USC Gamecocks Football

Muschamp turns page from Florida days

It will be a popular theme this year and throughout his tenure. Will Muschamp has patiently answered every question about what went wrong at Florida, and what he’ll do to correct it at South Carolina.

As the time approaches to show what he’s learned and will do different, he can’t promise the results will be grand right away.

What Muschamp can promise is he’ll take what he has now, and what he can find on the recruiting trail, and adapt the Gamecocks’ approaches to fit that talent. He won’t be married to an inflexible scheme.

“I always think, whether it’s on offense or defense, is ‘do what your players can do,’” Muschamp said on the eve of Tuesday’s first practice. “The worst thing you can do is say, ‘Here’s our scheme, this is what we are,’ and it may not fit exactly what your players can do.”

He knows first-hand. Muschamp won at Florida, but not the way Florida won under Urban Meyer. Muschamp’s Gator defenses were ferocious and he cleaned up an outlaw team, restoring Florida’s reputation as a trouble-free, players-graduate program.

But Florida’s offense never got off the ground, and Muschamp’s preferred approach of grind-the-clock, lean-on-the-defense style wore thin with Gators who were used to Steve Spurrier and Meyer zinging passes down the field and earning sunburn from the flashing scoreboard lights. Muschamp’s style was fine when Florida won, but when the close wins turned to close losses and the Gators kept plodding and misfiring, the same Swamp that cheered so loudly during three national championship seasons was infested with boos.

Muschamp recently told college football guru Tony Barnhart that he probably made a mistake at Florida, trying to go pro-style when the Gators had won with the read-option spread, and thus had recruited players to fit that mold. At the Gamecocks’ Media Day Monday, he continued that school of thought.

“It’s not about what you know as a coach and what you scheme and what you think your players can do, it’s about what can they do,” Muschamp said. “I think that’s something in camp, especially with some younger players on both sides of the ball, we’re going to have to make some decisions early about what exactly we can do.”

So what can they do?

Senior tackle Mason Zandi warned not to believe the hype of USC not having many stars. “What we have is as talented a group as there is in the country,” he declared. “There is no lack of talent.”

He may be right, as there isn’t much known talent to base a prediction on. That’s why the Gamecocks have been picked last in the SEC East by several and are considered a longshot to make it to a bowl game.

Muschamp has taken over a program left nearly bare in terms of star players, and to his credit, has immediately restored a recruiting presence. Now to see what he can get from what he inherited and what he was able to add in the past eight months.

Three quarterbacks will bid for time. A fleet of young running backs waits behind starter David Williams. The Gamecocks are set at tight end and are at least comfortable with their starting offensive line. Their receivers aren’t proven but have been mentioned as potential breakout stars.

USC may run. It may pass. The Gamecocks may turn to the back pages of the playbook that are only there for emergencies in the first quarter. It all depends on what Muschamp discovers about his team over the next month, and what he can design to suit that team.

Not force his team to adapt to a set way.

“That’s something we’ve really challenged our staff, as far as finding out what’s best for our players,” Muschamp said. “It’s not about our scheme, it’s about how we do it as much as what we do.”

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