Shane Beamer is closing in on his second recruiting class as the head coach at South Carolina.
After salvaging the 2021 class, Beamer and his staff are on pace for a top 25 recruiting class this cycle as the Gamecocks hope to build off their 6-6 regular season.
And while the new contingent of coaches is still putting things in place, it’s worth looking back on how the first class of the Will Muschamp era affected that regime and why Beamer’s 2022 class could be so crucial.
Here’s a look at the top five players from Muschamp’s 2016 recruiting class:
1) Bryan Edwards — four-star receiver (Conway, S.C.)
Bryan Edwards was the second-highest rated prospect in South Carolina’s 2016 class and it showed during his time in Columbia.
He finished his USC career with more than 3,000 receiving yards on 243 catches. His best year in garnet and black came as a senior when he corralled 71 receptions for 816 yards and six touchdowns despite playing in just 10 games.
The Conway native has been an integral part of what the Las Vegas Raiders are building after he was selected in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft.
2) Jake Bentley — four-star quarterback (Opelika, Alabama)
Jake Bentley’s career at South Carolina was up and down, but he may be the best quarterback the Gamecocks have had since the Steve Spurrier era.
Bentley concluded his time at USC as one of the most prolific passers in school history over 33 appearances. He ranks second all-time in completion percentage (62.5%), third in passing touchdowns (55), fourth in pass attempts (1,002) and passing yards (7,527) and sixth in completions (626) and career wins (19).
After suffering a lisfranc injury in South Carolina’s 2019 opener that sidelined him for the rest of the season, Bentley played out his college career at Utah and South Alabama. Bentley guided the Jaguars to the third-best passing offense in the Sun Belt this year.
3) Parker White — Unranked kicker (Mount Pleasant, SC)
It’s hard to believe Parker White is still on South Carolina’s roster in 2021.
With just a few kicks in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, he’ll stand alone atop the USC record books. White enters his final game as a Gamecock just four points shy of the school’s all-time scoring record.
The Mount Pleasant native has been one of the most productive kickers in the history of South Carolina’s program. White has hit 69 of his 96 field-goal attempts and 149 of 151 extra points.
White has hit 13 of his 14 field-goal attempts this year and set a career-long with a 54-yarder against Kentucky.
4) D.J. Wonnum — three-star defensive end (Stone Mountain, Georgia)
One of the lowest-ranked players in South Carolina’s 2016 class, D.J. Wonnum had as much of an impact as anyone out of this group.
Wonnum, who’s now in his second year with the Minnesota Vikings, wreaked havoc in the trenches against Southeastern Conference competition during his time at South Carolina. His 29.5 tackles for loss rank ninth in school history and he was named the SEC Defensive Player or Lineman of the Week on four occasions.
The Georgia product was a two-time team captain in 2017 and 2019 and is one of just three players in school history to be named a permanent team captain as a sophomore. Wonnum was selected in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL draft by the Vikings.
5) Rico Dowdle — three-star running back (Asheville, NC)
Rico Dowdle has evolved into a solid contributor in the NFL, and he was wildly productive during his South Carolina career.
Dowdle concluded his time at USC with 2,167 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on 428 carries and added another 62 catches for 483 yards and three scores receiving.
After going undrafted in the 2020 NFL draft, Dowdle has since latched on with the Dallas Cowboys. He’s recorded seven carries for 24 yards but has contributed as a special teamer and as a returner.
OL Sadarius Hutcherson
DL Javon Kinlaw (Did not qualify)
LB T.J. Brunson