April 4, 2016
Head football coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday morning. Here's what the Gamecocks' first-year coach had to say.
"Darius English will be out for the remainder of the spring. He pulled a quad pretty good, so it's a struggle with that right now. That happened last week. Terry Googer has a high ankle sprain, so he will probably miss the rest of the spring. It happened in the scrimmage Saturday. We hope to get Lorenzo Nunez back this week. I'll know more tomorrow. That's really it on the injury front; we've really stayed healthy through the spring.
"Saturday in the scrimmage we got in a lot of red zone work. We worked on the goal line, and worked on some move the ball situations. We had coming off of the goal line situations, a good third down and various one-minute situations to put our players and our staff fin some decision-making times where they're going to have to make great decisions. We're going to have four or five games that are going to come down to the end of the game, and we're going to have to make great decisions as a staff and as players in those situations.
"Offensively I thought we had some good explosive plays and moved the ball well. Ball security was really good, as far as the carriers are concerned.
"At quarterback, Brandon (McIlwain) had a lot of command in how he directed our offense when he was on the field. I'm very pleased with his decision-making. Connor Mitch made some really nice throws, especially in our third-down period, making some conversions, and I thought that Michael Scarnecchia made some really good decisions. Again, we hope Lorenzo will be back this week.
"At running back, David Williams and AJ Turner continue to distance themselves as probably our two better backs right now.
"At receiver, Deebo Samuel was very explosive and made a bunch of plays for us. Jamari Smith is working strictly at receiver right now, in the slot, and I've been very pleased with his progress. Bryan Edwards, for a young player, continues to progress.
"I thought we were very good on the offensive line. We're throwing a lot at them. We took everything into the scrimmage as far as our installation was concerned, so there was no scaling back at all, and assignment-wise, we were very good with our first unit especially. I thought those guys did a nice job. We've got to clean up some things in protection. I think we're going to really work on that at tomorrow's practice.
"Defensively, we had a much better effort to finish plays and run to the football. More of what we're looking for.
"For a young player, Keir Thomas continues to make strides. I think from practice one to practice 11, he may be our most improved guy. Kobe Smith is another young player that keeps coming along. I think Marquavius Lewis, Kelsey Griffin and Abu Lamin continue to make some strides for us. We're playing blocks much better up front, so I was excited about that.
"Bryson Allen-Williams continues to play well. Jonathan Walton was very productive. Larenz Bryant had his most productive scrimmage since we've been here. We're making some strides there (at linebacker).
"In the secondary, Rashad Fenton is playing nickel and corner. He's been productive. We've got to clean some things up at the nickel, but we just moved him there this past week to get some more experience with somebody else playing the position. I thought Chaz Elder was productive at the safety position and tackled well, but we're a long way from being good as a secondary. That's just kind of the way it is.
"Specialist-wise, Sean Kelly in punt situations as part of practice, I thought punted the ball extremely well. He's had a very good spring. Elliott Fry kicked the ball extremely well. Michael Almond actually came in and kicked a game-tying field goal there in a one-minute situation. It was good to see him do that.
"You put the first scrimmage on, which I did yesterday for the first 20-25 snaps, then you look at Saturday's scrimmage. We've come a long way. That's a positive thing, as far as out pad level and hand placement, finishing blocks on offense, running the ball and leveraging the ball defensively. I really was pleased with the guys' competitive edge and how they came out and practiced Saturday. That was the most pleasing thing for me, as far as just the emotion from our group and continuing to understand how we need to compete in our league.
"The spring game is Saturday at noon here in the stadium, and we need a huge crowd. We're going to have a bunch of recruits here, and they need to see how loyal our fan base is and how passionate our fans our. The alumni game is at 11 o'clock. We've got over 90 lettermen scheduled to come back. We've got some great players, former greats coming back. We need to have those guys be supported as well. When our game is over, those guys will be on the field for autographs and all that kind of good stuff. So it's going to be a great day to be a Gamecock. Baseball is playing Tennessee after our game at 4, so I am excited about this weekend, but we've got three good workdays this week and then Saturday.
"The spring game will be offense vs. defense, good on good. We're going to go out and have another great evaluation for our guys."
On the play of the quarterbacks at last weekend's scrimmage
"I thought Brandon (Mcllwain) did some really nice things, I think he was 12-of-14. He took care of the football, made good decisions and had good command. We didn't limit anything we were doing on either side of the ball, so there was a lot thrown at those guys. Connor (Mitch) made a really nice deep ball throw to Deebo Samuel on third down. It was a big-time throw. I thought Michael (Scarnecchia) made some good decisions. We're going to take the completion into fall, and continue to do what is best for South Carolina. Perry (Orth) will obviously be in that conversation as well, and I want to get Lorenzo (Nunez) back this week."
On his thoughts on how the players have digested everything during the scrimmage
"We purposely threw a lot at them Saturday to see how they would respond in the stadium for the second time for seven true freshmen. It's not about what the coaches know, it's what the kids know. Prepared players make good decisions, and unprepared ones make poor decisions. We need to improve in some areas of our preparation, but for the most part I have been pleased."
On South Carolina's pass rush this past weekend
"I think they're better. We have to continue trying to create more speed on the field. We have some bigger, longer guys that can push the pocket, and I was very pleased with our inside push. Right now, with the game of football and the ball coming out so quick, it's not really about sacks, but affecting the quarterback and pushing the pocket. We did a much better job of pushing the pocket inside."
On rotating South Carolina's defensive tackles and establishing roles in that unit
"I don't ever want big guys play more than eight snaps in a row. We want to be able to go into a game and see how many guys can help us. We sub from there. Once a big guy runs out of gas, he's done. The most exerting thing you do in football is pass rushing. If you play a team that's throwing it a lot and you're rushing the passer a lot, then you don't have a pass rush. When big guys get tired, it's hard to get them back on that day. We have a good combination of guys inside that will give us some quality depth."
On if he saw improvement from the wide receivers on Saturday
"Deebo (Samuel) was very explosive. He's a hard cover, and he's quick and strong in his lower and upper body. He has some good ball skills down the field. Terry Googer was having a nice spring. He had the ankle injury, but that's part of the game. Bryan (Edwards) is a young player that continues to progress along with Jamari Smith. After that, we look to tight ends."
On if he's pleased with the quarterbacks' knowledge of his system at this point
"I think so. It's day-to-day, but you're talking about new terminology. This is the process you have to go through. A critical time for our football team is going to be when the spring game is over. There's an amount of improvement you can make during that time when coaches are not allowed to be around you. We have to make tremendous strides during that time."
On how South Carolina will treat this week leading up to the spring game
"It's a huge week for us. You have an opportunity for a lot of these guys to play in front of a crowd and play in our stadium. Anytime we'll play in our stadium, we'll take a lot of pride in that. We have a long time before Saturday."
On his assessment of the linebacker unit
"I think we've made some strides. We have a good combination of guys. With the way we play, you need five inside linebackers to feel good about where you are going into a season. I've been pleased for the most part."
On if there is a player or group of players that have stood out in terms of leadership
"Collectively, our players have been very receptive to us as a staff. They're trying hard to do what we ask them to do. I hate to single one person out, but I've been very pleased with the team collectively."
On the things he has seen this spring that South Carolina can build on moving forward
"It's all relative. We need to become a faster football team, and we need to be deeper at some positions. But there are a lot of teams saying the same things that we are. We want to come out of August camp with a quarterback or two that can be productive for us. I feel good about where our offensive line can be. We need freshmen to help us out at the receiver position and continue to come on in the secondary. We can have a good unit if we continue to improve."
On how running back A.J. Turner has been able to move up the depth chart
"A.J. has top-end speed. He's very quick, but he's also a really good receiver out of the backfield. We can put him on the edge to create space. He's a tough runner that runs north to south."
On how he plans to improve the secondary of the Gamecocks
"It is what it is, and we just need to continue to coach the guys. We need to become tougher on the perimeter. We need more playmakers back there and get guys with a little more attitude back there. That's just part of what we have to do. We'll battle out of it, and at the end of the day we have enough there to be fine."
On his relationship with former South Carolina high school football John McKissick
"I met him for the first time when I spoke at a high school banquet about a month ago. He's a guy that obviously is a legend. He has done a wonderful job for football in general, and he's a legend. I invited him to come to practice, and I was pleased he came over. It was great."
On what it will be like to see former Texas football coach Mack Brown this weekend
"Mack is obviously a hall of famer. He will be here Thursday, and hopefully he'll address our team at practice. He's as good of a person I've met at dealing with people. He turned around Tulane, North Carolina and Texas. He brought Texas back to a prominent, national level. The run we had there was outstanding. He's as good as there is at managing a team and a staff."
On what kind of relationship he plans on building with the students at South Carolina
"A huge part of our support is our students. Obviously, being on campus is important. I look forward to getting out on campus as much as possible."
On the role of the spring game in terms of recruiting during this time of year
"Well the spring game and the evaluation of our assistants will be the last chance we have to get a young man on campus. Most of the spring breaks are done now, and a lot of young men are traveling and seeing multiple schools. This will be one of the last chances we have to get them back on campus. It's huge for them to see a passionate fan base and see what we're all about."
On his thoughts on other schools holding satellite camps
"As far as the camp stuff, they're not doing anything illegal. It's not illegal to have camps off campus. At the end of the day, we're prepared to do what we need to do in terms of a camp circuit standpoint. In my opinion, there's nothing more important than getting them on our campus. That's what I am most concerned with. I really don't care what everyone else does. I spend zero time worrying about what somebody else is doing."
On how much he plans to play first-team guys on Saturday
"Four quarters. It's a great opportunity and a huge evaluation for us. I want everyone to play in the game. Everyone will play, and we're not going to just do it for a quarter. It's about competition. Every time you get between the white lines, you're going to compete."
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