Maybe, when Will Muschamp gets back into The Swamp and is giving his new football team one final pep talk before Saturday’s game, it will be different, but so far it’s business as usual at South Carolina.
“It’s not personal. It’s football. We have to go down there and take care of business,” Gamecocks senior offensive lineman Mason Zandi said. “If (Muschamp) has a chip on his shoulder, that’s between him and them. He hasn’t really reflected any of that energy on us yet. It’s just a normal game week.”
That seems hard to believe considering Muschamp is taking his new team to face his old team at Florida, where he was fired after coaching from 2011-2014. The Gamecocks (5-4 overall, 3-4 SEC) will face the Gators (6-2, 4-2 SEC) at noon in a game televised by CBS. Muschamp was asked during his regular Tuesday news conference how the meeting will affect him.
“I don’t know. I won’t know until game day,” he said. “I stayed at the office normally how late I stay at the office last night. I got in the office about the same time I normally get to the office. Nothing changes as far as the work week is concerned, whether we’re playing Florida or anyone else on our schedule. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to Gainesville.”
When the Gamecocks do arrive it will be Senior Day for the Gators, who’ll be honoring a class that was recruited by Muschamp.
“You know, it’s a little odd from the point of Muschamp recruiting me personally and a lot of other guys on the team,” Florida senior defensive lineman Joey Ivie said. “I still remember when Muschamp came to my house for an in-house visit. That’s something you’ll never forget as a kid, so it’s definitely going to be something special for us who played for Muschamp to play against him.”
Ivie said he believes the team chemistry has improved at Florida since he arrived in 2013.
“From my freshman year to now, we’re a completely different team,” he said. “ We’re all friends. Freshman year, it was very different. There were a lot more individuals. It just didn’t feel like a team. This year feels like a team.”
Gators wide receiver Ahmad Fullwood said Muschamp and new Florida coach Jim McElwain are “edgy guys.”
“They like to bring a lot of charisma and a lot of energy,” Fullwood said. “Mac, I’ll tell you he’s a little more outspoken and confident. Not saying Muschamp wasn’t, but it was just apparent (McElwain) was really, really buying into what we were and he was giving it his all. Once he got us to come around to his level of confidence, I mean, we were just unstoppable.”
Coaching against his former players will be “no different than you coach against people you’ve worked with multiple years and that your families are close with,” Muschamp said. “On game day, nobody is going to be more competitive than me or them on their sideline to win the game and representing their university and my university here at South Carolina and doing a great job for the players you’re coaching now.”
Muschamp “means a lot to” his former players, McElwain said.
“Will did a heck of a job and he’s a really good football coach,” McElwain said. “Sometimes things don’t work, and that’s no fault of his. There’s good players. He means a lot to them, and vice versa. And that’s the way it should be. That’s the sign of a good coach. I’m sure there’s things going through his mind. And yet, I’m also sure he’s worried about his team just as I am about our team.”
It didn’t work out
What went wrong for Muschamp at Florida:
Offensive coaching staff
If Muschamp could redo one thing, it probably would be the hiring of Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator. It never clicked, and Weis’ replacement Brent Pease didn’t either.
The QB Situation
Jeff Driskel was supposed to be “The Guy” at Florida – 6-foot-4 and a five-star recruit – but after a successful 2012 season he was never the same player after a broken leg in 2013.
2014 USC Game
Muschamp was fired the day after his team gave up two blocked kicks in the final four minutes and lost 23-20 in overtime. It dropped his conference record to 17-15.
Muschamp beat the Vols four times, but he was 1-3 against Georgia and 1-3 against FSU. The Gators’ loss to the Bulldogs in 2012 kept Florida out of the SEC title game.
Georgia Southern Game
The Gators lost seven straight games to end the 2013 season but none was more damaging than a 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern.