The South Carolina Gamecocks have a big week ahead, and coach Will Muschamp talked all about it at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. The highlights:
On the injury front
"Jaycee practiced today, he should be fine for the game. A.J. (Turner) practiced today, he should be fine. Hoping to get Aaron Sterling back -- he practiced some today, but Inot the whole practice. Hoping to get him back for Saturday, at least in a part-time role."
On the running back rotation
"Whoever practices the best and gives us the best opportunity to win the game Saturday will be the one to carry the ball. Mon (Denson) and A.J. have been fine."
On the previous two Carolina-Clemson games he's coached
"We gotta do a better job coaching and playing, that's the bottom line. Continuing to build our program. I give Coach Swinney and his staff credit, they've done a really good job. The (NFL) draft speaks for itself, as far as the guys in April every year. We've gotta continue to build to that. It takes time sometimes."
On the Palmetto Bowl versus other rivalries he's been a part of
"They're all unique in their own ways. We don't really have a pro team other than the Panthers in this state, so the focal point is very similar to the Iron Bowl. ... You're either on one side or the other. There's not a lot of fans from other universities in our state other than South Carolina and Clemson, and that to me is probably what's unique. I'd probably say the same in Alabama, you're either Auburn or you're Alabama."
On the Gamecocks' lack of success in the first half against the Tigers
"I think we're much better offensively than we've been the past two years. We've made some strides there. We've been very good starting games, especially of recent. There's no question it's important in any road game to get off to a good start, especially against them. They play very well from ahead. That's been the case.most of the year for them. There's no question getting out of the gates fast is important."
On what he's told the team about the passion of this game
"Just gotta keep your composure. It's going to be an emotional game. ... We had a couple situations last year where we lost our composure, a couple critical situations -- keep a drive alive and then an off-setting penalty we retaliated to a situation we shouldn't have. At the end of the day, you gotta keep your composure. Don't hurt your football team."
On the inevitable comparisons to Clemson's program
"I can't control anything outside of our program and what they do. At the end of the day, I'm focused on the University of South Carolina and what we need to do to continue to take steps forward in our program and to compete for championships. That's what we're about. ... I worry about the things I can control, and that's South Carolina."
On how the previous games against Clemson are discussed in the locker room
"We went up there our first year and had some guys that didn't compete. That wasn't gonna happen again, and that was our message for our football team. It's about competing. That was the situation we were in our first year, unfortunately, and that's why we're here. You gotta continue to coach through that and build the culture you want in your organization. We're much better now than we were then."
On Jake Bentley's ability to perform against the Tigers
"He's a three-year starter. Not only is he better, but we're much better around him. ... It's not just one person's responsibility to go play well, it's everyone's responsibility."
On the most intense stadium environment he's ever been to
"Williams-Brice Stadium, that's a dumb question. ... On the road? Williams-Brice Stadium. I was an opposing coach."
On all the young players in the secondary
"I'm just hoping they line up in the right spot. (laughs) They'll be fine."
On Clemson freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence's success
"Really good command of what they do and how they do it. There's not a lot of change, there's not a lot of reduction in what they do from the last two years because of his being a freshman. I don't see that. I see a lot of carryover of what they do offensively. Probably the greatest compliment I could say would be that. They're not pulling things back off the table and not repping things that they do because of his age, so he's obviously very smart and handles things extremely well."