The last time the men of the SEC got together, Will Muschamp dropped a bomb on the fanbase.
There is no expectation that any Skai Moore-level news will break tomorrow morning when the South Carolina Gamecocks have their turn at SEC Media Days, but that doesn't mean USC's new head coach doesn't have pivotal items to address. While anything he says on Thursday will likely be drowned out nationally by the quirkiness of Les Miles and the drama of Hugh Freeze, Muschamp will have an equal turn in the Birmingham spotlight. He won't bring the entertainment Steve Spurrier provided for a decade, but if Muschamp spouted his favorite Spurrier-isms, I'd greatly enjoy it.
Either way, South Carolina's days at the Wynfrey Hotel will have a more serious look beginning this July. Here are five topics I hope the leader of the new era discusses on Thursday:
The Quarterback Battle
It's inevitable that Muschamp will be asked about this. It's the most important and sexiest position on the field and a question the Gamecocks don't have an answer to. It seems like a two-man race between incumbent Perry Orth and true freshman Brandon McIlwain.
McIlwain, a Gatorade High School Player of the Year, brings a different skillset and far more potential to the huddle than Orth. The standout Pennsylvania native is a natural athlete who brings the mobility Muschamp has confessed to wanting in his starting quarterback. But it's likely a wide-open battle - with Orth's leadership, smarts and experience keeping him firmly in the race. We've seen what Orth can do, and at times he's been good enough. To win a division title, South Carolina may never be able to have a quarterback that is simply good enough. But this is year one in the Muschamp era and a veteran who could keep the Gamecocks afloat may be the best option. Orth may start the season, but will he finish it?
Lorenzo Nunez is still set to get a look at quarterback despite the rumors of his switch to wide receiver. While Nunez isn't a full-time answer at quarterback, he can be used as a weapon. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper should look to run packaged plays with run-pass options in opportune times this season. Isolating defenders and putting them in conflict will be a modern wrinkle this depleted offense needs.
Individual thoughts on each one of the quarterback candidates would be nice to hear on Thursday.
Bentley wasn't mentioned in the above passage because his presence deserves its own attention. To my knowledge, we have never heard Will Muschamp speak publicly on his newly enrolled quarterback. Birmingham may be the site where we hear the first public thoughts from Muschamp on Bentley's shocking move to join the program now (as opposed to 2017) and what comes next with the star recruit.
Will he get a fair shot at this year's quarterback battle? What are the expectations for Bentley at this moment? Is he destined for a redshirt? What has his dad (running backs coach Bobby Bentley) told Muschamp about his son and how to treat him?
Bentley's pro-style ability is more of what Muschamp looked for in the past, but the kid's talent is undeniable. His situation, and the fact that he's a quarterback, makes him as intriguing as it comes on this team. Whatever Muschamp spills on Bentley tomorrow will make headlines.
As has been often documented, offense is essentially the reason Muschamp got axed at Florida. Last season, he spent the year under offensive madman Gus Malzahn at Auburn. It seems like that experience has opened Muschamp up and made him crave a hurry-up, no-huddle offense. While he's expressed the importance of his experience around Malzahn and the need to have a tempo-driven system, Muschamp hired the leader of his last offense in Gainesville. Will it simply be Muschamp letting Roper have full creative control of the offense? Was that not the case with the Gators? I'm curious to know more about the structure of the offense and how much influence he has on it.
Nothing may be more frustrating for Muschamp in his first year in Columbia than having to deal with this secondary. And as he doubles as the safeties coach, he will be handling the team's biggest issue on a daily basis. The back four is without a doubt the weakest part of the 2016 Gamecocks entering the season.
What kind of effect will Muschamp have on this position group? His staff hopes the front seven will be the key to a stronger group in the backend. Performing up front will put this team's defensive backs in a position where they don't have to cover for long.
From a schematic standpoint, the days of hoping for precise breaks out of drops are over for this group. Muschamp will play more man-to-man coverage and will keep his unit away from the soft Cover 2 and Cover 3 zones of the past as well as the Tampa 2 look.
Where I really want to hear from Muschamp is on the personnel side of things. He's in a bit of a pickle as indicated by the preseason depth chart, where Chris Lammons is listed as a starter at both cornerback and safety. Few certainties sit in USC's backend, but for now it looks as if Jamarcus King is a lock at one cornerback spot, Rashad Fenton is a lock at the heavily used nickelback position, and Chaz Elder looks to have a leg up at one of the safety spots. Does Lammons line up opposite King while D.J. Smith or Chris Moody stand up next to Elder? Or do Lammons and Elder take the safety spots with King and Rico McWilliams at cornerback?
It's sure to be a revolving door back there this season, but knowing how Muschamp envisions it, entering camp will be pivotal. We'll see how his mindset changes before the team heads to Nashville.
His Time at Florida and Auburn
I know he's addressed this several times, especially his job in Gainesville, and said all the right things along the way, but at this moment, I'm still not tired of hearing him talk about. My gut tells me if you cannot succeed at Florida, it's going to be hard for you to consistently succeed anywhere else. I want to believe in Will Muschamp, but the terrible football I watched those Gator teams play still make me hesitate when asked if Ray Tanner made the correct hire. He moved from Florida to Auburn, and statistically, the Tiger defense got worse. Now I'm willing to give him a pass on this because with Carl Lawson on the field - not even 100 percent healthy, just on the field - Auburn fielded a respectable defense.
More thoughts on what went wrong down in the Swamp and what his return to the Plains was like is something I will continue to be interested in. We'll likely get several coach speak answers, but there's a chance he may hit us with an unknown tidbit or two.
Muschamp vowed to "get back up" in a recent first-person piece pushed out by Sports Illustrated and Campus Rush. I still want to hear how he intends to do so with his recent experience in mind.