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Coach Will Muschamp previews South Carolina’s fall camp

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We’re less than a month away, folks.

Big smiles, everyone! Football is almost here.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Happy almost-football! The South Carolina Gamecocks open their fall camp today, and coach Will Muschamp gave a good overview of what we can expect as the team prepares for the season in earnest. Here are some of the highlights:

On the coaching staff’s general philosophy entering camp

“As we get into camp, we will not start on Coastal until school starts. We will spend time focusing on South Carolina, and focusing on ourselves. That was one of the big things I talked to the guys about in the meeting today is that it is not about any opponents right now, it is about South Carolina and us getting better and improving every day.”

On the team’s health

“Injury front-wise, Brad Johnson and Eldridge Thompson will be limited, day-to-day with hamstring from the summer. Both of those guys I think it will be just a couple of days, I do not think it is going to be a long term deal. ... Lavonte Valentine has got to strengthen his knee. I’m hoping to get him cleared by the middle to end of camp, so he will be cleared for contact. ... Jabari Ellis had a scope on his knee, again I think it is going to be three or four days before we get him back, I do not think it will be long term.”

On the status of defensive lineman and Clemson transfer Josh Belk

“Yes, he is a part of our team. ... I think, obviously, they [the NCAA] have been very much more lenient with the transfer situation, so I think Josh has a very good case for that. Chance Miller and our compliance office is working diligently to get that waiver request to the NCAA and there is no timetable.”

On moving offensive lineman Zack Bailey to left guard

“Zack played well at the right tackle position. We were not displeased at all, but it’s all about getting your best five on the field. Zack, we felt going back and looking at it, was a more productive guard inside as far as movement and things, to continue to try and get more surge on the line of scrimmage. He also will be a backup center as well.”

On star receiver Deebo Samuel’s return from injury

“He has been a guy who has practiced right since I have been here. He goes after it all the time, that’s why he is a good player. God has blessed him with a lot of ability, but one of the abilities that he has been blessed with is work ethic. The guy works extremely hard. ... He has really attacked this offseason, and we are looking forward to getting him the ball.”

On quarterback Jake Bentley’s comfort level

“I think as much as anything, you become accustomed to what you are used to doing. He has been in an up-tempo offense his entire high school career and coming here. His production in an up-tempo situation has been better than when he is not in an up-tempo situation. So that is what you become accustomed to doing, what he is used to doing. He is very cerebral, he thinks very fast, he has good mental quickness as far as getting the ball out and making fast decisions, so that is something that I think is going to help him.”

On the addition of quarterback coach Dan Werner to the staff

“Well, a wealth of experience on the offensive side of the ball. I think you track Dan and look at his development of the quarterback position, it’s as good as anyone in the country. You look at his background offensively, it is vast. From two-back looks at Miami and the operation there, to developing more of an up-tempo attack at Ole Miss, which is what we are moving more to as far as dictating the tempo of the game. So, his wealth of knowledge at the quarterback position, and then offensively with different backgrounds, has been a really good help to our offense.”

On the kicking competition

“Well, Alex (Woznick) and Shane Hynes are on our campus now. Those three guys will compete through camp and we will look at it every day to see from a production standpoint. All three are very capable of being our kicker here at South Carolina. We need to improve at the end of the day. It probably cost us a game or two at the end of the year. Not being able to convert an extra point and multiple field goals.”

On whether Dakereon Joyner will get involved this season

“Again, that will be determined in training camp. At the end of the day, we need to be productive as an offense and if he is one of our best 11 on offense, then certainly there is going to be an opportunity for that. That has yet to be determined as we work through camp. What I have seen with Dakereon is a guy who has off-the-charts leadership capability. Positively affects everyone around him. You can see why at 15 years old he won a State Championship at Fort Dorchester High School right here at Williams-Brice. He has the uncanny leadership ability to affect everyone around him. He has that kind of charisma, and that is certainly what you want at the quarterback position.”

On defensive lineman Shameik Blackshear and his development

“Yeah, we need him to contribute for us on the defensive line. For us to be able to play Keir Thomas on the inside and outside, Shameik is a guy that’s got to develop for us to play defensive end for us. I thought he has made good strides for us and will continue to.”

On linebacker T.J. Brunson stepping into a more pivotal position

“T.J. played well for us last year. T.J. made all the calls for us last year. T.J., you could say was the vocal leader last year and is again this year. He has played really good football for us, and has the right kind of demeanor and mentality that I want at the mike linebacker. A guy that is extremely bright, smart, practices the right way, positively affects the guys around him and I have been very pleased with T.J. and his leadership and development since he has been here at South Carolina. I’m expecting a big year from him.”

On defensive lineman D.J. Wonnum’s role after a strong season last year

“D.J. is really challenging to improve his strength. When you get separation, some of the 300-plus pound guys that have more girth on them, to be able to hold the point of attack, continuing to work on those things, work on space coverage with him — I think one of our best personnel groupings will be regular with Bryson at Sam and D.J. at the Buck position.”