South Carolina football will try to take advantage of a week without a game, as it won’t have to return to the field until Oct. 27 against Tennessee.
The biggest goal might not have much to do with retelling strategy or anything between the lines.
“A lot of guys are playing banged up,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “So getting healthy, No. 1. No. 2, just continue to focus on us and what we have to do to get better. It’s going to be strictly about us and what it takes to win football games. Whatever that is.”
The Gamecocks are coming off a tight loss against Texas A&M, which followed a harrowing win against Missouri. The team is 3-3, almost assuredly needing a win against the suddenly feisty Volunteers (who beat Auburn) to make a bowl game.
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USC coach Will Muschamp laid out the team’s plans for the off week:
▪ Sunday/Monday – Players are off and can go home
▪ Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday – Practices self-focus and more young players getting work
▪ Friday/Saturday – Players off again
▪ Sunday – Start Tennessee week
▪ Monday/Wednesday/Friday – Coaches on the road recruiting
Muschamp said those three practices would have a wide variety of focuses all tied together by a common theme that’s plagued the team all season: self-inflicted errors.
Topics he mentioned included stopping run, red zone offense, the flow of the game on offense, improving the turnover front (USC is minus-six in conference play) and securing the ball on catches before trying to make a play (USC had at least five costly drops vs. the Aggies).
Bentley said the open week will also allow younger players to get the extra work, unencumbered by the need to immediately prepare to play. Both safety J.R. Roderick and offensive lineman Dylan Wonnum got a lot of work in the A&M game and could see more work going forward.
Bentley pointed out, the off week in 2016 was a key point in his ascent.
He appeared set to redshirt behind Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain. But after both struggled and Bentley got a chance to show his skill in practices, he ascended to a starting role.
He ended up leading USC to a 4-3 finish and starting the next 24 games.
He predicted another player might just take advantage the way he did.
“Kind of my situation,” Bentley said. “Come on in the bye week, get my reps. There’s probably going to be a guy on the team that gets his opportunity and has a great week of practice and gets some playing time.”