South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp wouldn’t mind getting an early look at his freshmen, but he always has to be cognizant of the potential payoff of having them take a redshirt season.
With a proposal that came out of the American Football Coaches Association convention in January, he wouldn’t have to chose.
The proposed rule change would allow freshmen to play in up to four games and still be able to take a redshirt. Muschamp said he liked the idea in a radio interview with Teddy Heffner and Rick Sanford on WGCV on Wednesday morning.
“A lot of times, early in the year especially, you don’t know how a young man is going to continue to develop,” Muschamp said. “And I think that is a good rule. I think that’s really kind of what the rule was when I played in college. You had three games and if you played in those three and didn’t play after that, then you were automatically a redshirt candidate. I do think that would be good. I’d be for the five years of eligibility.”
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South Carolina had a redshirt question with true freshman quarterback Jake Bentley, keeping him off the field for six games before inserting him in the lineup. The Gamecocks also put freshman tailback Rico Dowdle into the lineup after he missed the early part of the season with an injury.
One of Muschamp’s rationales lined up with the AFCA’s: using freshmen to help with short-term injuries and share workloads.
“At proven positions you can get real thin,” Muschamp said. “That would benefit the student athlete as much as anything.”
Putting in work
Muschamp said the staff made January a grind for the players, having them on a schedule of four lifting workouts a week. They’ll go to three as they head into the next stage of the offseason, when the coaches are off the road after signing day.
He also said he’s been pleased with how many players were coming in for optional lifts on Saturday, often between 25-30. That, he said, is a sign of the culture he wants being established.
▪ As Muschamp looked back on the decision process of when to play Bentley, he noted a critical factor revolved not only about him being ready but also the set of playmakers around him being ready. USC was woefully thin at receiver and running back early in the season.
▪ Muschamp said the top position his team needs to improve is the defensive front. That was particularly apparent as the staff started reviewing film from the season.
“If you can’t stop the run, it makes for some long nights,” Muschamp said.
▪ He noted the offense has a lot of the SEC-level playmakers, but the defense still needs to make strides.
▪ To that end, Muschamp pointed to the speed the team brought in at linebacker, as Sherrod Greene, Damani Staley, Davonne Bowen and Eldridge Thompson all ran 40-yard dashes in the 4.5-second range at camp. He also noted the incoming wide receiver and defensive backs add an infusion of speed.
▪ Muschamp credited wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s success to a work ethic that treated every practice and even offseason lifts like a game day.