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Will Muschamp Weekly News Conference Video/Quotes + Player Availability
Sept. 5, 2017

Head coach Will Muschamp addressed the media at his weekly news conference Tuesday afternoon. Prior to coach Muschamp, several players spoke including Jake Bentley, Rico Dowdle, A.J. Turner, K.C. Crosby, Hayden Hurst, Zack Bailey, Keir Thomas, D.J. Wonnum, Taylor Stallworth, T.J. Brunson, Eldridge Thompson, Chris Lammons and Parker White.

Opening Statement
“(We play) Missouri Saturday night over in Columbia, Mo. We’re looking forward to our first SEC game, our first official road game that is not at a neutral site. We have our work cut out for us.

“Offensively, they are very explosive. (They scored) 72 points last week with 815 yards. Drew Lock can make all the throws: short ones, intermediate ones, long throws. He’s got great arm talent, and he does have ‘escapability.’ He scrambles to throw.

“They’re extremely talented at the skill positions. (Damarea) Crockett and (Ish) Witter, both backs we saw last year, fit what they do offensively very well. (Dimetrios) Mason, (J’Mon) Moore and (Johnathon) Johnson are three receivers that are as good as any in our league. They are guys who can do a lot with it after the catch and are vertical threats downfield. They can catch the deep ball, and of course Drew throws the deep ball extremely well.

“They have three big, athletic tight ends. The lightest guy on the offensive line is 315 (lbs.), so they’re massive up front. They do a nice job in the run game and also protecting. The ball is out quick, I mean, he gets rid of the football so fast. (We have) our work cut out for us on the defensive side of the ball.

“Defensively, Barry (Odom) is obviously the head football coach. He’s an outstanding coach and a defensive coach. He runs their defense. They’re very inexperienced defensively. They only have six starters back, but Terry Beckner is as talented an inside player as there is in the country. No. 13, (Rashad) Brandon, really flashed for me in the first game, a guy who got a lot of vertical penetration. Jordan Harold is a guy, that is good pass rush wise. Barry will continue to do a good job defensively. Those guys continue to bring on a very young group on the defensive side of the ball. Of course their specialists are good, and their returners are outstanding. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’re on the road, and we’re looking forward to it.”

On the running game production vs. N.C. State and expectation for the running game this week…
“We wanted to get the ball in the perimeter early in the game; we wanted to throw the ball at the end of the game. The most expending thing you do as a player is rush the passer, and we were going to try to the get their front tired. We were very efficient in the first half offensively. We were outstanding. We come out in the second half and have a three and out. We throw the deep ball to Deebo on I think the second or third play of the series, so we’re off the field immediately. Then we get the short field and score on three plays. Then we didn’t have as much production offensively from that point on. A lot of it, to me, had to go back to first down. We had some incompletions on first down, which put us in tough down and distance against a very good defense. We need to run the ball better, but we only gave up three negative runs, so it wasn’t that there was a lot of negative plays in the running game. We certainly need to be more productive in the run game. There’s no question.”

On the importance of Jake Bentley’s attitude to the team and if it’s a difference between a win and a loss…
“I think playing ability has a lot more to do with winning and losing. Day-to-day operation and organization, whether you want him to be or not, and I’m not just talking about Jake, I’m talking about the quarterback position, that is the leader of your team because it affects everybody in your organization. Offensively, defensively, special teams, coaching staff, everybody, for how that guy performs and certainly a guy that’s a natural leader in that position is certainly good for our program.”

On what you saw in T.J. Brunson on the recruiting trail and how he worked in the offseason…
“He was kind of important. He was the first person I went to see after the press conference (after Coach Muschamp was hired). I liked his tape a lot. I thought he flashed. I thought he played fast. I thought he played physical. Jay Frye, his head coach and former Gamecock, I talked to him about what kind of person he was and he said he checks all the boxes as far as everything you’re looking for. In my extended meeting with him at Richland Northeast High School, you could see he had a lot of qualities you want in your MIKE linebacker. Having him as a freshman and seeing him grow and develop, to see how important it is to him to play well, was really neat. He’s very hard on himself, and in my opinion too hard on himself at times. I told him that I shouldn’t have more confidence in you than you do in yourself. I’ve had to tell him that several times. Now he’s a guy that’s got a lot more confidence in himself, a lot more belief in himself. You saw him play Saturday. He plays fast and plays a very violent game. I’m glad he’s our MIKE.”

On if Missouri has a similar short pass game to the one N.C. State had in game one…
”They’ll throw the vertical ball as well as anyone in the country. You look at the explosive plays. The first play of the game last week was a screen, but it was 65 yards after one missed tackle. They’re going to make you tackle well in space. They do a really nice job in the RPO’s, creating some things in the run game. They create a lot of space in how they spread the field.”

On the similarities between Drew Lock and Jake Bentley...
”They throw the ball extremely well. Both guys can make all the throws, the touch throws, the long throws. Obviously directing their offense at a high level, certainly both guys are capable and have done that. A lot of similarities as far as those things are concerned, throwing the football and taking the ball to in the right spot. There’s no question.”

On the team’s confidence after the NC State win…
“I think any time for a football team is you work extremely hard and have something that you need some kind of return in the returning in our profession of winning. Obviously winning is important but to be able to go back and know that you blocked good people pretty well for most of the day certainly gains you confidence as a player.”

On some of the mistakes in the first half defensively and the adjustments that were made…
“I think we lost our eyes a couple times on some bootlegs in both man and zone. The one 3rd down conversion and the 4th down conversion was poor eyes on the ball where we needed to be. It kept the drive alive. That was the issue the first half in terms of snaps. If we get off the field on a 3rd down you’re going to have some snaps. We didn’t give up a lot of explosive plays, but they were able to manage a manageable third down at distances that we weren’t able to get off the field and the 4th down conversion as well. I think those are the things for me that we had to tighten up coverage wise that I think we did a better job of in the second half. We rushed four better, but there wasn’t as many timing throws because it was longer down and distances on 3rd down. When we were batting the first 3rd down was 3rd and 10 and the second 3rd down was 3rd and nine; in both of those situations the quarterback is going to hold the ball because the pattern distribution is going to be further down the field. We are able to create two sacks in that situation. One was a three-man run, so I think that helped us a little bit. We need to play the ball better in some situations down the field. When you’re working your phase on a receiver you need to be able to play the ball. When you’re able to work a back-shoulder play, what we call out of phase, you need those hands up on the shoulder of the receiver. It’s hard to play the ball and look for it when they’re throwing a back-shoulder fade behind your neck. Those are some things that we always work on because as much bump and run that we play we are in those situations a lot. We’ve got to be able to play the ball better in those situations. We had a couple of communication errors late in the game, critical situations that did not hurt us but certainly could have.”

On Hayden Hurst’s role expanding against Missouri…
“Well, he needs continue to block well. That’s going to be every week in the run game, and that’s part of his job as the tight end of what we do offensively. We had some targets set up for him. Actually the long throw to Deebo [Samuel] was actually a throwback to Hayden [Hurst] and we got flushed in the pocket. The throwback was open, and we had some screens set up; one wasn’t very well timed and the other wasn’t very well throw. So we’ll have targets for Hayden going into every game.

On what he wants to see from Deebo Samuel against an inexperienced Missouri secondary…
“Again, he’s a guy that is going to have targets in the game and touches. At the end of the day it isn’t about plays, it’s about players. It’s about getting the ball in multiple ways and certainly in the return game is a way for us to do that. I’m certain that Barry (Odom) and them will have a plan for him as far as the return game is concerned. He needs to come out of the game touching the ball. He ought to be tired when the game is over. He is also a gunner for us, and he wants to be on kickoffs. He likes playing the game. That’s one of his best talents; it has nothing to do with physical ability. It has to do with his mindset and his competitive edge. That’s why he’s a good player.

On getting Missouri out of their tempo…
“Get off the field. You eliminate tempo by getting off the field. By getting off the field on 3rd down, they’ll go for it depending on field position. You’ve got to get off the field on 3rd down. You’ve got to create some turnovers and keep their defense on the field. I think those are things as you go into this game. They will be the fastest team we play this year. They on average are in the high 20s when the ball is snapped so you’re looking at probably a window of 12-17 seconds off the 40-second clock as the next one snaps at it. Our guys got to have urgency at the line and have eyes on the right spots and spread the field on offense. You’ve got to calm it down, tackle in space, mix it up enough to where you’re not giving them the same thing over and over and that’s what happens in a lot of tempo situations. They ‘vanilla’ the defense up, and they know what they’re getting.”

On the importance of keeping Missouri’s defense on the field…
“I think you stay away from their tempo, number one, (by the) defense getting off as I talked about earlier. Offensively, you’ve got to stay on the field. You’ve got to maintain drive and put pressure back on their offense. Time of possession has no regard to winning games at the end of the day. It can be critical at times when you’re playing too many snaps. It’s never been a stat where you can look back on championship teams and say it was because of time of possession. Another misleading stat is penalties. Some of the most penalized teams in the country win championships. I’m not saying penalties are okay, but there are certain stats that get blown up and publicized and really aren’t that important.

On the problems with malfunctioning headsets last week…
“We’ve had three preseason scrimmages. They worked. I was told they worked before the game until we got on the sideline, and they didn’t work. So now we’ve got backups. We’ve got the cord stuff they used in the 80s. It’s a brand-new system. They came out and told everybody in our league that there’s a new frequency in every stadium. I’m not very electronic, so I don’t know about all that stuff, but we had to buy this new system. If we didn’t then you couldn’t communicate, which we didn’t in our first one anyways.

On the difficulties of winning games on the road and he believes this year’s team is better equipped to win road games…
“I do because of the experience of quarterback. I’ve always felt like that was an important factor going on the road and just having that position be a calming factor for your team. I certainly feel more comfortable there. I do feel like defensively we’ve had some experienced guys that have been on the road and understand the importance of an SEC East game. It’s the first step to Atlanta, and we need to do a good job of preparing right for the game. We’ve talked about last year; we won on the road the first week and second week and we didn’t play very well. That’s something I’ve talked to our team about today.”

On Eldridge Thompson and his family in Houston…
“We’ve talked to his mom and sister and I’ve talked to him about his mom and sister. They’re doing okay. Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with that whole situation because it is horrific what is going on there. His mom and sister are doing fine. I thought he played well. He needs to have more opportunities to play Saturday and he will.“




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