USC Gamecocks Football

Is this Will Muschamp’s best Gamecocks team? He likes what he has cooking

Will Muschamp’s grandest appearance at SEC Media Days opened with talk of one of America’s most popular barbecue products.

He might be entering a fourth year as South Carolina’s head football coach, with a daunting schedule and the challenge of bouncing back from a season that fell short of outside expectations. But he claimed the title of the SEC’s master of The Big Green Egg.

His specialty with the multipurpose cooker? “It’s anything you want ... I can do it.”

Coming into the 2019 season, he thinks he has his best set of ingredients since coming to Columbia. Nearly every player on the South Carolina roster signed on to play for him.

And he’s not shy about the quality of the squad he thinks he’s got, led by senior quarterback Jake Bentley.

“You’ve got a veteran quarterback returning,” Muschamp said. “I think we’ve recruited very well. We’ve got very good quality depth on our football team. A look at our senior class and you look at guys like Bryan Edwards, who is probably going to leave South Carolina with every receiving record there is. Donell Stanley is a (three-year) starter, Bryan is a four-year starter, Jake is a four-year starter.”

Muschamp went on to list a promising left tackle, more offensive line depth, multiple tight ends, receivers, his defensive line and the top-end talent in the secondary. (The linebacker play and defensive back depth were concerning.)

The looming question is a schedule that includes the likes of Clemson, Georgia and Alabama just to start, but he’s had a whole offseason to workshop and hone that answer from local media and from all manner of fans.

“Hell, schedule’s hard every year,” Muschamp said, not preventing a few questions about it.

Muschamp rolled into Hoover with his usual blend of to-the-point coaching breakdowns and some jovial punchiness.

After talking Big Green Egg, he went back and forth with the first writer to ask him a question. When someone said he was a bit older than LSU coach Ed Orgeron, he stepped in to fully illustrate the 10-year gap.

“He’s a lot older than me, and he looks a lot older than me,” he quipped.

He got a little short when someone invoked the phrase “little brother” when talking about Clemson.

“We’re not the little brother. We’re not. OK? No.”

He’s a man whose team sits in an interesting spot. Experts and media personalities across the sport have declared his team will almost assuredly be better than its record. The Gamecocks are coming off a disappointing campaign, but not at all in a win-or-else situation.

And beyond that, he’s coming to an end with the players who comprised his beginning in Columbia.

He pointed out his seniors took a leap of faith when they picked his team. They’ve come through a rapid ascent to whatever one considers last season, and now have that final chapter facing long odds.

The players who joined him epitomize that. T.J. Brunson and Bryan Edwards were his first recruiting visits the afternoon and night after he was officially introduced. Quarterback Jake Bentley has been to the past three SEC Media Days, making him nearly as much an emblem of Muschamp’s program as Muschamp himself.

Now they’ll take that last and next step together.

“Because we came in the same time, I think coach has done an unbelievable job of steering the ship in the right direction,” Bentley said. “After the way it was going and getting it turned around, I think the guys that came in as freshmen, not really having an example of a true leader. ... We really had to kind of learn on our own about what true leadership is.

“We learned from coach Muschamp.”

West Coast raised. Midwest educated. Southern football indoctrinated. Covers most everything Gamecocks, primarily football.
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