Will Muschamp gave a room full of South Carolina football fans some hope that his Gamecocks were going to have a presentable running game for the first time in a while.
“Bobby Bentley, our running backs coach, came up to me during camp and said, ‘I’m having more fun coaching than I’ve had in a long time,’” Muschamp told the crowd at the season-opening meeting of the Columbia Touchdown Club. “That’s because Rico (Dowdle) and Ty’Son (Williams) and A.J. (Turner) and Mon (Denson) knew they had to come in every day and compete. The competition we have had through camp is very good. What that promotes is consistency in your performance. At the end of the day, it’s the motivation of AOB – (expletive) on bench. They all want to play.”
That competition at running back, combined with some shuffling on the offensive line, should help the Gamecocks finish better than 12th in the SEC in rushing, which is their best finish in Muschamp’s first two seasons. South Carolina averaged 122.2 yards per game on the ground last year.
Moving Donell Stanley to center and Zack Bailey to guard gives South Carolina a better interior line than it’s had in Muschamp’s time here, he said.
“You’re looking at 300-plus pounds across the board and guys who can bend their lower body and have power,” he said. “We should be able to get some movement inside. That’s something we haven’t had in two years.”
Other points Muschamp addressed included:
▪ On Friday, the Gamecocks will split their team into regulars and scout team players and hold their first practice focused on season-opening opponent Coastal Carolina.
▪ Muschamp has told offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon to “err on the side of being simple” early in the season because of the number of inexperienced players who will be in the game. “We are going to have some young players playing at critical times in a game,” Muschamp said.
▪ True freshman defensive linemen J.J. Enagbare and Rick Sandidge are in the “next group” of defensive linemen after the starters, Muschamp said.
▪ True freshman cornerback Jaycee Horn will start in the team’s nickel formation, Muschamp said. Fellow true freshman Israel Mukuamu is “another guy we are excited about,” Muschamp said.
▪ The Gamecocks will try to combat predictability on offense by using more formations. “As a coach, you always go in with the idea of doing enough to give the defense or offense problems, but, ‘Are you doing so much that your kids are thinking rather than reacting?’ Muschamp said. “Do we need to be more dynamic offensively? Yeah. I think tempo is going to help us and being a little more (multiple) as far as more formations and things like that go. We need to have more variety as far as our looks are concerned.”
▪ The organizers of the Beyonce/Jay-Z concert in Williams-Brice Stadium will pay for the replacement of the playing surface, said Muschamp, who added he had no concerns that the field would be ready for the Sept. 1 opener.
▪ Asked which true freshmen he expects to contribute this year, Muschamp mentioned Horn, Mukuamu, Enagbare, Sandidge, linebacker Rosendo Louis, safety R.J. Roderick, wide receiver Josh Vann and offensive linemen Dylan Wonnum and Jovaughn Gwyn.
▪ Muschamp originally interviewed Dan Werner for South Carolina’s offensive coordinator position before deciding to promote wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon to the position and hire Werner as quarterbacks coach, Muschamp said.