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Alabama Week Football Media Availability
Football  . 

Alabama Week Football Media Availability

Gamecocks Host Crimson Tide at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS

Head Coach Will Muschamp Quotes

Opening Statement
“Great opportunity for our football team and our program. We’ve got a lot of respect for their program and obviously for Nick (Saban). Offensively, it all starts with the quarterback. Tua (Tagovailoa) is an outstanding player, very accurate with the football – close to 80 percent this year as far as his completion percentage. He has legs. He can create off-rhythm plays, as we say, that are very difficult to defend. He’s throwing it to really skilled guys down the field, but he’s a really good football player. At receiver, (Jerry) Juedy, (Jaylen) Waddle, (Henry) Ruggs, and (DeVonta) Smith are all very talented guys that can run extremely well on the top end but also guys in the underneath coverages that they can catch the ball in space and make plays for them. They’ve made a bunch for them in the last couple years, so we’ve got our work cut out for us. They’ve recruited really well at the running back position – big backs. They are always big upfront on the offensive line. Defensively, they’re very physical, tough to move upfront with (Raekwon) Davis and (DJ) Dale who is a freshman that’s going to be a really good player for them, and (LaBryan) Ray. The two guys on the edge in (Terrell) Lewis and (Anfernee) Jennings create some fast-twitch rush for them on the perimeter. They are really talented on the back end. Really well coached obviously on defense. As far as special teams is concerned, they’ve got good specialists. Waddle, as a returner, is probably as good of guy as any in our league and maybe in the country, so we’ve got our work cut out for us as far as special teams is concerned. There’s a lot of space plays that they’ll try to create. Injury wise, Randrecous (Davis) ran today, I’ll know more later as the week continues to go. He did not practice with us, but he was running with our training staff which was good to see. Eric Douglas, I think, should be fine. He didn’t do a whole lot today, but I’d expect him to do a little bit more tomorrow. Deshaun Fenwick may be out this weekend, he has a shoulder. Brad Johnson is struggling with a groin injury, but other than that I think we’re going to be ok. This game, the University of South Carolina is teaming up with Curing Kids Cancer, which is a non-profit that is devoted to funding cutting-edge pediatric cancer therapies. The Owen family started this foundation in 2003 when they lost their son Killian. They’ve raised over 15 million dollars for childhood cancer research, and I encourage you to visit for more information. It’s a great organization. The Owen family are fantastic people, and they’re making a difference as far as pediatric cancer is concerned with the research for that.”

On scaling back the pass rush because of Tua Tagovailoa’s ability to run and improvise
“Well, if you scale back and give him a lot of time it’s an issue as well. You just have to do a nice job of discipline in your rush lanes. Constrict the pocket and don’t let him evade, especially to his left hand. I think think he’s very effective when he goes to his left. Again, his ability to extend plays with what we call off-rhythm plays is pretty much uncanny – his feel for down the field, when to run it and when to throw it to buy time. We need to do a good job of staying in coverage, but more than anything, constricting the lanes up front.”

On what he learned from Nick Saban while working under him at LSU
“I learned a lot. Obviously from a scheme standpoint you have to be philosophically aligned with him as far as how he sees the game played, offense, defense and special teams. Obviously from a scheme standpoint I learned a lot. The evaluation process and the recruiting – as far as the critical factors we look for and define for every position. I think we took that even a step further when I went to the Miami Dolphins and was a part of the draft, going in and working players out and really narrowing down exactly what we look for by position. The evaluation process I think has really helped me and our programs moving forward. As far as an offseason program, we do very similar things – how we install in training camp, how we install in spring ball, how we do spring ball. Our summer programs are very similar as far as the players are concerned and what we do. How we practice is very similar to what we did when I was with Nick. We’ve carried over a lot of things that obviously work extremely well. I learned a lot.

On how different it is to prepare for that type of matured offense Saban now has at Alabama
“Well, I think that they have evolved a little bit, but I think that goes back to the players and the talent level they have at each position. Obviously, they want to take advantage of the quarterback now as opposed to maybe in years past with the running game with (Derrick) Henry and (Trent) Richardson, (Mark) Ingram – they were a little bit stronger with what they wanted to do. I think it’s all about taking advantage of the guys in your offense. They are extremely talented at the receiver position right now and at the quarterback position, so that’s where you see the touches. They’re trying to create for (Jerry) Jeudy, (Jaylen) Waddle and those guys is what they’re now accentuating for on offense.

On if Keir Thomas Expected back this week

On how important wide receiver play is in a game like this
“There’s going to be some 50/50 ball situations on both sides of the ball. Offensively, you need to make the plays. Defensively, you need to make the plays depending on what side of the ball we’re on when the ball goes up. There’s going to be middle of the field coverage in this game, and you’re going to have opportunities to create explosions down the field in 1-on-1 situations.

On how important the emphasis has been on tackling this week
“We emphasize it every week, every day and we work on it every day in our individual periods defensively. A lot of times with our offensive players during our special teams period, we work on tackling as well. That’s not something that is anything new. We still have some young guys that need to bring their feet more on tackles. We had a couple space tackles that we missed, and it was mostly young players. You just have to learn in this league that if you stop your feet, you have zero chance. That old theory when I was growing up and coming up in Pop Warner of breakdown (when tackling) is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. If you stop your feet against a really good athlete, you have a zero chance at making the tackle. Generally we are tackling someone who is a better athlete than us. We have to bring our feet on tackles and leverage the ball the correct way. If you leverage the ball the correct way and you miss the tackle, I have no problem and I’ll never say a word about it because generally you’ve made whoever is carrying the ball stop his feet and we’ve got guys coming to the football. If that happens, we’re going to be ok. To me, it’s about leverage and bringing your feet and I thought we did a better job from week one to week two, except for some younger guys who need to do a better job of that.”

On if the fact that him and coach Saban have so much history together effects much in the game on Saturday as far as preparation goes
“I don’t think it has a whole lot of bearing on the game. It’s about the players that line up between the white lines when the game kicks off. It’s 11 from Alabama, and there’s 11 from South Carolina. Those guys will determine the outcome of the game. Obviously, we have to do a great job of preparing our team, but the familiarity thing on each side is a little blown out of proportion as far as those things are concerned. You can overthink this thing too. I haven’t worked for Nick since 2005. That’s a long time ago.”

On how important the run game is this weekend
“There’s no question you can’t get into a one-dimensional game with this crew because they rush the passer extremely well, especially with (Terrell) Lewis and (Anfernee) Jennings on the edge. They’ve got great push in the middle with (Raekwon) Davis, (DJ) Dale and (LeBryan) Ray. To be able to run the football is something we’re certainly planning on trying to do in the game.”

On the 2010 game at Williams-Brice Stadium
“It was an awesome game, an awesome victory here at the University of South Carolina. They beat the No. 1 ranked team in the country. There’s no doubt it. It was a great game, a great atmosphere, and I know it will be a great atmosphere on Saturday as well.”

On how much film from last year’s National Championship they watched to prepare for this game
“You always, especially in your first four games, are constantly watching old tape and looking at different things that may have worked, why they worked or maybe why they didn’t work. Obviously, there’s been a change in coordinator on the offensive side of the ball. There’s going to be changes as far as how things are administered. They’re going to do what they do in the run game. I think some things in the pass game have obviously changed. You’ve just got to make the adjustments as far as what you see. It takes a total team effort – I think obviously being able to score points is a huge part of that. It changes the game and complexion of the game for Alabama offensively. It works hand-in-hand with being able to keep the quarterback off-rhythm as best you can. It’s a team game. Doing a nice job on special teams, creating good field position – all of those things work together.”

On what the coaches and team can do to help Ryan Hilinski in this second start of his career
“No different than last week and obviously the opponent is much different but play well around him. We have to obviously, protect the passer. Let’s create something in the run game. Let’s catch the ball down the field. Defensively, let’s gain some field position, some momentum in the game, do a great job on special teams controlling the vertical field position. All of those things are all the same for every week to help whether it’s a veteran player or a young player be more successful and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

On the confidence in the special teams units and how far that has come in four years
“We’ve come a long way. When we first got here the starters didn’t think they were supposed to play special teams, now they realize the importance of the vertical field position, the momentum of the game, changing the field position and how important that is. You look on our punt team and Shi (Smith) and Jaycee (Horn) are our gunners, two of our better players on our football team. Bryan Edwards is our punt returner. You look at our starting kickoff team, they are all starters across the board and the same with our punt team. Our guys understand the importance of teams and understanding that a third of the game is involved in special teams and the importance of that. Coleman Huntzler and Kyle Krantz do a fantastic job with our players preparing them for games.

On a game and atmosphere like Saturday will bring being a recruiting showcase
“I think it’s great. Our fans will be there loud and proud, I know that and we need to go play well.”

On if Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu will get up a little more going against Jerry Jeudy
“Absolutely. You want to go against the best. That’s why you want to come to a place like South Carolina. Week in and week out, you’re on the best stages in college football.”

On if you do anything different with the name of the opponent and if that strategy has changed over the years
“One of the many things I’ve learned from Nick (Saban) is you treat every game the same. That’s the way he approaches his organization and that’s the way he approaches every game, to maintain balance and not the ebbs and flows of how you approach the game. If you treat one game really, really important and the next one is not important, they’re all important. Obviously, we probably had more juice in a Tuesday practice this morning than we’ve had, and that’s normal. That’s part of it and I always talk in terms of the build up to game day on Saturday afternoon at 3:30. One of the many things I’ve learned from him is the players understand the important games, they understand that but you as a coach have to approach all of them the same because if players start choosing and picking when they think it’s important to play and when it’s not important to play and then you create the ups and downs in your performance and you don’t have consistency in your performance. I agree with him 100 percent on those things.”

On 1-on-1 matchups with receivers and defensive backs and the importance of them on Saturday
“You win and lose on the line of scrimmage. When you’re able to win on the line and stay on top of a receiver and an outside release or if you want to be on a low hip situation on an inside stem depending on your help from a safety. All of those things are really important to win on the line and when you play against guys like this and I throw Bryan and Shi and some of our receivers in the same category. If you lose on the line of scrimmage, it might not be good if the quarterback sees it because it’s going to be a vertical ball down the field, most likely. We have to do a good job of keeping those guys cut off on the line of scrimmage.”

On the importance of Tavien Feaster in the locker room for a game against Alabama
“I think a lot of our guys have talked to Tavien about his experiences and those sorts of things and certainly it’s beneficial for us. Tavien’s a very bright guy, stays to himself, has been a great teammate since he’s been here and we’re really happy to have him in the organization.”