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Will Muschamp Weekly News Conference Video/Quotes + Player Availability

Nov. 7, 2017

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke to the media at his weekly news conference Tuesday afternoon. Players Jake Bentley, Keir Thomas, Javon Kinlaw, T.J. Brunson, Skai Moore and D.J. Smith met with the media as well.

Football vs Florida

Opening Statement
"We've got the Gators here at noon at Williams-Brice. We need to have an early crowd, a loud and proud crowd. I know our guys are excited for these next three games at home and looking forward to getting back to Williams-Brice. Obviously, Florida has been through a lot of adversity this year, through some suspensions to start the year, some critical injuries they've had throughout the year and obviously losing the head football coach. I know it's probably taken its mental toll, but they've still got a lot of good players and some talented guys on the football team -- some guys obviously we're very familiar with.

"Offensively, Malik Zaire is a guy who played a lot of football at Notre Dame. He's got arm talent. He's a really good athlete. He got the start last week, and (we) certainly see him starting again this week. Feleipe Franks is a young man that I know extremely well. He's got arm talent. The touchdown pass against Tennessee, he's falling back and throws it over 70 yards down the field. So he's a guy that's got Sunday arm talent.

"(They have) really talented backs -- (Mark) Thompson and (Lamical) Perine. They run extremely hard. The offensive line pushed us around last year. The same guys are back. They're a really talented, big, athletic offensive line. They have really good skill people in (Tyrie) Cleveland, Brandon Powell, Josh Hammond and some guys outside, Freddie Swain. Dre Massey is a young man from the state of South Carolina and can really run, and the tight ends, C'yontai (Lewis), Moral Stephens and DeAndre Goolsby are all back and all guys they utilize well in the passing game. So they've got some skills guys offensively.

"Defensively, they're fast and athletic. It jumps out at you. Taven Bryant, the inside player they've got, is a very disruptive player, a guy that we've got to account for in the run game and the pass game. He can break your day. He's a really good football player. He probably played as fine a game inside against Texas A&M as I've seen in this league in awhile. Duke Dawson is a guy on the back end that plays extremely well. He can play safety, corner and nickel. He's got man and zone instincts. He makes a lot of plays on the ball, a dangerous guy there. Then you've got two freshman corners that are playing at a really high level -- Marco Wilson and C.J. Henderson. C.J.'s got three or four interceptions on the year. He's having a really good year. Chauncey Gardner does a nice job. Cece Jefferson; (Jabari) Zuniga is a guy on the edge that is an issue. You've got to account for (him) in the pass rush. Khairi Clark does a nice job inside. They've got a talented defense.

"They've had some really tough injuries on defense. You lose Marcell Harris before the year starts, a leader for them and an outstanding player. (He) had an outstanding year one year ago. Then Nick Washington they lost this year, a leader for them, as well as Jordan Sherit also, off a defense that had about seven guys drafted to the NFL. They've taken some hits there.

"Specialists -- Eddy Pineiro is a guy that has a big leg. When they cross the 50, he's in range. He's kicked most of their kickoffs out of the end zone this year. Johnny Townsend is averaging right at 50 yards a kick; (he's) a fantastic athlete and person. They have good people in the return game as well, so we've got to be able to cover down, spread the field and tackle in space."

On the team's injury situation
"Injury-wise, Taylor Stallworth right now would be the only person that I'd say is questionable. We did have some guys who didn't take many reps today, or some at all, but we fully expect them to be back tomorrow, Thursday and Friday and be ready for the game on Saturday. Taylor is the only guy that, in my mind right now, would be questionable."

On filling in the defensive line without Taylor Stallworth
"Keir (Thomas) has been playing inside a bunch. Javon (Kinlaw), Keir Kobe Smith has done a nice job for us. Ulric Jones continues to play inside well for us. Dante (Sawyer is) a guy that can slide inside for us as well."

On Javon Kinlaw's development
"It's been huge for us. He's a very difficult guy to block inside. He's a space eater. He eats two blocks. We coach front a little different than a lot teams do as far as how we play. From the standpoint that we understand it, we call a `two-for', taking two blocks is really important to keep our linebackers clean and free. Most teams that do play the run well, that's the way they play. You watch Georgia, you watch Alabama and you watch Auburn play and that's the way we play. Those are things that sometimes take a little time for a guy to learn.

"We still want the guys to be vertical. We still want the guys to be disruptive. But we also understand playing blocks. That's hard for young players, especially, to understand that part of it. To hang onto a block that eats two blocks and keeps a linebacker free. To understand about the gap integrity and that you have to be able to have it defensively. That's something that he's made tremendous strides with.

"I was walking into the building with him this morning; he's right at 300 (lbs.). He's down about 40 pounds from when he stepped on campus. He's in better shape. He told me, `I can play more than 45 snaps.' And I told him that we need him to, especially if Taylor (Stallworth is) not going to be able to go this week. I've been really proud of him and how he's approached things and his work ethic. He's just a delight to have around."

On knowing Florida players and if it gives him an advantage
"It might be a disadvantage. I know they're pretty good. Taven Bryan can give you a bad day. He's a really good player, (as is) Duke Dawson. I know a lot of these guys. I don't know if there's an advantage or disadvantage in any of that. They're all good young men. They're prideful guys and will play extremely well Saturday."

On preparing for Florida despite their struggles
"No doubt, I talked to our guys Monday about not being fooled by the tape from the last two weeks. Let's go back and watch Tennessee, let's go back and watch LSU and let's go back and watch A&M. Let's go back and watch those game tapes. They've had a lot of uncertainty off the field. Having been through it, it is a distraction. It will take its mental toll on you. That's why the consistent message from me all the time is about our preparation and how we prepare. How we go about our business and our preparation for the game is going to determine the outcome. It's not about what the other team does. Certainly, we respect our opponents, their players, their schemes and things like that. But our preparation is the most important thing. That's why it's always the consistent message, so you shouldn't have a lot of variance in how you play."

On getting Deebo Samuel back for next season
"I knew it Sunday night. That's the young man's announcement and his family's. That's not my announcement. I talked to his mom and him and his immediate family. I have always felt that that's the young man's announcement. That's their decision, not mine. Obviously, we're excited. I think it says a lot about our program to have guys like Bryson Allen-Williams and Deebo Samuel -- guys that are excited about coming back to South Carolina. They see what we're building, they see what's happening and they see the support that we have and they want to be Gamecocks. That's exciting. Deebo's excited. He told me he was excited about coming back and the opportunity to be back. He talked about the prospects of moving forward and all the things that make this an exciting time at the University of South Carolina."

On continuing on after injuries and if it gives him pride that the team has continued to find success
"Absolutely. I think in life, every day, you either make progress or excuses. We don't make excuses around here. Regardless of who or what the situation or circumstance, (is), we need to make progress. That's what we're trying to do. I think our guys have bought into that mentality. They understand when your number's called, we need your best and your best is needed."

On the technique he teaches to his defensive backs
"I always talk in terms of playing the ball in what I would call `in phase'. Generally, if you can touch the receiver, then you're in phase. Whether you're running with the receiver down the field and the receiver is on my hip. If I can feel the receiver, then I want to turn and play the ball. I want to be able to do that. If I'm not in phase with the receiver that means that I can't touch the receiver. The quarterback's not throwing it to me, he's throwing it to him. The worst thing I can do is read back, create more separation in the down and watch him complete the pass. That's what's going to happen.

"If we're in phase with the receiver, which means we can touch the receiver, we want to make a play on the ball. If we're not, then we need to play through the eyes and hands of the receiver. We need to get the elbow down. We need to get something down in the down to create some disruption for him trying to catch the ball. We always talk in terms of `in phase with the receiver.' If you can touch the receiver, then you want to play the ball. If you're not, then you need to play through the eyes and hands of the receiver to get the ball down.

"Now, it's really simple for you and I to sit here and talk about. It's different when your guy's running four-four down the sideline and you're chasing him. Then you have to have poise with your back to the ball. A lot of times, when you are in a bump-and-run situation, your back is to the ball. You've got to understand; do you want to look in and lean and press the receiver? The hardest deep ball to play is the under-thrown deep ball. When I worked with Jimbo Fisher, he coached the underthrown deep ball for those reasons. You go back to 1993, Auburn beat Alabama in Auburn and it was an underthrown deep ball from Patrick Nix to Frank Sanders. I'm sure it's on Youtube somewhere

"Those are things to me that are the hardest to play. It's the underthrown deep ball when you want to press the receiver. Now you have all of these teams, including ours that plays these back-shoulder fades that make it even more so. So, if you do work in phase to make a play to the ball, and they throw a back-shoulder fade, everyone in the stands is going, `what in the world are they teaching these kids to do?' So now you have to feel if he's falling back to his inside shoulder, then you have to play out of phase through the receiver. We work a lot with our back to the ball, and we try to drill a lot of those things obviously throughout every week in terms of playing the ball and when not to play the ball."

On adjusting to Florida's different quarterbacks
"I think both quarterbacks are very similar as far as their skillset. Both have arm talent; they both can throw the ball. They both are both good athletes. Feleipe ran a 60-yard run against Texas A&M on a quarterback draw. I know they run well on defense and they had a hard time catching him. I don't know if they're going to have a whole new plan for one and a plan for the other. They're similar with what they do when both guys are in the game. We need to have recognition obviously of who's in the game at the time. There's only so much you can change in a week or two's time as far as who you are and what you're doing. Obviously, there'll be some new things. I think they do a good job each week of giving you some things that you need to adjust to in the game, whether it's the run game or the pass concepts or a motion or a shift of formation. We need to be able to quickly adjust to that."

On Malik Zaire and if the coaching staff has watched film of him from Notre Dame
"We've gone back and looked at it. We did that this summer. Again, (he's) a guy that's played a lot of football. We're not going to show him anything he hasn't seen before. We're going to need to play well."

On the performance against Georgia and if it shows where the Gamecocks stack up in the SEC
"We didn't win the game and that's the bottom line. That's what you go to do. Like I said when the game was over, I was extremely proud of our guys' effort. They challenged a really good football team. We didn't get the results that we wanted. Whether you lose by 14 or 10 or 21, it doesn't really matter; you lost the game. You didn't do the things you needed to do to win the game. That's why you go back and you look at a game like that. In all ballgames, whether you kick a last-second field goal to win it or you lose by 14, there are six to eight plays in the game that probably determine the game. The tricky part is that you never know when those six or eight are going to come. So, we've got to make a play on the 50/50 ball on offense or defense. We've got to make a tackle in the hole. We've got to leverage the runner the right way. There are so many lessons to be learned, whether it's a win or a loss for your football team each week and that's why we try to be technical in our approach as far as the things we need to do."

On the status of injured tight end K.C. Crosby
"Good. I think (he might return) for a bowl game possibly. I don't want to speak too far out, because I'm not totally certain, and I haven't been told that. Just to see him moving around a little bit, I can foresee that. I'm no doctor though; I'm just guessing there."

On his connection to the University of Florida from his time as head coach
"I will always have an affection for Florida. I had a wonderful experience there, regardless of how things ended. I don't look at things that way. I had a great opportunity, it's a wonderful university, they have a lot of great people there and I have the same feelings for LSU, Texas, Auburn, and everywhere else I've worked. And, so, that won't change."

On the team's confidence since the Georgia game
"I don't know that confidence has really been an issue for our team. At the end of the day, we have a confident root that has trust and belief in each other; they have trust and belief in the staff and the things we are doing with the organization. And I think our guys have a pretty good understanding of `every week is a season,' and you've got to invest each week to get the result that you want on game day. And the rest of this week we need to continue to have a great week and prepare for Florida."

On the secondary's performance against Georgia
"Well, I didn't think we played very well. We had some opportunities to get some balls down. I don't think we challenged guys well enough down the field. (We allowed) two 50-50 balls for touchdowns; we've got to get the ball on the ground. We did not tackle extremely well. We didn't support the run very well. (We were) loose on some quick screens and some edges on defense we didn't support very well. So, we have to continue to improve that."

On what to expect from Florida after they lost by large margins the last two weeks
"I told our football team (that) I wouldn't get sold on what you saw against Georgia and Missouri. At the end of the day, we are going to see a very highly-motivated football team coming in here, and we need to prepare well. And we need to play well on Saturday and give ourselves an opportunity to win the game."

On the status of kicker Alexander Woznick
"He's healthy, and (we) have a competition, and that's no different than any other position. If he outperforms someone in practice, we're going to try the other guy. At the end of the day, we continue to have confidence in Parker (White) and what he's doing and right now he's kicking the ball better."

On the improvements of the defensive line this season
"I think we have improved tremendously. If you watch even from last year to now and from the beginning of the season, we're playing blocks much better and much more square on the lines of scrimmage. We're playing at a better pad level. Offensive lines are not getting as much push as they have at times this season and certainly from last year. We have made leaps and bounds of progress. I think that our guys know we got pushed around last year. They ran the ball at will last year against us, and it's the same offensive line, it's the same backs and it's the same run schemes, so our guys understand that."

On the return of many injured players next season and if he dwells on that at all this year
"Those guys are all really good football players. The guys that have replaced them, their experience is going to be invaluable to the team going forward. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it."

On Skai Moore's influence on T.J. Brunson
"I think Skai has positively affected everybody from a standpoint of a guy that, when you're playing with a really good player, I think it gives you confidence in what you do. You know the expectation -- he's going to play at a high level. It allows you to feel confident in your job knowing that you're lined up next to is going to play at a high level. Skai's a very smart player and very instinctive. I think he has positively rubbed off on a lot of guys defensively for us this year."

On Keir Thomas, his versatility and the chances he plays inside more on Saturday
"He's done that all year for us. He's played in every game inside and outside, but Keir is really smart and he can handle that. It takes somebody who can handle a lot of variables and moving parts to be able to do that. We ask very similar technique-wise whether you're playing a three-technique head-up the guard or a head-up the tackle as a five technique or something like that. It's very similar from a technique standpoint. Based on the defense called there are different details to the job that you have to do, and he understands those things. He's repped inside all year, so I don't know that it's a huge adjustment for him but we expect to have Taylor (Stallworth) back tomorrow."

On the maturity of Bryan Edwards in his sophomore season
"Probably as much as anything (the improvement is) just confidence. First of all, Bryan was not very healthy when we first got him. He had a knee coming out of Conway there, was coming off of surgery the first of December, maybe the end of November. Going into that first spring, being mid-year, he's gotten so much stronger in the weight room and he's a very hard guy to cover, because he can bend you around at the top of routes. He's really strong in his lower and upper body. He catches the ball extremely well and he's fearless. He goes across the middle and makes the tough catches. He's got vertical speed down the field. He's just a hard matchup. He's a very difficult matchup. Bryan is a delight. He's always got a smile on his face. He's always working extremely hard, and whatever you ask him to do whether it be special teams or anything he's willing to do anything to help the team. He's a consummate teammate, and I'm glad he's a Gamecock."




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