Josh Kendall

Will Muschamp under pressure entering 2017, and this is why

Will Muschamp’s seat isn’t hot. It’s not even warm. Given the shape of the roster Muschamp inherited and the goodwill he has established with his boss and the Columbia community, it’s virtually cool to the touch.

Still, there is a certain pressure on the Gamecocks head coach as he enters Year 2 in Columbia, and here’s why: For the first five years of Muschamp’s head coaching career, his supporters fell back mostly on one argument, the idea that if could ever find a quarterback, he’d be on to something. During Muschamp’s ill-fated four-year run as Florida’s head coach, he cleaned up the Gators locker room and turned the defense into a powerhouse, but he didn’t win enough games because he couldn’t score enough points, and the notion that the defensive-minded coach was an offense killer was born.

Nothing about last year’s South Carolina offense, which finished last in the SEC in scoring, changed anybody’s mind, but this year might. The Gamecocks have a quarterback – sophomore Jake Bentley – who is the best Muschamp has had as a head coach, and they have offensive weapons to go with him. Now, the people who have always pointed to the positive things Muschamp does for his teams will have their theory put to the test.

The problem for Muschamp is that this bit of fate coincides with what could be the least-effective defense of his head coaching tenure. South Carolina’s defense is unproven at some spots, young at others and perilously thin at still others. So Muschamp’s reputation as a defensive genius will be put to a stern test at the same time his reputation as a hoarder of three-and-outs takes a beating.

If the Gamecocks offense soars but its defense stinks in 2017, the question will become: Can Muschamp ever get them together at the same time?