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Will Muschamp Press Conference Video/Quotes + Player Availability
Oct. 18, 2016

Game Information

Date: Saturday, October 23, 2016

Kickoff: Noon p.m. ET

Location: Columbia, S.C.

Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250)

Series: First meeting on the gridiron between the two schools.

TV: SEC Network (Tom Hart, Andre Ware, Cole Cubelic)

Radio: Flagship - 107.5 FM "The Game" & the Gamecock IMG Sports Network, Sirius 83/XM 190

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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 Loss, 10-17
10/1 Texas A&M Loss, 13-24
10/9 Georgia Loss, 14-28
10/22 UMass Noon (SECN)
10/29 Tennessee 7:15 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN2/SECN)
11/5 Missouri TBA
11/12 at Florida TBA
11/19 Western Carolina TBA
11/26 at Clemson TBA

Opening Statement
“(We have a) 12:01 kick off Saturday against UMass. Mark Whipple is an outstanding football coach. He coached in the National Football League. It’s his second stint at UMass. This is a football team where it was a 10-7 football game going into the 4th quarter in The Swamp against Florida and (they) led Mississippi State at halftime, a team that beat us. So (we’ve had) great preparation from our guys this week. I think we had a good open week. I detailed that Sunday night on the teleconference as far as our guys and how they approached the open week. I am very pleased with that. We’re getting back to Williams-Brice to play. We’re looking forward to our fans. They need to be there early; it’s an early kick. We’re looking forward to it.”

On what he looks for in a punt returner…
“We’ve obviously had our struggles. Going back to the spring, we were constantly putting our guys under duress. We catch punts every single day, every practice. Bryan McClendon does a great job coaching those guys; obviously not what we want as far as the results we have gotten but as far as the different drills that we do. I think that I’ve seen and have been exposed to from Coleman (Hutzler) our special teams coordinator, and Bryan has done this for a long time, as far as coaching. Putting those guys under the best tracking the ball and understanding where the tip of the ball is and if the ball’s going to turn over if it’s not going to turn over or if it’s going to dead flight. You’re catching the ball above our eyes as far as being able to see it in. We’re coaching all of the right things, but sometimes it’s a little different when you get out there and 11 guys are running at you. We do a lot of live work with those guys as far as guys covering kicks in practice. We always do it and we certainly have amped it up recently in the last two or three weeks with the issues that we’ve had. So somebody has to have some guts to go field the ball and understand that if you do fair catch it that they can’t touch it. It’s still understanding that you’ve got to be able to field the ball and create the vertical field position that we need to have.

“You’ve got to see sometimes in game day to find out exactly what you got because we wouldn’t never put a guy out there that hasn’t caught it extremely well in practice. And that has happened in our situation and where I’ve been before. There have been some guys that catch it extremely well at practice and for whatever reason in the game don’t field the ball as well. So we are continuing to work through that.”

On the possibility of Jake Bentley starting at quarterback on Saturday…
“Well, again, we are making decisions on what we think is best for our football team and right now, leaving camp Perry (Orth) and Brandon (McIlwain) were ahead of Jake after training camp was over. As you continue to work through the season, we aren’t having the production we need to have offensively. It’s not all on the quarterback, but at each position you have to constantly evaluate and make the changes that will make our football team better. We have a good plan heading into Saturday. Obviously we aren’t going to disclose that until Saturday. Leaving training camp those guys were ahead of (Bentley). As we have continued to work and meet and practice and the reps continue to add up, we’ve tried to evaluate the situation on what’s best for our football team. We’re not going to make a change for sake of making a change. That doesn’t make any sense. We are going to make a change if we feel like it’s going to help benefit our football team, and those are the decision we have to make as a staff.”

On the status of cornerback Rashad Fenton and if he’s in the mix at punt returner…
“He is in the mix. Chris Lammons is back there and Bryan Edwards and Kiel Pollard and A.J. (Turner) has been back some so we have a mixture of guys. But we’ve been repping all of these guys all year, so it’s not like we are trying new guys and throwing new guys back there. A lot of these guys have been back, but Rashad was a guy that in an emergency could have played against Georgia, but he did not look good in pregame. We felt like if we needed to put him in because we’re very short at corner (we could have). Chris and Jamarcus (King) played the whole game. When we bumped for matchup purposes inside (and put) Chris on (Isaiah) McKenzie, we put Steven Montac in on the corner. If we had an emergency, Rashad probably could have played corner.”

On Deebo Samuel being another option to return punts:
“He’s still in the back catching. We’ve got a bunch of guys.”

On getting extra yards in the running game and teaching that in practice…
“We don’t take to the ground in practice ,so running through contact was one of the evaluations you to look at when you evaluate a player coming out of high school. ‘Bull yards’ is what we call yards after contact. What kind of yards do they get? Does the pile move forward when they hit the pile, and that’s something I think Rico (Dowdle) has done a really good job of, running through contact. A.J. (Turner) has continued to work on that. But that’s a huge part of it. There are no clean looks anymore in the running game. When you talk about running a clean run box on defense, that’s hard to do. You’re going to be contested in the hole a lot. You’ve got to run through contact.”

On how he wants players to approach the bye week…
“I think everybody is different. I encourage our guys to decompress and get away from football. I don’t want them in the building unless they are needing treatment. They need to get away from us for a little bit. Whether it’s seeing family or whatever they want to do, but everyone was back here on time at 4:00 (Sunday) ready to go to get ready for UMass. As far as (me), I worked most of the day Saturday.”

On the biggest improvements Jake Bentley has made so far…
“Well I think (for) any freshman that comes in to fall camp and doesn’t go through spring ball, obviously (there is) terminology you’ve got to learn, tempo of practice, all of the things that are much drastically different than what they’re used to. So regardless of whether it’s Jake Bentley or whoever it is, as a freshman those are always challenges that you go through. How quickly (do) those guys adjust? How much do they study their playbook, and how well do they catch on to the terminology? All of those things are things that every freshman works through.”

On the mentality at practice this week…
“I am very pleased with practice Sunday. We gave objectives to our football team offensive, defensive, and special teams, things that we need to improve on. There are a lot. I thought those guys have attacked the issues that we’ve challenged them with very well. I thought Sunday we had a very spirited practice, and I thought a very workmanlike attitude today for a Tuesday practice.”

On what he saw after he evaluated the Georgia game tape…
“I think the turnovers against Georgia and the field position were very critical. We did have some successful things going offensively at times, but we’ve got to stay on the field on third down. That’s been a problem. After the Vanderbilt and Mississippi State games, third downs have been an issue for our offense and as much as anything not being able to score points is not staying on the field and that’s a huge issue. I think that I’m upbeat and encouraged, because I think 70 percent of our receptions are by freshmen and 80 percent of our rushing yards are by freshmen. So there is a lot of encouragement as far as those guys are going to continue to improve and get better. Sometimes it gets you a little upset about where things are, but I also try to keep the perspective about where we are and we are going to continue to improve. The effort has been outstanding and other than the Mississippi State game defensively in the first half, our guys play hard. Our guys put ourselves in position, other than the Mississippi State game, to be in a (one) possession game at the end of the game to win the game. Now again, we aren’t in it to just play close. We want to win games, and that’s what I’ve challenged our guys about: really straining and focusing for those six or eight plays whenever they come in the game to make a difference in those situations. We need to win those games and coach better and play better in those situations. Considering our numbers offensively, I do feel like there is some positives there moving forward.”

On what the team was able to accomplish during the open week…
“I think we challenged them on our physicality, stopping the run and the ability to run the ball. At the end of the day, it comes back to toughness. It’s got to be a culture and a DNA within your program, so I changed some things up practice-wise. We’ve done more good-on-good work than we’ve ever done, which we did a lot anyways. To be able to continue to look at fastball looks and play blocks and finish blocks on both sides of the ball. The mentality and attitude of our players has been outstanding. They’ve accepted everything. There’s not been any pushback. Our guys go out and practice. To me, that is very pleasing, that there’s a lot of belief in the room about what we’re doing. We’ve got to get some wins to go with that.”

On the role of defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth…
“Taylor has been square on the line of scrimmage, which the good defensive linemen I have been around do. He plays square on blocks. He plays the guy that’s across from him, which seems to be really, really simple, but when you get a lot of moving parts, it’s hard sometimes. He plays blocks extremely well. We need more guys like him inside to play blocks the way he plays blocks. He holds the point well on double teams, and sometimes in our league you’ve got 700 lbs. double-teaming you. To be able to sit and throw your hip into the double team and hold point it hard to do, and he does that well. We need to continue to have more guys like him play blocks well up front, an he does a good job of that.”

On the challenges a coaching staff faces when they don’t know who is starting at quarterback for the other team…
“It’s hard, because you’ve got different skill sets for different people. Obviously it’s going to predicate what you’re going to call in a game based on who’s at quarterback. You make them prepare for a lot of different looks. You’re going to rep more things at practice than you’re going to call in the game anyways, but you’re going to rep even more when you’re repping for multiple looks.”

On the progress of defensive lineman Shameik Blackshear…
“I’m really pleased with Shameik’s approach and work ethic. Shameik went through a really tough time and missed a year of lifting. That’s really holding him back right now as far as holding the point and playing the blocks. Shameik runs extremely well, and he’s going to be a really good football player, but when you miss that much time of lifting and strength, just getting your body ready and more than anything the grind of the season. Because the stronger your body is, the more you’re able to withstand, and your endurance and the physicality of the season, you’re able to be more consistent with your play. That’s what’s holding him back right now. It’s nothing else. He’s bright. He plays hard. He practices hard. He runs extremely well. We’ve got to get stronger, and he understands that and knows that. His attitude has been great.”

On the advantages to attending high school games when possible…
“I think it’s all based on what you like to do. I like high school football. I love going to a high school game. I like to see guys you’re recruiting compete and see their competitive edge. That’s part of the evaluation. I was able to see about four games this past weekend. I’ll see some more this week. I think it’s important, especially in the state of South Carolina, to get out and promote the game of football. I enjoy high school coaches. I enjoy being around the game, regardless of what level it’s on. That’s something that I personally love to do. I love going out and recruiting and evaluating guys and promoting the game of football.”

On the issues that need to be addressed with the run defense…
“It doesn’t happened overnight. It’s playing blocks up front, playing double teams, playing slip blocks, having gap integrity through your defensive line and linebackers, your secondary fits. Those are all things that you’ve got to continually do to improve, to get better. We have a long way to go. That’s a process that you’ve got to continue to rep and rep, and sometimes it takes some time. And it’s very frustrating at times. Sometimes you don’t get the results you want. But having done this before, you’ve got to continue to stick your face in the fan and like it. Understand the 700 lb. double team is going to happen. You’ve got to play the block and stay on the guard and not let him slip up on the (linebacker). There are just certain things that you have to rep over and over and over again, especially with a young player who’s been better than everybody he’s played against and doesn’t understand why you’ve got to keep the line off the linebacker, because he’s been able to backdoor it and make the play in high school. That’s not the way it is in college. So those are things to me that you’ve got to continue to rep and rep and rep over and over and over again in order to have a good run defense. And that’s not something we’ve had for awhile. This is something that we’ve got to get better at. We’ve been put in charge of doing that, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

On the goal of reaching a bowl game and if that’s attainable…
“Yes. I talk to these guys all the time. Our seniors want to go to a bowl game. That’s very important for our program, and the most important thing is for our seniors.”

On how defensive lineman Darius English has elevated his game this season…
“He practices extremely well. He’s always working on his pass rush and setting the edge on defense. He’s done what we’ve asked him to do, and he’s affected the quarterback in a lot of situations. He has a couple sack strips, and he’s been very productive for us. We didn’t know how much he’d contribute to this football team, and the amount of reps he accumulated in fall camp led to the season he’s having right now. He’s been really good in situations for us.”

On the progress of freshman defensive lineman Keir Thomas…
“Keir is a guy, we started recruited Keir a long time ago, maybe two or three years ago. He was about 220 then, and he’s 270 now. His body has changed a lot in a good way, and he continues to build girth. The closer your position is to the ball, the harder it is to play as a freshman. The game is bigger and much faster. That’s why it’s really hard for interior defensive linemen and offensive linemen to play as freshmen. I think he’s done a really good job, and he’s a guy that continues to progress and practice the right way. He approaches things the way you’re supposed to, and he has the mentality that I like for defensive guys to have. He has a competitive edge, and he’s continued to improve.”

On the impact of losing Jonathan Walton to injury…
“John has played good football for us this year. It hurt us in the last ball game, taking him out of the run game. John’s a ‘thumper.’ He’s a guy who, when he hits you, you know he’s there. He brings a little edge to our defense and how he plays. He plays the game the right way, so certainly losing a guy like John is not good for your run defense. T.J. Holloman has played all (linebacker) positions, Sam, Mike and Will for us this year. Bryson Allen-Williams can play both inside linebacker spots. T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Pittman can play both inside linebacker spots. They’re basically interchangeable for us in what they do. The Mike takes a little more of the grunt, weed plays and plays more of what we call the bubble. The Will plays more of the 40-backer behind the three-technique when we’re in a four-down look. Those guys all continue to improve. We’ve got to clean some things up from our last ball game, but whenever you lose John it certainly affects you.”

On the progress of injured linebacker Larenz Bryant…
“Larenz is practicing well. He’d playing the Sam (linebacker). He’ll start Saturday at Sam. He gives us another good athlete. He’s a guy with some length on the edge to set the edge of the defense. And also special teams; I think we’ve missed him on special teams the first six games. He’s a good cover guy and a guy who does a nice job in our return units as well. I’ve decided to get Larenz back out there.”

On the possibility of playing more wide receivers in the slot position…
“No. Again, we’re not going to make a change for the sake of making a change. It’s about what helps our football team. Hayden Hurst has played really well in the slot for us. K.C. Crosby has done a nice job for us. At times it creates some issues for the defense to count whether we’re going to get in a three-man blocking surface with a tight end, or we could be in a four-open set. Our slot production has been solid based on not having Deebo (Samuel) and Bryan Edwards for the majority of the season, which obviously has affected our entire offense. Certainly, being able to move some guys inside that obviously have a little more speed to stretch the field vertically can help us, and that’s something we’re looking forward to.”



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