Be honest, when you heard that South Carolina hired Will Muschamp as its new head coach last December, you scratched your head.
You might have even laughed.
You won't be laughing long, because through eight-plus months of his South Carolina tenure, Muschamp has shown signs that his second go-round as an SEC head coach will go much better than his first—when he went 28-21 and 17-15 in conference in four years at Florida from 2011 to 2014.
But for South Carolina fans, patience with Muschamp will be a virtue.
According to the 247Sports team talent composite, the Gamecocks rank ninth in the SEC in overall talent at 657.25—a long way away from eighth-place Ole Miss at 695.12 and far away from shouting distance from its nearest SEC East rival (Florida at 730.11).
Talent isn't everything, but when you couple a talent gap with a transition to a new offense and defense, Year 1 might not go as smoothly as planned.
There's hope on the horizon though.
Mainly, because of how Muschamp has dedicated himself to a more uptempo offensive philosophy under coordinator Kurt Roper. When he hired Roper prior to his last season at Florida, the entire staff knew that the pressure of a pivotal year was hanging over Gainesville like a black cloud.
"I think he's a really good play-caller on game day," Muschamp said of Roper at SEC media days. "I think in a year of transition, under the circumstances, we were in our last year in understanding what was at stake, which he understood what he was getting into. I thought he did a really good job. We averaged 32 points a game. We played extremely well at times in the season and at sometimes still had deficiencies in some areas."
With a fresh start comes a clean slate, and the ability for the entire staff to operate without that cloud hovering.
Plus, there's plenty of talent being assembled.
Muschamp and his staff of ace recruiters already lured a top-tier quarterback tandem in the class of 2016 in Brandon McIlwain and Jake Bentley. McIlwain is the front-runner to win the starting job, while Bentley—who re-classified from the Class of 2017 this spring—is turning heads this week during open practices according to David Caraviello of the Charleston Post and Courier.
Plus, fellow true freshman Bryan Edwards has been busy this summer making catches like this (via: Roper):
More talent is on the way, too.
South Carolina has been on a bit of a recruiting run this August, nailing down the commitments of 4-star linebacker Hamsah Nasirildeen from Concord, North Carolina, and 4-star offensive tackle T.J. Moore from Mallard Creek, North Carolina.
That shouldn't be surprising considering Muschamp's recruiting chops, as well as those of wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon (top recruiter in the nation in 2014), defensive line coach Lance Thompson (third in 2013), defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson (top 25 in 2013 and 2014) and South Carolina high school legend and running backs coach Bobby Bentley.
"I think within a five-hour radius of our campus, we can recruit good enough players to win the East every year," Muschamp said. "I also believe with having an airport where people are able to fly into we have in Columbia I think is a huge selling point for us for a young man to want to be a part of what we're doing at South Carolina, on top of the operations facility."
It could be a slow build, though.
Tennessee has been building for four years under head coach Butch Jones, Florida head coach Jim McElwain took Florida's talent to an SEC East title last year, the talent at Georgia has never been in question and South Carolina has to battle all of these potential juggernauts on the field in the division, as well as on the recruiting trail.
Muschamp will get South Carolina there.
It'll just take some time and patience, as he navigates the program through some high hurdles early during his time in Columbia.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.