South Carolina’s football coaches say they’ve got confidence in some of the younger players waiting in the wings.
Saturday against Missouri, they started to show some of that.
The day after the game, Will Muschamp was emphatic about why the staff made that choice.
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“We’ve got to play these guys more,” Muschamp said. “We went to Kentucky, it was a cool night. We were monitoring T.J. and Sherrod. But these guys have got to play.”
The pair each got a decent amount of snaps. There were some young player moments, especially as the Tigers did well on the ground. But some of that is part of the learning curve.
Vann got 25 snaps. He’s at a spot thinned by injury, between OrTre Smith being sidelined for the season by a knee and Bryan Edwards battling through a sprained ankle.
USC’s linebacker group has been reduced as well, with Eldridge Thompson done for the season because of a shoulder and Louis not playing the previous two games. But the potential flow of the game and a forecast for warm weather (it ended up raining most of the second half), changed plans.
“It was hot in the first half,” Muschamp said. “We knew they were a tempo team. We felt like we needed to play with some tempo in the game to gas their big guys. And we knew this thing was going to be a 90-snap game.”
The Tigers ended up at 82 snaps. Louis made one tackle, Staley added another.
Louis was a player the staff talked up in the offseason, a 240-pound thumper in the middle USC wrested from Florida State before the early signing day.
Staley’s path has been a little different. He was a star pass rusher at Ridge View in Columbia, but had the skill set and size to move to weakside linebacker. He spent most of last year as a special teamer. He’d played only a little defense in games, almost none when it was competitive.
Then he and Louis were thrown into a game that was competitive throughout. There were bumps, but it might just be a sign of things to come.
“We wanted Rosendo and Damani to be able to get us 30 snaps,” Muschamp said. “They were right up there in the high 20s. We can’t ask T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Greene to play 90 snaps. They’re not going to be effective.”