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SEC Media Days: Coach Will Muschamp previews season

Hey, it’s actual football news! (Well, kinda, but we’ll take it anyway.)

Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Wednesday in Hoover, Ala., to discuss the Gamecocks' approach this season. The highlights:

On quarterback Jake Bentley working to cut down on turnovers

“We improved tremendously from 2017 to 2018 offensively. Another touchdown a game, close to 100 yards a game, more plays every game — which the tempo obviously helped us. But we (had) inconsistencies in taking care of the football in the red zone. We had 53 red zone trips, 56 red zone trips, we have 13 times we come away with no points. Eight turnovers. That’s game-changing stuff; that’s demoralizing not just for an offense, but an entire football team. And psychologically, unfortunately, we weren’t strong enough to overcome some of that. And a lot of that youth that we had on the defense had a hard time overcoming those things. I don’t think there’s any question that Jake’s work ethic, cleaning up some things fundamentally, footwork and those things, have certainly helped him this past spring and summer and heading into fall camp.”

On that brutal schedule

“I look at it from the standpoint it’s a great opportunity for our program to take a step forward. You want to go to a place like South Carolina, you want to coach in the Southeastern Conference to be in the limelight, and that’s the opportunity that we have. We embrace it and look forward to it. And as I told our players, there’s no predictions. It’s not about talking about it, it’s about being about it, and that’s our mentality heading in.”

More on Bentley, who will likely shatter multiple program records this season

“If you ask Jake Bentley, I don’t think he’s overly concerned about any records. He’s concerned about winning football games and concentrating on what he’s gotta do to help our team be successful and win games on Saturday afternoon. Now that being said, we’re winning those games, he’s playing well. I think they kind of work hand-in-hand.”

On Javon Kinlaw and the defensive line

“There’s no question, I’m really challenging Javon along with four other seniors defensively that need to have great years in order for us to have the type of year we need to have: Javon, Keir Thomas, Kobe Smith, Danny Fennell, and Dennis Wonnum. Those five guys are quality football players and need to play well in order for us to play well defensively. Now Javon is a guy that I think is in his best shape since he’s been at South Carolina. He’s got a great mentality in attacking this season and certainly he can be a very disruptive player.”

On how he feels about his tenure in Columbia so far

“I’m very comfortable where we are at South Carolina. I’m very comfortable about how we’ve improved the program. I’m very comfortable that after three years, we’ve won more games than any staff has in South Carolina history. Ever. You know, ever’s a long time. I’m real proud of those accomplishments. That being said, I’m not satisfied with where we need to be and what we need to be. There’s nobody more impatient in our program or our fanbase than me. We have a long way to go. I think we’ve done the necessary things in terms of the Long Family Operations Facility, our practice facility, we’re gonna make $22 million improvements to Williams-Brice Stadium ... there’s a lot of positive things going on in our program right now that I’m really excited about.”

On the depth along the line of scrimmage

“At the end of the day, we went into last season with less than 40 percent of our snaps returned from 2017, and most of that was up front. We lost Dante Sawyer, Taylor Stallworth, and Skai Moore. Three really good football players — Uric Jones was a good player for us as well. Going into last year, we got exposed in Week 2. We had two freshmen backing up inside. Now those guys are a year older and some of the growing pains that we went through last year should be positives for us. I saw a lot of growth with some of those guys this past spring to understanding that. At the end of the day, that was the situation we were in. They had to play. They improved throughout the year. ... Then unfortunately we had some injuries, which contributed to even more young guys playing. So again, the growing pains that we went through I think can be turned around to be positives for us this year.”

On Clemson’s success

“Nah, we’re not the little brother. We’re not, okay? No.”

On the run game, offensively and defensively

“We haven’t met what we’ve needed to do running the football. We haven’t done as well a job getting the ball on the perimeter with our blocking at the wide receiver position, tight end position, and sometimes running back position. I view quick screens and some of the bubbles — that’s run game stuff to me, that’s not a pass. We haven’t done as well defensively stopping the run or stopping the perimeter run game. We’ve really challenged our players in the offseason to understand the deficiencies we’ve had in those areas, and that we’ve got to improve those areas to take the next step as a program. We haven’t really necessarily had the guy that can make a guy miss consistently at the running back position, because in our league, you’re not gonna block them all. At the end of the day, you gotta make a guy miss and run through contact. We haven’t stayed healthy at the running back position either, so hopefully we can stay healthy at that position. We gotta be more consistent stopping the run and we’ve gotta do a much better job on the perimeter in our secondary stopping the screen.”


Defensive back Jaylin Dickerson is out for the season with a bone growth on his femur. ... Freshman offensive lineman Max Iyama will medically redshirt. ... Jay Urich is still listed as a quarterback, but will see time at wide receiver.