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Will Muschamp Press Conference Video/Quotes + Player Availability
Sept. 20, 2016


Game Information

Date: Saturday, September 24, 2016

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

Location: Lexington, Ky.

Stadium: Commonwealth Stadium (61,000)

Series: South Carolina leads 17-9-1, including wins in 13 of the last 16 meetings

TV: SEC Network (Brent Musburger, Jesse Palmer, Kaylee Hartung)

Radio: Flagship - 107.5 FM "The Game" & the Gamecock IMG Sports Network, Sirius 106/XM 190

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Recent Headlines
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2016 Schedule
Date Opponent Time/Result (TV)
9/1 at Vanderbilt Win, 13-10
9/10 at Mississippi State Loss, 14-27
9/17 East Carolina Win, 20-15
9/24 at Kentucky 7:30 p.m. (SECN)
10/1 Texas A&M 4 p.m. (SECN)
10/8 Georgia TBA
10/22 UMass TBA
10/29 Tennessee TBA
11/5 Missouri TBA
11/12 at Florida TBA
11/19 Western Carolina TBA
11/26 at Clemson TBA

Opening Statement
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Mark Stoops. He’s a really good friend of mine and a very good football coach. Offensively, the offensive coordinator, Eddie Gran and I were together at Auburn, in ’06 and ’07. He’s one of the great guys in our profession and does a fantastic job offensively.

“Their quarterback situation – Drew Barker started the year for them. Stephon Johnson came in and played extremely well for them last week. He started at Grambling, went to junior college, and is a guy who runs their offense very well. We expect both guys to play, obviously, and they don’t really change a whole lot as far as what they do schematically based on who’s in the game. So we’ve got to prepare for both guys.

“They have a lot of very talented guys offensively: Boom Williams, Jojo Kemp. Benny Snell is a freshman that’s come in and done a fantastic job for them. They’re really talented at wideout, (with) (Ryan) Timmons and (Garrett) Johnson and (Dorian) Baker. They started these guys two years ago, and they all played as freshmen. They’re all juniors and seniors now. (C.J.) Conrad is at tight end and four starters are back on the offensive line. They’ve really been efficient offensively. They turned the ball over a little bit in the first game, and they got that taken care of last week.

“Defensively, they’ve been a three-down and four-down team. They’re big at the corner position. They have a lot of middle-field coverage and some quarters. They pick their spots in pressure, but you’ve got to be prepared for both points. Mark does a really good job on defense and they’re good on special teams as well. We’re looking forward to going on the road and playing an Eastern Division opponent.”

His impression of the offensive line play…
“I think they we got ‘out-physicaled’ in Starkville. I thought we played very well against a very good Vanderbilt defense in our first ball game and I think we played very well again (vs. East Carolina). When you give up only three negative plays in 53 snaps, I think that’s a pretty good performance. (We allowed) zero snaps and pressure on the quarterback that wasn’t on them. In one situation, we got beat in a one-on-one situation. Other than that, I thought we played well.”

On what to do as coaches when a defensive unit is struggling…
“What I would say is – and I can only speak for my experience – obviously, if you continue to do the same things, you’re going to get the same results. You need to change something, whether that’s personnel or scheme. Those are things, to me, you have to speak specifically to a situation. I don’t know those answers, but that’s always what I’ve looked at number one myself. Then, number two, what we can do as coaches, and then number three, if it’s not working for that standpoint, maybe it is personnel.”

On the changes he’s seen from Brandon McIlwain after McIlwain made his first start vs. ECU…
“I’ve seen the same guy since he’s been on campus. He continues to improve every day and attacks the day the way you want as a quarterback at South Carolina. We had a guy that’s going to continue to get better and better and better and move forward with the experience he gets. I haven’t seen any change, which is good.”

On the performance of David Williams…
“Again, I think he played extremely well in the game. I think he ran as hard as he’s run since we’ve been here. But it’s about consistency in your performance. We don’t need to be one-hit wonders around here. We need to do it consistently well all the time.”

On Rashad Fenton and whether he might play nickel vs. Kentucky…
“Possibly. There’s some matchup things we’d like to look at depending on each week. That’s why we try and cross-train our guys in multiple spots to get the best guys on the field. He’s a guy that can play nickel, he can play corner, and obviously is going to do some things in the return game this year.”

On the status of Deebo Samuel after he missed the East Carolina game with a hamstring injury…
“We’re in good shape. He moved around well (at practice), so I’d expect him to play. Again, if there’s any risk of injury, and we do a test with him strength-wise, I’m not going to put him out there. There could have possibly been a situation for (him to get) some snaps here and there, but it’s a lingering thing. It’s something that we’re trying to do more research on. This started in high school for him, and it’s been an ongoing process since he’s been here, so we need to figure it out.”

On South Carolina’s struggles at Kentucky and if he’s ever encountered hard environments on the road…
“I think it’s what you make of it. Go play well, and go coach well.”

On the facility enhancements at Kentucky…
“They’ve done a fantastic job with their stadium. The suites in the north end zone are beautiful. They put field turf in, I guess, two years ago. So I know they’ve redone their football operations facility, just moved into it this summer I believe. It’s a really nice stadium.”

On the play of Antoine Wilder…
“It was a huge play on the goal line knocking the ball off the guy. Antoine is a physical player. Play to your strengths and improve your weaknesses, and I think he’s really recognized those things and worked on the things he’s got to do to improve and help us. He’s been a really good special teams player for us and a lot of times, as a young player, you build trust on special teams, making good decisions. Because when you’re covering a kick, you’ve got to make a decision whether you’re going to go speed or back-door, things like that. He’s built up some confidence in us, and he earned the opportunity to play and did some nice things.”

On playing a third road game in four weeks and how that can help the team…
“Well, we need to play better than we did the last time. That’s the bottom line, and tat was my message for our guys. Every time we have a team meeting, we talk about winning the East. This is an Eastern division opponent, someone we’re going to be playing every single year. We need to play well. The last time we played on the road, we didn’t represent South Carolina very well in my opinion are far as our effort was concerned.”

On the versatility that Chris Moody has shown…
“Chris is extremely bright. He has a high football IQ, and it’s about putting him in the right spots. He had a good summer, and he was a guy who was smart enough for us to put in a different spot. He was going to contribute a lot at linebacker, and with some injuries at safety we moved him back there. He’s a quick learner, and he understands things. I thought he did some really nice things.”

On how being settled at the quarterback position will benefit the team…
“Certainly everyone is a little different with how they throw it. There is different timings of different things, especially with how much ball handling we have with the zone read. It could be a calling factor for all our young players.”

On how Brandon McIlwain has carried himself since coming to South Carolina…
“How you carry yourself tells a lot about who you are. You build confidence, and he’s done nothing but build it since he’s been here. (Head baseball coach) Chad (Holbrook) would say the same thing from a baseball standpoint, and I would say he carries himself like a guy you would want to carry himself at that position. You have to have a lot of confidence in your ability, and there’s a lot being thrown at him right now. That position is the leader of your team because of the importance of that position playing well. He understands all of those things very well.”

On making adjustments on the defensive end from week-to-week…
“It’s the hardest part about being a defensive coach. Offensively, you have your setup in the run game and the pass game for the skill position players. Defensively, you go from playing a team that’s going to go up-tempo and snap it as many times as they can and throw it all over the field. This week, we play a team that is up-tempo and that likes to run it a lot. They have some talented guys. Moving forward, we are going to see some teams with two backs, and we have some option teams on our schedule. So every week there is something new you have to face. In five days you have to completely switch gears defensively. That’s the hardest thing we face week-to-week.”

On the play of defensive lineman Darius English…
“I am really proud of Darius. He had a hip injury throughout the spring, and we handled it with rest. I didn’t know where he was mentally, but he has had a great summer and a good camp. He plays extremely hard, and works very hard on the practice field. I am proud of how he is playing and how he prepares himself. He’s been a role model to Dennis Wonnum and our young guys who are playing. That’s what you need to do – show the young guys how we do things.”

On quarterback Brandon McIlwain throwing while on the move…
“When you are running a bootleg, you want to get your feet set. You’re going to be more accurate with the ball. If you throw on the run, you square your shoulders to the target and you throw. It’s more of a technique issue than a maturity issue.”

On building the relationships with the players and coming together for a common goal…
“You try to promote that as a staff, and it doesn’t always get carried out by a team member. It’s something that’s constantly helping Brandon (McIlwain) because he wants the best for South Carolina. I want to credit our assistant coaches for preaching that, because that’s how you have a good organization. We’re helping each other and all coming together for a common purpose. We’re going to put our egos aside and help out each other. It says a lot about the young men we’re dealing with.”

On some of the guys who have stood out in practice consistently…
“Mason Zandi, Corey Helms and Zack Bailey do a good job everyday. I hate to mention some guys and not others, because we have a lot of guys that do it right. Marquavius Lewis practices great. He really practices hard. We have a lot of guys that are doing it the right way.”

On the progress linebacker Skai Moore is making coming back from injury…
“I see him everyday. He was cleared Monday or Tuesday of last week to run and lift. He’s spending a lot of time in the weight room. I told him he needs to get stronger and get more girth on his body and to continue to keep his athleticism. He’s been able to get in the weight room with our strength staff and been able to lift and concentrate on those things he can do to improve.”

On the play of the tight ends…
“Hayden Hurst is a guy who’s playing really a new position, so he is going to continue to progress. K.C. (Crosby) is in a new offense and being asked to do some different things. He’s like a freshman; Hayden’s like a freshman. Jacob (August) played last year; he’s been a part of that and he’s done a nice job. Kiel Pollard played a little bit the other week, and he’s going to continue to play more week-to-week moving forward. So, all four of those guys - I’m extremely pleased with their progress and they’re going to keep getting better.”

On the play of the special teams units…
“I think the kickoff return was really good the other night. We didn’t have very many opportunities in Starkville, didn’t block it very well against Vanderbilt, but I’m really pleased with starting the game that way. Kickoff coverage has been solid; (there’s) nothing we need to improve, and I think that goes back to team speed. That’s something we need to continue to work on. I’m really pleased with the other night. (East Carolina’s Quay) Johnson is a really good punt returner, and I thought our coverage units – Javon Charleston namely – did a really nice job with fronting returner up and bottling up the ball. So, I’m really pleased with the coverage units from that standpoint. We didn’t get much of a chance on punt return; we’ve got to make them punt every now and then. It’s a work in progress; we spend a lot of time with special teams. The guys will tell you that probably more than anybody. The different drills that we do, it’s one-third of the game, and it’s a great opportunity to be a game changer. You look at the kickoff return – we have Kiel Pollard and T.J. Brunson, two true freshmen, that made key blocks to spring A.J. (Turner) on the kickoff return to start the game. Our best players play on special teams, and it’s a huge part of the game.”

On his friendship with the Stoops family and how their familiarity impacts game planning…
“I think there are some scheme similarities that are very similar in preparation for them, and I’m sure they feel the same with us. I’ve got great respect for Bob and Mike as well. When I was at LSU and Oklahoma was playing extremely well on defense, they had Mike come in and spend two days with us to talk scheme and talk ball. I went back to Norman the next year and did the same with them and shared ideas. So, I’ve got great respect for the entire family and how they coach football the right way. They do it the right way, so (I have) a lot of respect for them.”

On how winning Saturday has impacted the team’s mentality at practice…
“We had a really good day today. We had a really good tempo at practice. The guys really responded and understand that you can’t flip the switch. You don’t do that; you don’t do that on game day. You prepare the right way, and I don’t believe in ‘gamers.’ You prepare the right way, and you practice the right way. On game day your preparation helps the game slow down and you play well, and I think our guys are continuing to buy into that.”

On the increase of freshmen getting a chance to play quarterback throughout college football…
“I think it has a lot to do with players coming out for the NFL Draft, at all positions, not just quarterback. Quarterback is the one we focus on, but I think it’s all positions. There are more guys are coming out for the draft so there are more younger players playing now at all positions. The quarterback is obviously the focal point, but at the end of the day you have to do what’s best for your football team. I can only speak about ours and our situation. Again, I think a lot of it has to do with a lot of players coming out early, and it has to do with a lot of transfers. Right now, (if) guys don’t get their way they want to go somewhere else. So you got a lot of guys leaving and changing schools. You got the graduates transferring leaving, so I think those situations have contributed as much as anything as to why the young guys are playing.”

On the freshmen that have been able to contribute in their first season and the benefits of redshirting…
“I don’t think you ever know. I’ve been doing this a long time. You think that you know a guy’s going to come in and play. You’ve got to have the opportunity, you’ve got to have the ability but more than anything playing as a freshman comes back to maturity. How mature does this guy handle the day-to-day grind in the operation? And you never know that. Brandon McIlwain, he’s a mature guy, Bryan Edwards, he’s a very mature guy. T.J. Brunson, he’s a mature guy. I’m not saying the other guys are immature, I’m just saying it has a lot to do with intangible things – you’ve got school going on, you got your social life going on, you’ve got football going on. There’s a lot going on in their lives that they haven’t had before, and there’s a lot of freedom in their lives they haven’t had before. You never know how a young man is going to respond and react in those situations. It doesn’t always have to do with ability. Two of the last four Heisman winners, they were redshirted, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston. So being redshirted is not a bad thing, but we have an ‘instant coffee’ society right now where we want everything now. If it’s not now then you’ve got to say there must be something wrong. It’s just the way it is. There’s nothing wrong with being redshirted. I was redshirted. I mean, I wasn’t any good, but I was redshirted. So it didn’t really matter. There’s a bunch of good football players – Earl Thomas was redshirted and he was the 17th pick in the draft. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad football player; it just means that maybe the opportunity wasn’t right. Maybe there was an injury. Maybe you didn’t have the right situation. Whatever it was, but it’s not a bad word to be redshirted. It’s not bad; it’s a good thing. I always ask players ‘are you going to be better as a 22-year-old senior or as a 17-year-old freshman?’ Well they always say ‘I’m going to be better when I’m 22.’ Well yeah, that’s why you get redshirted. It gives you another opportunity to grow and develop. Football is a developmental game.”

On how to read unblocked players in the running game as a quarterback…
“It happens quickly, and it happens fast, and you’ve got be a very decisive decision-maker. That’s something that we evaluate and treasure, and it’s very important for our quarterback to be a very decisive decision-maker. Part of that is, in the zone read situation, part of that is where to take the ball. Is it middle field coverage? Split safety coverage? Is it man? Is it zone? So, you’ve got have a really good decision-maker at that position to understand those and make decisive, good decisions. We’ve been pretty clean in those situations.”

On the health status of Larenz Bryant and if he’s a candidate to redshirt…
“Right now, because of our depth, we’re working to get him back. He is running, and he has look actually decent in practice this morning. He didn’t practice; he was with our injured group, but he’s a guy that we’re hoping to get back in the next couple weeks.”

On the quarterback situation and if Perry Orth will continue to see snaps if Brandon McIlwain struggles…
“It’s no different than any other position. I don’t expect (Brandon) to struggle. I expect him to play well and that’s what our plan is going into the game.”

On the zone read hand-off and how it’s communicated…
“It’s a feel, and we practice every single day. It’s just part of what we do to start. Our individuals start with our quarterbacks and our running backs; we’re giving them reads every single day to go through that process. Now, we do at times call it, and we’re going to run it no matter what. We don’t want there to be a read. There are times that we have (a run-pass option) built in with, and there are times we don’t have (a run-pass option) built in. There are times he may not be reading the end of line out there; he might be reading a linebacker. So it’s all based on call whether or not we’re giving them the ball or not.

“It’s on the quarterback. He’s either got the grip and he’s letting it go or he’s not. It’s something we spend a lot of practice time on. People have no idea now; you go back to the old days when everybody’s running the wishbone and split-back veer, and you spend all this time running the rails as far as the inside and handing the ball off. Ball-handing is very critical, and now you’re in the shotgun catching the ball and you’ve got to seek the ball and then start working in terms of handing it off and reading a 300-pounder. It’s a little bit different deal.”
 

 

 

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