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New head coaches Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp inherit very different talent levels

Kirby Smart steps into an excellent situation, while the Gamecocks are going to need time to develop a talented roster.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

With all of the Power 5 coaching jobs filled at the moment, let's take a look at the recruited talent each coach inherits relative to his new school's yearly competition. This is a good way to assess the challenges and expectations a coach will face, as recruiting rankings, while flawed, are as good a mathematical predictor as any in college football.

Three coaching changes took place in the SEC and the situations are not that similar. Because Missouri promoted from within and will likely keep mostly the same systems and staff, let's focus on Georgia and South Carolina.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart steps into a great situation as Georgia's head coach as the Bulldogs have signed 51 four- and five-star prospects in the last four cycles (51 percent of total signees), which is the best in the division. Florida and Tennessee are the next closest in the East, then there is a big dropoff to Will Muschamp's South Carolina Gamecocks and Barry Odom's Missouri Tigers.

This should continue. UGA is in contention to sign the No. 1 class in 2016.

South Carolina, meanwhile, has just two four-star prospects in its class (one being Pennsylvania QB Brandon McIlwain, who could easily opt for pro baseball even if the Gamecocks do keep him away from Penn State). As of this writing, the Gamecocks do not hold a commitment from any of the top 25 players in the Palmetto State. Muschamp has a ton of work to do as the Bulldogs, Gators and Volunteers all seem to be on the upswing.

When we're talking about expectations, schedules matter, too.

While Georgia plays annual games against similar or worse recruiters in Auburn, another SEC West team and Georgia Tech, the Gamecocks must annually face two other teams that out-recruit them: Clemson and Texas A&M. Plus, whatever SEC West team South Carolina draws is also likely to have more talent than the Gamecocks.

The Bulldogs have lost 29 games over the last seven years, so there is clearly room for improvement on the field. Smart should be expected to immediately contend for the SEC Championship. Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Georgia Tech come to Athens in 2016, plus UGA has Florida in Jacksonville, a "neutral-site" contest against UNC in Atlanta and two cupcakes.


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Then there's the most important part: arguably the easiest SEC road slate possible with trips to Kentucky, Mizzou, South Carolina and an Ole Miss that projects to lose the vast majority of its best players. If Smart can get Georgia to play to its talent, it should win at least a game more per season than it had under Mark Richt.

Muschamp, however, plays five games annually against teams that recruit better than the Gamecocks by a significant margin. It would be a surprise if South Carolina loses fewer than 20 games during Muschamp's five-year contract (the Gamecocks lost 21 in their last five seasons, but nine of them were this year), which would still only mean eight-win seasons. Luckily for Muschamp, South Carolina has no reason to have high expectations as it is has no real history of success other than a few recent years.

If South Carolina is patient, there is hope. Steve Spurrier was not known as an elite recruiter, but Muschamp is. Raising the talent level considerably at South Carolina is not out of the question if Muschamp is given enough time.