” Muschamp adds that McIlwain will be football first in the spring, and “when he has time to play baseball, he will contribute to that team. How much is up to (head baseball coach Chad) Holbrook.”

-- Four-star defensive tackle Stephon Taylor is “a big get for us today,” Muschamp saidd. “I’m really excited about him. I’ve been recruitng Stephon for about three years, wearing three differet shirts.”

-- USC signed four offensive linemen in last year’s class, and added four more Wednesday. As to whether any of the new ones will be redshirted, “We make those decisions in fall camp,” Muschamp said. Redshirt decisions will likely be made in made in August, after the second scrimmage of preseason, he added.

-- Muschamp thanked Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner for his help in the recruiting process. “Whether we needed a plane, whether we needed anything,” Tanner was readily available, he added.

That’s it from Williams-Brice Stadium. Check back with postandcourier.com for the full National Signing Day wrapup later today.

2 p.m.

Ran over to Richland Northeast High School to speak with linebacker T.J. Brunson, who took part in the school’s signing ceremony even though USC received his paperwork earlier today. Here’s what he said about Will Muschamp’s ability to change his mind from Louisville, where Brunson had been committed before the new Gamecocks coach took over:

“He’s a hard recruiter. He knows what he’s doing, and exactly what to say and how to say it. He does his job very well.”

As mentioned earlier, Brunson was the first player Muschamp visited, just hours after his introductory press conference, still in the same suit. What impact did that make? “It shows how seriously he takes his job,” Brunson said. “He wants to win. Plain and simple, he wants to win. That definitely made a mark for me and how serious how he thought of me and my athletic abilities.”

Elsewhere, USC has confirmed that it’s received the paperwork from four-star defensive tackle Stephon Taylor. But not from Diondre Champaigne, a receiver from Fort Dorchester High School, who committed to USC but won’t sign today. Fort D head coach Steve LaPrad tells The Post and Courier that USC would prefer to place Champaigne at Jones Community College in Mississippi, the same school where current USC commit Javon Kinlaw of Goose Creek has enrolled.

But Champaigne and his family are not in favor of that decision, and have opted to explore other options. “It’s kind of messy right now. Things are up in the air,” LaPrad told our David Shelton. “It’s really unfortunate. Diondre has some options with a few other junior colleges, but he also could end up being qualified. He’s pretty close. I wish USC had not offered him so early (in December). His family is pretty upset.”

Muschamp’s presser is at 3 p.m., so heading over to the stadium in a bit, More to come.

11:40 a.m.

By all accounts, it’s been a better-than-expected day for South Carolina. The Gamecocks are up to 31st nationally in the Rivals rankings, and are now listed 29th nationally by ESPN. Not exactly LSU territory, but better than the mid-30s where this prospective class was ranked about a week ago.

Not everything has gone USC’s way, though. Lloyd Cushenberry, an offensive lineman from Geismar, La., who had been committed to the Gamecocks, has signed with LSU. Another USC target, defensive end Jacoby Hill from Atlanta, has signed with Memphis. Jeriko Morris, a wide receiver from Crystal Springs, Miss., whom the Gamecocks had recruited, has signed with a junior college.

But the Gamecocks did land Stephon Taylor, Kory Banks, Aaron Thompson and now Randrecous Davis, a three-star wide receiver out of Atlanta who had once been committed to Georgia. USC has confirmed the signing of Davis, 5-10 and 169 pounds, who had also been recruited by Miami.

By my count that’s 14 guys who have signed with USC today, not including the seven early enrollees. So we’re at 21 and counting so far for the Gamecocks, assuming all the paperwork goes through as expected.

11:20 a.m.

Will Muschamp has just spoken to Peter Burns live on ESPNU. “We’ve gotten about four guys today we weren’t certain (of), so that wax a great situation for us,” the Gamecocks head coach said. “And we’re still waiting on another one, so we’ll see how that goes.”

Indeed, the signing of four-star New Orleans defensive tackle defensive tackle Stephon Taylor was a nice surprise for USC. The Gamecocks also snagged receiver Kory Banks of Tyrone, Ga., and three-star defensive tackle Aaron Thompson of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., both of whom had been up in the air. The 6-4, 265-pound Thompson had been committed to Maryland, and was another one of those prospects swayed by Muschamp’s arrival.

USC has confirmed the signings of Banks and Thompson, though not Taylor, who has tweeted that he’s signed with the Gamecocks. USC has also announced the signing of commit Akeem Copperwood, a 6-7, 325-pound offensive tackle out of Knoxville, Tenn.

“It’s been a good day,” Muschamp told ESPNU. He added that he no longer has to wait on faxes; he receives a photo of a National Letter of Intent on his phone, and he forwards it to compliance. Technology!

10 a.m.

The biggest get of this National Signing Day for USC? It might be New Orleans defensive tackle Stephon Taylor, a four-star prospect who has signed with the Gamecocks, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The 6-4, 292-pound Taylor is a top-20 player in Louisiana who had also considered Texas and LSU.

“I like a lot about the Gamecocks,” Taylor said told NOLA.com before his visit to USC. “Coach (Will) Muschamp has been recruiting me since he was at Auburn. Coach T-Rob (defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson), (defensive line) coach Lance Thompson, I know they are going to show me a good time when I get up there and show me how everything looks.”

That’s a pretty good catch for Will Muschamp and Co., who also officially announced the signing of commitments Sadarius Hutcherson and Evan Hinson. Hutcherson is a 6-5, 250-pound defensive end from Tennessee, and Hinson is a 6-5, 215-pound defensive end from Florida.

Taylor, though, will be one of the standout signings of this class. Now we wait to see how USC fares with some of the other undecided players yet to announce their decisions.

9:20 a.m.

South Carolina has announced the signings of three more players who had been pretty firm Gamecocks commitents: offensive lineman Pete Leota of Asheville, N.C., defensive end Griffin Gentry of Birmingham, Ala., and defensive tackle Darius Whitfield of Mobile, Ala.

Leota is a 6-4, 300-pound tackle who is considered a three-star prospect. Gentry, 6-2 and 255 pounds, is a two-star prospect who committed under the previous staff and had originally been pledged to Troy. The 6-3, 265-pound Whitfield is a three-star prospect who played in the Alabama-Mississippi version of the Shrine Bowl.

That takes us up to 10 players signed today, and 17 total so far for USC including early enrollees.

8:55 a.m.

Another Atlanta product, linebacker Robert Tucker, becomes the seventh player to sign with South Carolina on National Signing Day, USC has confirmed. Tucker, 6-3 and 230 pounds, is considered a three-star prospect. To recap, here’s the full list of USC signings and early enrollees thus far:

T.J, Brunson

Korey Banks

Chavis Dawkins

Rico Dowdle

Will Putnam

Robert Tucker

Dennis Wonnum

Jamarcus King

Brandon McIlwain

Chris Smith

C.J. Freeman

Kobe Smith

Kier Thomas

Bryan Edwards

We appear to be in the lull which always follows the early-morning signings, but more is certainly to come. Check back with us later.

8:25 a.m.

South Carolina has announced that it’s received paperwork from another signee, this one receiver Korey Banks of Tyrone, Ga. The three-star wide receiver had been a North Carolina target, and Michigan had also shown some interest. But most sites had considered the 6-foot, 170-pound player a firm commitment to USC, so today isn’t exactly a surprise.

The Gamecocks evidently aren’t going to win every recruiting battle. Phil Kornblut of the South Carolina Radio Network reports that USC commitment Lloyd Cushenberry, a 6-3, 310-pound offensive lineman from Geismar, La., will instead sign with Mississippi State. And two players USC is in on to watch: Defensive end Jacoby Hill of Atlanta, a USC target reportedly leaning toward Memphis, says via Twitter he’ll sign at 10 a.m. today. And Aaron Thompson, a defensive tackle from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who’s in play between USC, Maryland and Pittsburgh, tweeted that he will sign at 11 a.m. Stay tuned.

8 a.m.

The fax machines (by the way, does anyone still use those outside of National Signing Day?) are heating up. USC has confirmed the signing of T.J. Brunson, a 6-foot, 220-pound linebacker out of Richland Northeast High School in Columbia. Brunson had announced via Twitter that he’d sign at the school at 12:30 this afternoon, but obviously his paperwork is in much earlier than that.

Brunson, rated a three-star prospect, is another player Muschamp was able to flip. The former Louisville commitment was the first player Muschamp visited, fresh from his introductory press conference at Williams-Brice Stadium, still in the same suit. Clearly, the effort paid off.

And USC has welcomed the signing of Will Putnam, a 6-5, 270 offensive tackle from Harrisburg, N.C. Another three-star (USC stocks up on those, by necessity) Putnam is one of those players, like quarterback Brandon McIlwain, who committed to USC under the Steve Spurrier regime and stuck with that commitmnt after Muschamp was hired. It probably helped that offensive line coach Shawn Elliott remained on staff.

7:45 a.m.

Like we said, these kids are up and at it early. South Carolina has confirmed Rico Dowdle as the Gamecocks’ first signee, meaning they’ve received his Letter of Intent. The 5-11, 207-pound running back from Asheville played in the Shrine Bowl following his senior season, and is a three-star prospect according to Rivals.

Also: The Gamecocks have confirmed the signing of Chavis Dawkins, a three-star receiver from Byrnes High School in Duncan. Another Shrine Bowl participant, the 6-3, 195-pound Dawkins had been down to USC and North Carolina State. Now, he’s a Gamecock.

USC has also confirmed the signing of Dennis Wonnum, a three-star defensive end out of Stephenson High in Stone Mountain, Ga., where South Carolina has traditionally done very well. The 6-4, 225-pound Wonnum had been an Indiana commitment before Will Muschamp arrived at USC.

More to come.

7 a.m.

Won’t lie, sportswriters aren’t used to being up this early, particularly the morning after a night basketball game (on the road, no less). It might have been Michael Wilbon who said, “Eight-thirty in the morning to a sportswriter is like 5:30 in the morning to everyone else.” Truer words have never been spoken, at least not in this industry. But we make a few exceptions — and National Signing Day is one of them.

Indeed, the fax machines begin whirring into action early, as many prospects ink their National Letters of Intent prior to their first class. So the coffee is on, the oatmeal (steel cut with blueberries, of course) is in the microwave, and a bleary-eyed yours truly is here to report on the goings-on at South Carolina leading up to Will Muschamp’s news conference at 3 p.m.

As much anticipation as there can be on a day like this one, from a USC perspective, expectations perhaps need to be tempered. Despite the presence of touted dual-threat quarterback Brandon McIlwain, Muschamp got a very late start in this process, and the Gamecocks’ prospective class is ranked 37th by Rivals and 28th by ESPN, the sites we put the most faith in.

“It’s hard to grade a class like this, because (Muschamp) has come in so late. They’re coming off a horrendous season. I think they’re doing the best they can,” said Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for Rivals, which also has USC ranked 12th among the 14 schools in the SEC.

“That’s not where you want to be, but it’s really hard. The grade I’d give them would honestly be an incomplete, because the guy’s had so little time to get things going, and he’s overcoming years of neglect. He’s inheriting a car that hasn’t had the oil changed in forever. The tires haven’t been rotated. It probably hasn’t been taken out of the garage when it comes to what they can truly do in recruiting. So he’s up against it. That’s a difficult job.”

Of all the power-five jobs which opened in this offseason, Farrell ranked South Carolina the second-toughest behind Missouri, which has dealt with recent racial strife on campus, and faces what he calls “remote geography” compared to the rest of the SEC. The Gamecocks “are probably sixth or seventh in the Southeast right now, if that,” he added.

So, amid that cheery forecast, onto the signings. South Carolina has six former high school players in this class who have signed and are already enrolled in school: McIlwain, running back C.J. Freeman, receivers Chris Smith and Bryan Edwards, defensive tackle Kobe Smith, and defensive end Kier Thomas. Also in school is junior college cornerback Jamarcus King, who signed in December. Those are the guys who will have a head start by being around for spring practice.

As for anticipated signings today, USC has about 16 commitments and another half-dozen or so players they’re in on. But regardless of what happens, this class isn’t going to unexpectedly vault into the top 10. It’s going to be a building block for Muschamp, whose first task is to restock a talent level that dropped off precipitously in the final seasons under Steve Spurrier. Today is a first step. More later. Now, about that coffee ....