Different coaches have different philosophies on using starters on special teams. Will Muschamp made his thoughts clear during South Carolina Media Day on Monday.
“It’s one-third of the game. It’s our chance to control the vertical field position of the game,” he said. “We don’t have enough team speed for our best players to not play there. The best players play. It gives us the chance to change the momentum of the game.”
Muschamp said he learned his beliefs from longtime NFL coach Bill Parcells.
“If you’re not a quarterback and not an offensive linemen and you won’t play special teams, you’re a selfish player,” he said. “We just had a team meeting that selfish players will not be tolerated in our organization. They’re going to play special teams.”
▪ The Gamecocks are still waiting for a final member of the 2016 recruiting class to make it to campus.
“Still no update on Akeem Cooperwood,” Muschamp said. “I’m (not) sure when that will be resolved. He’s still working through a class issue there.”
The massive junior college offensive tackle (6-foot-7, 359 pounds) said earlier in the offseason he planned to make a quick impact.
▪ Linebacker Skai Moore and quarterback Michael Scarnecchia both being out for the season had already been released, but Muschamp detailed a few more injuries.
Sophomore defensive end Shameik Blackshear is fully cleared from his offseason injuries (shooting) and will be ready to practice.
Tight end Kyle Markway will be out for the next two weeks after having a screw put into his foot in the spring. Tight end K.C. Crosby will be out until Friday with chest issues.
Defensive tackle Stephon Taylor will be limited after labrum surgery in March. Freshman tight end Evan Hinson has been cleared after a meniscus tear, but will have limited reps, and center Alan Knott will also be limited because of surgery on his hand.
Physical to a point
Muschamp’s goal is for his team to be fresh, fast and physical when USC opens the season Sept. 1 at Vanderbilt, and to get to that point the Gamecocks will have to be smart about the way they go about practice.
Muschamp said South Carolina will have physical practices in fall camp, but he will do everything he can to ensure players stay healthy.
“There’s a fine line there as far as are you having enough contact to be ready for the opener and can be fresh and fast and physical, but still have enough guys healthy to be able to do that,” Muschamp said.
He added the Gamecocks will likely only tackle to the ground twice during fall camp – the team’s scrimmages.
“We don’t go to the ground, and a lot of these new practice suggestions we’ve been doing for a long, long time,” Muschamp said. You can still have great physicality in practice and not take anybody to the ground. You’ve got to take care of each other. You can still compete and have great physicality in practice and have a great physical edge for our football team and not get anybody hurt.”
Speak not a word
Muschamp said South Carolina’s freshmen won’t speak publicly at the start of the season, and it remains to be seen if they’ll speak all season. Not letting first-year players talk isn’t uncommon.
“I just want to educate our guys a little bit,” Muschamp said. “Because a lot of these guys ... don’t always know how to handle questions the right way. I think it’s important for them to understand it’s not just about them and where they’re from and their family. They’re now representing the University of South Carolina.”
Leader for kickoffs?
Muschamp is hopeful that redshirt freshman Joseph Charlton from A.C. Flora will win the kickoff job and keep Elliott Fry from having to handle placekicker duties and kickoff duties.
“I’d really like for that to happen,” Muschamp said. “I think it’s sometimes hard when your placekicker is your kickoff guy… Sometimes he strains something. I’ve had that happen before. In a game situation that’s never good. (Charlton) certainly has the leg for it. He just needs to do consistently well kicking the ball and place it because ball placement is so important on all the kickoffs.”
The Gamecocks couldn’t hire Marcus Lattimore to a multifaceted support role early this offseason, and Monday, Muschamp announced the team had its man.
Charles Jackson, Jr. was brought on as a character counselor, life coach and to help with spiritual development. He pastors at Brookland Baptist Church and New Laurel Street Missionary Baptist
“Really pleased to be able to have him on-board,” Muschamp said. “From Columbia, was a student-athlete at South Carolina State. Has been in the shoes of what our guys go through.
“Took a little longer than I thought it would, but it’s not about a guy. It’s about finding the right guy.”