Josh Kendall

This much is clear: Muschamp will get the time he needs to build up Gamecocks

Will Muschamp finished off his third regular season at South Carolina on Saturday. He’s going to finish off a lot more before he leaves Columbia.

Gamecocks athletics director Ray Tanner reflected on Muschamp’s first three seasons Saturday evening as he left Williams-Brice Stadium following South Carolina’s 28-3 win over Akron.

“I really respect and admire the way that coach Muschamp runs his program,” Tanner said. “We are doing very well in football.”

So well, that Tanner did not rule out giving Muschamp a raise and/or contract extension for the second consecutive offseason. In fact, he hinted that he would do just that.

“I’m a fan of Will Muschamp and how he runs his program,” Tanner said when asked about an extension. “I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I worry about him leaving.”

Asked if that meant a change to Muschamp’s deal before the 2019 season, Tanner said again: “I don’t want to be in a situation where I worry about him leaving. I’ll just leave it at that.”

Muschamp already is the 21st-highest paid coach in the country, earning $4.2 million this season. This season was the first year of a six-year agreement that will increase annually through 2023, topping out at $5.2 million in that season.

“The culture is tremendous,” Tanner said. “They work extremely hard in practice. His players respect him. Football is a tough sport. To flip the switch and be at the top, of all the sports you coach, it takes time in football to get your program exactly where you want it, and then to sustain it is difficult.”

Muschamp improved to 22-16 at South Carolina by beating the Zips. That’s the most wins a USC coach has had in his first three seasons. His hiring wasn’t resoundingly embraced in 2015, when he was just one year removed from being fired at Florida after four seasons and a 28-21 record, but he has moved the program forward, sometimes in fits and starts, since that time.

“We’re in a much better place (than the program was three years ago),” Muschamp said Saturday. “I said before the season started that we have a much better football team entering year three whether or not we have a better record than we have a year ago, we have a better football team. We have a stronger foundation. We have a bunch of really good young players.”

The Gamecocks were 3-9 the season before Muschamp took over.

“There has been a culture change,” junior linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “We haven’t gotten to where we want to be yet, but it’s coming. I feel like everyone understands that.”

There are some significant hurdles still to be crossed, clearly. South Carolina is 0-6 against Clemson and Georgia under Muschamp and those two programs don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. The Gamecocks are 1-11 against ranked teams under Muschamp, and they have yet to come close to either of their two annual goals — winning the SEC East and beating the Tigers.

So what makes Muschamp, as he said Saturday night, “excited about where we are and where we’re headed”?

“Overall depth on your roster of what it’s going to take to win a championship, which I have done in this league multiple times,” he said. “We understand where we are and where we need to go. There is nobody more impatient than me in that process.”

The road ahead will take some patience, though.

“We’re not close at 7-5 and you are what your record is,” Muschamp acknowledged.

South Carolina and Tanner are going to give him the time he needs. That was clear Saturday night.