Josh Kendall

Under Muschamp, Gamecocks must adjust to new play calls

South Carolina’s Perry Orth is one of five quarterbacks battling for the starting job.
South Carolina’s Perry Orth is one of five quarterbacks battling for the starting job. gmelendez@thestate.com

South Carolina starts its first practice under Will Muschamp on March 15. The State will take the 15 days of the month leading up to that to look at 15 “keys” for the Gamecocks as they prepare for Muschamp’s first season.

It’s been a long time since anyone on South Carolina’s offense has had to learn new terminology. Steve Spurrier was the Gamecocks’ coach and offensive architect for almost 11 seasons, and his playbook and what things are called became second nature for the players.

Now, for the first time since 2004, things are different. Not only will new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s plays be different, but the formations and position groups and routes and blocking assignments, etc., will all be called something different, which is bound to cause some problems when the team hits the field for the first time.

The bulk of the change will fall on the five quarterbacks competing for the starting job, and the early competition for the position could hinge on which quarterback comes into spring practice with the best grasp of the new playbook. Perry Orth, Connor Mitch, Lorenzo Nunez, Brandon McIlwain and Michael Scarnecchia have had the playbook for weeks now, and they’ll be expected to hit the ground at least walking on March 15.

Roper and new coach Will Muschamp have been through this before, when Muschamp hired Roper to be his offensive coordinator at Florida in 2014. At that time, Muschamp said he would ease the players into the new terminology.

“You want to kind of have the theory of throwing it all on the wall, see what sticks,” Muschamp told The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun in 2014. “Throw it back on the wall the next day, see what sticks. Pick it up and throw it back on the wall the next day, see what sticks. See who can retain, see who can handle the mental journey through spring. But as you install, you don’t want to get away from techniques and fundamentals of playing good football.

“That’s something each day that Kurt and I will sit down and (discuss). We’ll make sure we’re giving our players enough to be successful, but we’re not putting too much on their plate to where we’re creating a lot of struggles within what we’re trying to do.”

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