College football stands apart from professional sports in this key way: success fuels success in a tangible way. The best way to get better recruits is to win more. The best way to raise funds to be competitive, again spurred by on-field success.
This reality is even built into the fabric of bowl season, and it’s something South Carolina stands to benefit from in coming weeks.
As a bowl team, South Carolina gets extra practices to carry it through late December. There’s time to prepare for South Florida, but more importantly, time to get younger Gamecocks some reps and development going into next season.
“The first four or five practices for us will be about South Carolina,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “It’s about improving our football team, just base fundamentals.
“We’ll start on Thursday (Dec. 15) with our practices. We’ll have 4-5 base fundamentals. We need to get back to the basics.”
To a degree that benefits everyone, but for the most part it’s about the younger players, especially those who don’t factor into weekly game plans or are redshirting.
For some, this is some of the first true practice action since August, when they were just getting their feet wet on the college level. The structure of the practices isn’t night and day different, but one element gets removed.
“From the normal setting standpoint, you’re getting ready for a game, you’re going to go against the scout team,” Muschamp said. “And they’re going to be giving you the offense or defensive looks or special teams looks that the other team may give you. The first four or five practices are going to strictly be South Carolina and South Carolina, fastball work, good on good.
“We still, regardless of preparation, we always do good-on-good in everything we do. We just don’t do as many reps, and we cut back a little bit so we can get the scout team reps.”
The Gamecocks have already deployed a lot of less-seasoned players during the season, with 19 first-time starters and seven true freshman starters.
The sessions will only be a few hours for four or five days in the quiet period between finals and Christmas, but there’s a possible carry over. These practices can prepare players for spring, which in turn carries over to August when position battles are settled for good.
And while players who are not in the mix during the season still can take part in meetings, get mental reps and work on basic skills in position periods of practice, there’s something essential missing without that 11-on-11 work.
“You can’t get better playing defensive tackle,” Muschamp said. “You need to take on a 700-pound double team, which we’re going to do a lot in these coming practices. Playing the game and getting terms and reps, let the game slow down for those younger guys, is going to continue to help.”