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Tuesday Tidbits: Will Muschamp discusses bye week preparation, previews Tennessee

The Gamecocks are ready to get back on the field.

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks are back in action when they finally get a night game at home against the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday. Coach Will Muschamp met with the media, updating us on how the Gamecocks spent their bye week. The highlights:

On Tennessee’s quarterback situation

“Jarret Guarantano — over 60% of his passes he’s completing, but what really strikes you when you watch the tape is the deep balls. Very accurate with the deep balls, he’s got a good corps of receivers who do a really good job of finishing on plays down the field. Keller Chryst, transfer from Stanford, did a fantastic job against Alabama. He was very efficient, and they’re very similar skillset guys. Don’t see a lot of difference in what they do or what they call from the standpoint of who’s in the ballgame, so we’ll be prepared for both guys.”

On the injury front

“DJ Wonnum practiced today and he’s ready to go for Saturday. It’s great to have him back. AJ Turner will be cleared for Saturday. Nick Harvey and JT Ibe will be out.”

On where Bryson Allen-Williams will line up with Wonnum back

“He’ll still be on the edge. I think it can vary from game to game, but in this game, having both their presence on the edges helps us. Bryson’s been very active and had a really good year to this point.”

On all the dropped passes so far

“I don’t think you can get overly technical. The bottom line is we have to secure to the tuck as far as catching the football is concerned. In times, we’re trying to catch the football and look ahead down the field, and you’ve gotta secure the catch first. Guys are on the JUGG machine a little bit more. Those guys are talented guys who have caught a lot of footballs for us. No one needs to tell them they need to improve in that area.”

On scheduling the 12th game

“I’m very confident we’ll be playing Dec. 1. I don’t know against who; that’s Coach Tanner, and I’ll let him handle that.”

On Jake Bentley’s health

“I wouldn’t say that he was 100 percent in our last ball game. I’d say he was a pretty high percentage, we wouldn’t have put him out there if he couldn’t protect himself. I’ve certainly seen him more mobile in the off week and today, as opposed to maybe before.”

On Josh Belk’s progress

“He’s doing a really good job. Josh is in a really good place for me right now. We need to get him in shape and we need to get him healthy, and that’s the most important thing and that’s what we’re working through right now. I’ve been really proud of how he’s handling things.”

On recent series history against Tennessee

“They’ve always been closely contested games. There’s no doubt it will be a great environment here at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday night. I don’t know who’s keeping the clock on the field — they got about 12 plays in 3 seconds last year. That was unusual.”

On some of the younger players who are standing out

Rosendo Louis, Ernest Jones, Danami Staley at the linebacker position — I’ve seen some strides there. RJ Roderick continues to do some nice things at the safety position. Josh Vann is a young receiver that is getting more and more opportunities to do some good things for us. Jordan Rhodes is an offensive guard, continues to improve.”

On what he wants to see from Bentley moving forward

“Play within what he’s asked to do. Play in the moment and do what we’re asking you to do from a read standpoint and taking the ball to the right spots. Obviously, ball security would be No. 1. Gotta take care of the football. We’ve had three interceptions in the end zone. That’s something we can’t afford to have happen. You look at the point swing that we’ve had — turnovers in our red zone, or in the opponent’s red zone — is about a 52-point swing. That’s very difficult to overcome. Taking care of the football is No. 1.”

On how he measures progress

“From the standpoint of player improvement, unit improvement. When you look from week-to-week, month-to-month within the season; day-to-day progress. Obviously, you’re measured by your record. You are what your record is at the end of the day, we’re 3-3 right now. But from my eyes, I see a lot of improvement from Week 1 to where we are at this point.”

On the Gamecocks’ sluggish starts to games

“We talk about things as far as getting out the gate quick if we can. I thought we played extremely well in Nashville starting the game. I think on sides of the ball, we’ve played well in parts, but not overall. That’s something we continue to talk about within the organization and what we need to do to get out of the gates quicker. We talk about the coin toss more than you could even imagine. There’s a lot that goes into that.”

On RPOs and the rushing attack

“The RPOs have been very productive for us. I think it’s a little misleading sometimes for Bryan [McClendon], when you’re calling a run and it’s tagged with an RPO and they give you a loaded box, or the flow of a linebacker, or the safety spends down to give you a bad number in the box, you’re throwing the RPO because numbers tell you to do that. It gets in your mind a little as the game flow is going along, in your mind you’ve called the run, but we’re throwing an RPO. We talked about in the off week — playing a run to a run. If we’re gonna run it, let’s run the ball. But we’re not going to get away from the RPOs because they have been very productive and they create one-on-ones with some of our best players.”