USC Gamecocks Football

‘Hate playing your friends.’ What Jimbo Fisher said about Will Muschamp, Gamecocks

Will Muschamp and Jimbo Fisher meeting as opposing head SEC football coaches is over two decades in the making.

Muschamp’s South Carolina Gamecocks (3-2, 2-2 SEC) are hosting Fisher’s 22nd-ranked Texas A&M Aggies (4-2, 2-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium. This comes 23 years after the two began on the same Auburn staff and 17 years after they started on the same LSU staff.

A professional upbringing in the same league is only part of their relationship.

“We’re friends,” Fisher said Monday during a news conference in College Station, Texas. “We used to own a beach house together. It was a lot of things.

“He’s always been a great friend, a great guy. He was a (graduate assistant) at Auburn when I was coaching at Auburn. And he and my brother were the GAs, believe that or not. So it goes way back. We’ve known each other for a long time. ... You hate playing all your friends, you really do.”

Saturday marks the pals’ fifth all-time meeting against one another. While leading Florida State, Fisher beat Muchamp’s Florida Gators three times in four years.

USC, in year three under Muschamp, is coming off a thrilling win over Missouri. A&M, in year one under Fisher, just handed Kentucky its first loss.

“Will’s one of the brightest guys I’ve ever been around,” Fisher said.

Some other noteworthy nuggets from Fisher’s Monday sessions with Texas reporters:

  • The Aggies plan on arriving early to Columbia.

Texas A&M is coming this way on Thursday. Typically, teams travel to road games only a day ahead of a game. The two-day strategy is something Fisher started with his Florida State teams.

“I originally started with the noon games on the road because you were in there so late,” Fisher said. “You get in at 5 or 6 in the evening and bang-bang, it’s 7 the next morning.

“And then we started for the rest and the recuperation two nights before the game. The sleep you get and the rest you get is very important.

“Also, when you leave the next day, academically it helps. People say, ‘How do you know?’ We take our whole academic people with us and they have study hall and class, their tutoring sessions and their study halls. It’s two, three, four hours that morning. They sleep in until 9 and we don’t start anything until 1:30.”

  • Fisher doesn’t see much difference between South Carolina’s two quarterback options.

Whether USC brings back Jake Bentley or sticks with the red-hot Michael Scarnecchia behind center Saturday remains unknown. No matter the direction the Gamecocks go, Fisher won’t be making major tweaks to the A&M defense, a unit that ranks 23rd nationally.

“Their whole system can’t change,” Fisher said of USC’s offense. “They’re not going to change the whole system. What the guy did last week was very good and was very similar to what they did before. One guy may have more quarterback runs than the other.

“I think they’re much more similar than they are different. But both guys are excellent players. Bentley’s a heckuva player. I’ve known him since high school. His dad’s a great coach, great guy. And Scarnecchia, he’s come in and has done a great job for them to go play like they did. So we’re going to face a good one whoever we face.”

  • Fisher respects USC’s offense.

The Gamecocks, for the most part, have underachieved offensively this season. While averaging 41 points in their three wins, Bentley and company totaled 27 in losses to nationally ranked Georgia and Kentucky.

The Aggies defensively are more similar to the Bulldogs and Wildcats than they are Coastal Carolina or Mizzou. But a threat still exists, Fisher said.

“This game,” he said, “we’re going to have to maintain. Because they can score points. They got dynamic receivers. Deebo (Samuel), that guy can make plays all over the field. Quarterback played an outstanding game (against Missouri). They can run it physically. (Shi Smith) can fly. They got a big 6-4, 220-pound wideout (Bryan Edwards). They got skill guys outside.

“We’re gonna have to start fast and finish strong. I know that. This will be a battle. That’s a very, very tough hostile environment.”