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VIDEO: Will Muschamp News Conference
Football  . 

VIDEO: Will Muschamp News Conference

Head Coach Gives Updates on the Gamecocks

Head football coach Will Muschamp spoke with reporters via Zoom on Wednesday afternoon to provide updates on the Gamecocks.


Opening Statement

You know, first of all, I’d like to pay my respects to Dodie Anderson, who passed last week. There’s one and only Dodie, she was an amazing person, so positive, so upbeat, she certainly was very gracious, and generous, you know, to the University of South Carolina, to the state of South Carolina. She made a difference here, she made a difference for so many student athletes, she was a great friend of Carol and I’s, since we’ve been here in Columbia, and she’s going to be missed. She was a great Gamecock, she loved the Gamecocks, she loved Girl Scouts. But she will be missed, I’m going to talk to our team about a way to honor her this fall for so much of what she did for us here at the University of South Carolina. We started back in June, I talked to our team about the mature, responsible teams are going to be the successful teams. And I’ve been really proud of how our guys have handled the situation, you go back to spring semester, we ended with a 3614 cumulative GPA, three out of four of the last fall and spring semesters, we’ve had a cumulative over a 3-0 GPA. As a football team, I think we’ve handled the summer well. You look right now, throughout the state, it’s the month of July in the state of South Carolina, as far as the COVID positive tests, it’s between 14 and 16% in our state, and it’s less than 5% in our building. And two of the positives we had in July were guys that had been out of town, and had come back in for a test. And so, really proud of how they’re handling a very difficult situation, and we’re encouraging them to lead a very boring life right now, boring is good, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s hard sometimes, especially for young people, to lead a very boring life, but that’s what we need to do as we continue through the summer, as we start into fall. I told my team, “actions are louder than words”, a lot of people have questioned student athletes being on campus. My son’s at University of Georgia playing football, ’cause I think that’s the safest place for him to be right now, going to school there, and being in that building with a school that’s got the very same protocols that we have in place. I told him at one point, “I’m not a doctor, your mom’s not a doctor, and your brother’s not a doctor, but they’ve got great medical care there, just like we do here, at the University of South Carolina, and there’s no question that that’s the safest place for you to be.” And the numbers speak for themselves, so hopefully, we’ll continue to trend downward in those numbers, as a state, and as a football program. I do want to compliment Clint Haggard and George Wynn for what they’ve done during this time, and researching what other people are doing, and getting the medical advice from Prisma, and different places that we are able to access. They’ve just done a fantastic job for us, and putting the protocols in place, the paramount is the safety of our student athletes, and they have done a fantastic job for us. Our league made a decision last week to play 10 conference games only, in order to start our season later, which was by the medical advice to start the season later. Obviously, we’re monitoring the pro leagues, the NBA, the WNBA, the National Football League, and Major League Baseball, to see what they’re going through right now, what we can learn from that, I think that was a great decision by Commissioner Sankey. As far as that’s concerned, to be able to have uniform testing, to be more flexible, you know, schedule wise, to be able to move games around if we have to. Unfortunately, we’re all disappointed that we’re not going to be able to play Clemson, and that’s the bottom line. I expressed it to Coach Tanner and to President Caslen how important that game is to both institutions, to our state, to our region, and to college football. And we are extremely disappointed in the decision, but we only have one vote of the 14 member institutions, we voted to have a plus one situation, and we didn’t win the vote, and that’s just the way things had fallen. But I know that President Caslen and Coach Tanner both expressed their feelings to our league that we wanted to play the game. So we’re extremely disappointed that that will not, you know, happen this year. Injury wise, for our team, Rosendo Louis tore a tendon in his quad, he’ll be back mid-September. It happened during spring ball, it’s a very unusual injury, June, Chad Terrell, still coming off the ACL, I would say mid-September again. Jaheim Bell had a meniscus from high school, I think he’ll be cleared first of October. Eric Shaw had some bone spurs, he’ll probably be back in two weeks. And Ernest Jones had his appendix removed, came to practice, or walk-throughs last week, and said he had some sharp pain in his stomach, and we took him over to the hospital, and they said he had appendicitis, and they removed it, it was not an emergency deal, or anything. He’s fine, it was kind of a relief that it was an appendix, I’ve never had a mike linebacker miss workout for a tummy ache, so it was very fortunate, I talked to his mom, Portia, that he had the appendix there. And he’ll be back in a couple weeks here. Two players have decided to opt out on our football team, Mark Fox and Jordan Roach. I certainly respect their decision, and understand that, and that’s certainly their right at this time. As far as our team is concerned, you know, we came back with some in-person meetings on July 13th, they increased the care hours to eight, where we were able to have strength and conditioning for six hours, and two hours of meeting per week. And I thought we did a nice job with some in-person meeting, which is the first we’ve been on Zoom for so long. And then, July 24th, we were able to start walkthrough with the ball, which I think was a great decision, you know, for all of us to get back on the field, especially installing a new offense. I would say, probably on both sides of the ball, that through these walk through situations, we’ve been able to go through about 80 to 85%, on offense and on defense, of what we do, and we’ll have another week to be able to continue to look at some things, and before we start training camp on August 17th. As far as our team’s concerned, Mike’s very pleased with the quarterback position with Ryan, and Collin, and Jay Urik, and Luke Doty. Luke is still a quarterback, but all four guys have done some really good things, and really excited about, you know, that room, I know Mike is, as well. Luke also is a guy that’s going to play some different things for us, at the end of the day, you know, when we finished our first five days of spring, and I do this every year, I have the offensive coaches treat this like a draft, and it’s after the first five practices, if the guys have participated in those five practices, draft your team, one through eleven. So who are the best eleven guys on our offense? Do the same thing on defense, and then we cross-side the ball, the defense does the offense, the offense does the defense, draft your team. And Luke Doty’s name kept showing up in those top 11, so he’s sub four-five, he competes his butt off, he practices hard every single day, he’s extremely bright, he’s extremely intelligent, and he can contribute to our football team, and help us win football game, bottom line. He’s a really good athlete, so he’s a guy that’s going to play multiple spots for us offensively. You know, receiver, excited about Shi going into his senior year, he’s had a really good summer, looking forward to seeing him to continue to progress. Xavier Legette I think has made some huge strides from his freshman year, it’s really the light starting to go off for him. Dakereon Joyner’s done some really nice things. And as a young guy, Rico Powers is going to play for us this year, the guys got, he can finish on the top end, but a guy that we’ve been really pleased with. We need some other guys at that position to pick it up, and it starts at practice, you know, being able to get out there and practice, and practice the right way. But you know, those five right there, I know can contribute, and we can with. The running back, Desean, and Kevin, Marshawn, Rashad Amos has done some really nice things. DeQuandre’s on campus, but since he was out of state, he has to be tested and quarantined for seven days, based on the CDC protocol, Adam Prentice will give us some different looks, as far as some two back things they’re concerned, so he’s progressing well. You know, upfront, offensively, we kind of left spring, you know, Jazston Turnetine would probably be our left tackle, we moved hutch back inside to guard. Eric Douglas and Hank Manos continue to battle at the center position, Vinny Murphy obviously can figure in there. Javon Gwennet, right guard, and Dylan Warren at right tackle. And I feel like, you know, we’ve moved Jakai and Jaylen that both played tackle for us last year, can play inside, you got to have some flexibility, and create depth within, you know, the best available player on the field, and those guys certainly will be a part of that, you know, conversation. Vershon Lee’s a young player that’s been very impressive so far. But at tight end, Nick Muse has come off the knee really well, Will Register’s looked good, Chandler Farrel, you know, Keyshawn, Tony, we need the young guys to keep coming on, and Eric Shaw, and Jaheim Bell both were playing tight end for us, unfortunately have not been able to participate so far. Defensively, the guys up front have done a nice job, again, and I would echo offensively and defensively, really excited about this freshman class, I mean, you look at Alex Huntley and Mikya Scott, upfront, two guys that have been very impressive, big bodies, moving around, extremely bright, learning things really well. Tonka Hemingway, defensive end, you know, he’s up to 270, looks great, moving around. You know, the sam and buck position, you got Gilber Edmond and Jordan Burks, both freshman that been very pleased, and impressed with what they’re doing. As far as at the linebacker position, and then the defensive backs, we’ve been very pleased with as well. So, you know, we feel pretty good about where we are at this time, considering you know, trying to find out who the next two opponents will be, hopefully we will find that out today or tomorrow. And seeing where we play and when we play teams, and looking forward to playing some football, and getting back to some normalcy in our lives. And I’ll open it up for any questions.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will. Thanks for doing this. You mentioned how you’ve had very good results with the quarantine protocols in place. The regular students will come back to school in a couple weeks, and there will be some in person classes, just how difficult will it be to try to keep those safety protocols in, and the bubble in place when they are going to those in person classes?

– Well, that’s a great question. We had actually, I had our senior leadership group meet with Coach Tanner and Chance Miller, I believe it was Monday night, or Monday afternoon, to talk, you know, about some of those questions that maybe I can’t answer, from an administrative standpoint. I know Coach Tanner meets with President Caslen every day, they’ve shown some models, as far as a classroom is concerned, of the social distancing. Obviously, wearing a mask is extremely important, washing your hands is extremely important, and then what you’re kind of bringing up is your exposure to the unknown. And I think that right now, I would guess that there’s probably at least 10,000 students on our campus right now that are on our campus. If you drive through Five Points at 9:30, there’s a lot of people out, so they’re not social distancing either. But that’s like I told our guys, you got to make smart, mature, responsible decisions, lead a boring life, that’s fine right now, that’s what we need right now. And a lot of our classes will still be online, as far as that’s concerned, so you still will be doing your learning from remote places, and such. So, it is a concern, but that’s something that we got to continue to work through.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will, thanks for doing this. What kind of a challenge has it been, you mentioned there were a few positive tests, what kind of a challenge has it been with certain groups of roommates having to get shut down, and sort of playing, I guess, mix and match through some of these walk throughs.

– Well, I think that, you know, again, we’ve done some things against each other, and it goes back to number one, if you wear a mask, regardless if you’re less than six feet, with fifteen consecutive minutes, is what they call contact tracing. But if you’re wearing a mask, that isn’t in effect. So that’s why it’s very important to wear a mask, and we’re on the field in the walk throughs, we’re in the weight room, emphasizing to our guys, and our staff, you have to have your mask on. But Clint Haggard does a great job of if there happens to be a positive, to go back, and research what contact tracing occurred with that student athlete, to make sure that we’re making the best decisions, and what’s safe for our student athletes. You know, whether you got symptoms, don’t feel good, you got to let us know, and we’ll test you immediately. That’s number one, for the health and safety of that particular student athlete, but it’s also for the rest of the building.

– [Reporter] Will, yeah, thanks for doing this. Is it okay with you if your players speak out publicly to the media, or on social media, about any virus safety concerns they might have?

– Well, we’ve given our guys plenty of opportunities, just within our organization to speak up, we also have a hotline for all student athletes, here at the University of South Carolina, to call and express any, you know, if they’re uncomfortable about our protocol, or what we’re doing. I think about every day, I have some form of talk with our team, if you’re not comfortable with something, you need to let me know immediately. So those communications are open within our organization, and certainly, within our athletic department.

– [Reporter] What about outside of your athletic department, and organization? For instance, if an NBA head coach said, “Take it from us, these players want to play”, would you believe that coach, or would you kind of want to hear it from the players?

– I’d believe that coach, and I’d believe the players.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will, thank you for doing this. I guess, you kind of talked about the students coming back on campus, are there going to be any added protocols for the football side of things, outside of what USC’s mandating, or will you kind of let USC kind of take the lead on that?

– Well, all students that come back to our campus, and are taking classes have to have a negative test, you know, so I do know that. And then, I think from that standpoint, anybody, and we’ve told our players, whether it’s on our football team, or it’s in your dorm, or it’s in your apartment complex, if you notice somebody with symptoms, then you need to notify people, so we can get that person tested to make sure that they’re clean, or if they’re positive, then we need to make sure we create some distance from that. So again, we’ve encouraged our guys in all situations, we also have a hotline within our team, that if a underclassman sees an upperclassman doing something, maybe he doesn’t want to say anything, you call that hotline, and it let’s George Wynn know, George Wynn comes to me, and we handle it. I think all of those things are important within our family right now.

– [Reporter] It’s taking me a while to figure all this out. Will, do you know-

– If you want to do this like our players, you got to put your picture up there.

– [Reporter] I don’t know that I look my precious and best today, hang on, let me see if I can figure that out, all right. So, do you know what percentage of your guys will be taking online classes, and how that might differ from what you would’ve done last year?

– We’re still working through that. I think that Katie Christensen had told me she had about 85% of the roster done, and we haven’t had that discussion yet.

– [Reporter] And do you know yet what contact tracing will look like, once you start practicing? Have those rules been communicated to you?

– We have, we’ve got to be able to have a face covering, whether it’s through a face mask, whether it’s a gator that I have here, whether it’s some form of a mask, as long as you have that on the field, then you should be fine.

– [Reporter] So your guys will practice with some sort of face covering?

– Yes.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will, and good to see everybody once again. What’s your take on what the players had demanded out of the Pac-12, and now with the Big Ten, do you sense that that could happen in the SEC, do you agree with with what the players are asking for with those two weeks?

– Sure, it could happen, I have not seen the Big Ten, I did look at the Pac-12 this weekend. I would probably say 85% of what they’re asking for, we’re doing in our program, and we’re doing within the South Eastern Conference. Some of the other demands are not on my level, that’s on an administrative level, as far as revenue, those things are concerned, so I’ll let Ray Tanner answer those.

– [Reporter] Thanks for your time today, Coach.

– Yeah.

– [Reporter] Just want to get your thoughts on the SEC mandating the start of full time practice being pushed back a couple of weeks, would you have been more in favor of just kind of getting things rolling right now, or you think it’s good to wait a couple of more weeks, just to kind of limit it?

– Well, as far as the season’s concerned, based on the calls I was on with the medical experts, was we needed to push things back, whether it was going to be September 19th, or September 26th, which they settled on the 26th, which we’ve got now 12 weeks to get 10 games in. But that was from the medical experts, as far as they wanted to push it back as far as possible, obviously to be able to monitor, and I think it’s the safest thing for our student athletes. Which you know, you still have 40 days to get 25 practices, which you have two days off, one is completely off, unless you’re getting some form of treatment on your body, and then one day, where you just have two hours of meeting. So we’ll never practice more than three days in a row, I think it’s good, I think spreading camp out is going to help our players, as far as health is concerned, as far as football’s concerned to stay more fresh, ’cause camp does get a little tedious at times. So I think it’s good for our players, I think that, you know, it will not be a true camp setting. We start school on August 20th, we report on the 17th, we’ve got two days, where our guys will be involved in being in the building. Other than that, we’ll have our normal seven to eleven block in the morning, and then they’ll be going to class.

– [Reporter] And secondly, have you had any players come to you personally, and discuss possibly opting out, or what their concerns were? And if so, kind of what was their line of thinking?

– No, it was just Mark and Jordan, but other than that, you know, I’ve had a lot of one-on-one conversations with our guys, since, I would probably date back to April, as far as, you know, guys that have concerns. We’ve met with multiple medical Zoom calls with our team, and expert epidemiologists to answer questions for our guys, and I learned a lot, our guys have got some great questions about “Can you get it again?”, asking all the different questions of how the virus is transmitted. So again, I think that there are a lot of questions out there, and I think our guys have done a really good job of asking the right kind of questions to make them feel more comfortable in the situation.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will, how are you? I hope you and your family are doing okay through all this.

– You too, Pete.

– [Reporter] You talked about your guys, and how proud you are for how they’ve handled protocols and things like that. How have they handled all the changes that are out there, when they think they’re going to start to practice, when they actually are going to start to practice, is there enthusiasm for the game still, right where you want it to be?

– Absolutely, I don’t think there’s any question. Obviously, I think the biggest issue, Pete, that we’ve dealt with, that I’ve been dealing with, since probably the last three weeks, is all of the uncertainty. The uncertainty of the season, the uncertainty of a start time, the uncertainty of training camp, that was the biggest issue I was dealing with with our football team, was everyday, and I don’t blame ’em, and it kind of got to me at times, it got to our staff at times, of “When are we going to start?”, you know, “What’s going to happen? What is this going to look like?” And there’s still a lot of uncertainties, you know, that’s part of it, but you know, I think that that has settled our guys down a little bit. I was able to stand in front of our team today, and put up a calendar of training camp, this is what this looks like, hopefully, today we’ll get our next two opponents, we’ll find out when and where we’re playing ’em, as we continue to move forward. So I think that, you know, the more definites that you can put in front of a young person right now, the better off you’re going to be, and that certainly was a daunting task, dealing with all the uncertainty, and that was probably not even as much questions about the virus, as there were about the uncertainties of the season, and what we’re doing. And certainly, I saw an excited football team today about training camp.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will, good to see you again.

– Hey, Rick.

– [Reporter] And thanks for doing this.

– Yes sir.

– [Reporter] You mentioned the pro leagues earlier, when you look at what they’re doing as they get re-started, what are some of the things you’ve seen that gives you full, and maybe extra confidence that football, college football will be able to pull this off successfully?

– Well again, we’re in an unprecedented time, there’s no handbook for this thing, and I’m going to borrow from Commissioner Sankey, who borrowed from General Colin Powell, who is one of the great leaders of our country, you know, there’s what we know, which right now, we’re all learning right now, all about this virus, and about what we’re dealing with. There’s what we don’t know, which unfortunately, probably a little bit more than you feel comfortable with, you know, there’s what we think, which it doesn’t really matter what I think, or anybody else on this call, because we’re not doctors. And I’ve got a bunch of experts out there, especially some wonderful parents that want to tell me what they think, and I’m like, “Well, you’re not a doctor, so I don’t really know what your opinion matters.” And then there’s what we hope, well, if you sit around hoping for everything, as my father told me a long time ago, you’re going to have a pile of hope in one hand, and a pile of crap in the other. So, you know, we’re all working to get as much information we can from the experts of what we got to do for the safety of our student athletes. Is there risk? There’s risks for all of us, staff, coaches, I’m not coaching from the balcony, I’m on the field with our players. And there’s risks for everybody, but as I said before, there’s no question in my mind, this is the safest place for our players. No different than me sending my son to Georgia to play college football, I think that’s the safest place for him to be at this time, doing what he’s doing. So, you know, again, I think we’re all going through this, I think that there is a lot of conversation obviously, from league to league, from the NFL, so we all can beat this thing together, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.

– Happy birthday, Mike.

– [Reporter] Appreciate it, Coach. You’re a day before me, so, I guess I’m going to have to owe you a drink or something, I don’t know-

– Yeah.

– [Reporter] But, Coach, obviously, like you said, there’s no blueprint, in terms of how to handle this, but in terms of preparation, you know, how has that kind of differed in being able to prepare for a training camp? Because obviously, there’s just going to be so many different challenges that you guys have never faced before.

– Well, you know, to me, it’s still 25 practices in 40 days, it’s spread out a little bit more, we still have an acclimatization period of two helmets, two shelves, full pads. Again, I think that different guys, you know, you got to make sure the conditioning of your team right now, there may have been some guys that have missed some time, because of different reasons, and so you’ve got to be smart about your football team right now, and know where they are from a conditioning standpoint. Paul Jackson, and his staff have done a fantastic job with our guys this summer, and I think you got to be really smart about that. But it’s still 25 practices, and that’s about what we’ve normally done anyways, it is spread out a little bit more, which again, I think that benefits the student athlete, I think that helps the guys being able to recover better, so I think moving forward, that ought to be a model that we ought to look at. I even love the walkthroughs we were able to do, were very beneficial for our guys, as well. We’re further along, even though installing a new offense, than we probably would’ve been where we normally are, because being able to have those days, and do those days.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will, thanks again for doing this-

– Sure.

– [Reporter] If you could, tell us what Collin Hill’s able to do right now, and what have you learned about him over the course of the summer?

– Well, he’s cleared for everything, John. He’s really a talented thrower, which we knew that. When I took the job here, at South Carolina, we tried to get on Collin, and Mike already had him locked up to go to Colorado State, we tried to get in that one late in the game. But a very talented thrower, obviously, understands, and Mike puts a lot on the quarterback offensively, and has a great understanding of what we’re doing offensively. But a very talented thrower.

– [Reporter] And just to follow up, obviously, not a lot of positions are open, but do you think he’s got a chance to be a starter?

– What’s that?

– [Reporter] Do you feel like he has a chance to be the starter?

– Sure, yeah, we got a great competition going on, that’s what, you know, Mike and I were talking this morning that you know, competition makes us all better, makes us all sharper, we know we got to bring our A game every day to practice, which that promotes consistency in performance, so it’s been good for everybody. Ryan’s thrown the ball well, as well.

– [Reporter] And last thing, with him coming along so well, and performing so well, does that give you more comfort in letting Luke play some wide receiver?

– Well, sure, I mean, you know, at the end of the day, there’s going to be one quarterback on the field at a time, but it goes back to me, as much as anything, that comfort level, there’s no question that helps, but the other part of that is he’s one of our best 11, and the guy is a great competitor, the guy brings tremendous speed to our team, and he catches the ball extremely well, so we need to get the guy on the field.

– [Reporter] Yeah, Will, just looking at Israel Makuamu, obviously a lot of pre-season accolades, post-season accolades from last year, are you guys looking at him to stay a corner, maybe looking him as safety zone?

– Well, he reps a safety, Israel’s very smart, he can learn anything, he can play nickel, he can play dime, he can play safety, he can play corner, so again, it all goes back to if we’re in regulars, get the best four D.B.s out there, who those four may be, right now, couldn’t tell ya, when we’re in nickel, when we’re in dime, let’s get the best five or six D.B.s on the field. You know, Cam Smith, and John Dixon have made a lot of strides, those guys have had a good summer, both guys are in really good condition, and I’ve been very pleased with them moving around, and watching those guys move around. We need to get better, we need to have more production at the safety position, there’s no question about that.

– [Reporter] Hey, Coach, I wanted to ask two questions. First, what was the conversation like with Luke when you kind of broached playing in semi wide receiver, and also, what was the conversation like with those two guys who opted out, how did they kind of approach it?

– Well, first of all, Mark and Jordan, I totally respect and understand their decision, and those conversations will stay between me and them. And Luke wants to play, Coach Bobo talked to him a little bit, I called him after Coach Bobo had talked to him, and said, “I don’t want you to feel we’re moving you, we’re not moving you, we’re trying to get you on the field.” And he said, “Coach, I want to play, and I want to win.” So, another selfless guy on our football team.

– [Reporter] Yeah, Will, I’m going to ask about Jordan and Mark real quick, what’s the plan for them this year, do you just say don’t report to the field, or how does that process go? And with two teams coming on your schedule from the west, how does it impact your scouting? ‘Cause I know you guys do a lot of pre-scouting in the summer before, how does that kind of affect it?

– Well, as far as Mark and Jordan, they stay on scholarship, since we don’t have primary care for them every day, they both have returned home to stay with their families. You know, hopefully we’ll find these out tonight, I don’t know if they’re trying to make us burn the midnight oil here, and get some break downs, but we do a full scouter report, and game plan on all 12 opponents. So, we’ve got East Carolina, Coastal, Clemson, and Walford all game planned, and they’re going to sit on the shelf obviously, this fall. We’ll add those two opponents once we get, Joe Lyle’s got all the SEC film, so we might have to access, if it’s a new coach, or new coordinator, to go where they were before, but we’ll game plan those guys before August 17th, when we start training camp, and all three phases.

– [Reporter] Will, this touches on Mark and Jordan a little bit too, but the doctors that you’ve communicated with told you that linemen could potentially be more at risk, and do you think that that played into their decision?

– Well, I haven’t been told that, and that was not a conversation we had.

– [Reporter] Will, you obviously lose one of your defensive stalwarts in Javon Kinlaw, who do you see kind of stepping up to fill the role that he did this season?

– Well, I think you got a combination of guys that I’m personally excited about, Keir Thomas is a guy that only played in two ball games last year, because of the ankle. Jabari Ellis has made tremendous strides, you know, I think by Jabari day one, to where he is right now, at the end of the season, he was a very productive football player for us. Rick Sandidge is going into his third year, and he’s taken us a huge step forward. Zacch Pickens, I’ve been very pleased with the summer that Zacch has had, you look at, that’s four quality, big bodies inside, and I’ve talked about the two young freshman earlier, Alex Huntley and Mikya Scott certainly fit in, both guys, extremely bright and learn well, so I feel very good about that position.

– [Reporter] Will, you also lost a lot of special teams, I mean, you do have Parker coming back at kicker, but who do you look at right now to punt, and hold long snap, all those positions?

– Well, we’re still working through, Kai Kroeger is extremely talented at the punter position, a guy that’s got a really good leg, he’s also a left handed punter, which puts a different rotation on the ball, which is more difficult to catch, but he is extremely talented. I think Parker feels most comfortable with Kai holding at this time, but Trey Adkins has held, Luke Doty has held, I mean, we’re trying to work some different guys in there, but it’s going to come down to whoever Parker feels most comfortable with. Mitch Jeter’s a really talented guy, you know, as far as kicking is concerned, you know, obviously Parker will be our place kicker, but Mitch is a guy that I feel comfortable about kicking off, we still need to work through some of the things there, as far as that’s concerned, we obviously, have not done that live yet, and not looked at that, as far as those things have come, but he’s got a really strong leg. So, you know, I feel very comfortable about our talent level at the position, obviously, there’s some inexperience, and you lose a guy like Joe, who’s doing a great job for the Panthers now, from what I understand, or what he text me, which he’ll text me that he’s the best kicker in the country every time, so I don’t know if I can truly trust what he says, but those guys are really talented. But I think again, from an ability standpoint, we’ve got some guys that can be really good, Matt Bailey will be our snapper today, Nick Muse would probably be his backup, Nick snapped to William, and , and also in high school, and he’s a talented guy as well that can snap. You know, obviously going through the time we’re going through, you better have dependable backups in all these situations. And you know, as far as kick returns, I don’t really know, you know, I know as far as, you know, the punt return, you know, situation, Jammie Robinson’s been a guy that’s been very dependable, Jaycee Horn’s been a guy that’s gone back, Xavier Legette, Shi Smith, some guys that I think, athletically, could do some good things for us.

– [Reporter] Will, has Jahmar Brown been able to maintain the weight he added before last season, and where do you see him as potentially, a guy that can help this year?

– Well, we’ve moved Jahmar to safety. He’s a guy that I really, you know, done some nice things on the back end, he’s got a really good feel on the back end, he’s extremely bright, so he learns well, and in looking at him as a dime line backer, so you really, in essence, have six D.B.s on the field. It gives us more flexibility to call the game, and be able to cover down, and disguise better when he’s in the game, from a coverage standpoint. So, you know, I wouldn’t say we’ve completely moved him, but he’s still going to play dime line backer for us, and safety.

– [Reporter] With D.J. Wonnum being gone, obviously, you’ve got a new buck this year, I know Brad Johnson was injured a lot last year, what have you seen out of him this summer, do you think he can kind of take that next step, and elevate his game to where you see that division, and also, how do you feel about the backups in that spot?

– Well, you know, J.J. can play the buck for us too, John, and we might be a little bit more four down than we’ve been three down, you know, just ’cause of personnel, we’ll evolve a little bit as that goes, and how that looks in camp. But J.J. can play the buck, he’s very athletic, Brad’s a guy that is going to play both sam and buck for us, so when we do play more regular teams, you know, we’re going to face some more, depending on our other two opponents, but we’re face more, what I would call, regular personnel, you know, two backs, tight end, or two tight ends, one back, a more regular personnel to match group. So we’ve looked at Brad as a sam line backer as well, but you know, Jordan Birch, and Gilber Edmond, Rodriguez, Fenton, all of those guys have, you know, we’ll see how they pan out through camp, I’ve been pleased so far. But, Brad, I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Brad. Brad’s a really good rusher, can do some really good things for us, and you know, moving J.J. over there will help a little bit, and you know, at end, you’ve got Aaron Sterling back, who’s been an extremely productive player for us in his first three years. And you know, Joe Anderson, Tonka Hemingway, Tyreek Johnson, I mean all of those guys have come on, and done some nice things at times, you know, for us, as far as those things.

– [Reporter] In terms of just offensive installation, where would you say you are with that? How much can you kind of gleam from these OTA style work outs, where you’re not getting maybe the full practice style that you would this time of year?

– Sure. Well, I think, you know, we’re about 80, 85% offensively, as far as the installation, and I think more than anything, the base concepts have been installed. And then from there, you know, even on defense, you know, base, staple things that we’ve installed, and then, kind of, your change ups on third down, some of your specialty situations. One minute, some of those calls we’ve been over, I wouldn’t necessarily say that they were installed, but we are further along than we normally would be, because of the OT days. I think as much as any, Collin, what you learn is how guys take it from the classroom to the field, especially young players, if you’ve never been with ’em before, and you know, Joe Cox is new, Coach Bobo’s new, Des Kitchings is new. So they’re, you know, teaching a concept in the classroom, and then we’re going to the field, and they’re learning what that player can handle, and so, I think you can learn a lot from that standpoint, and we got to continue to move forward.

– [Reporter] Will, what do you think about your running back room, relative to what you’ve had the last couple seasons at that position.

– Well, we lost some really good players there, obviously Rico, Tavien Feaster, Mon Denson did a nice job for us, but again, I like the ability level in the position. Interested to get DeQuandre on the field, I don’t know exactly what day Clint said he would be back, but I’m interested to get him on the field. Adam Prentice has been really good edition. Number one, he knows the offense. Number two, to be able to create some more two back, which is not something you see a whole lot of, and I think that’s going to help us. But you know, Marshawn’s extremely talented, been very pleased in the time that we spent with Rashad Amos, and then Kevin and Deshawn have done some nice things. So again, I want to, you know, before we start, you know, promoting anything, we need to put some pads on at that position, and see how those guys run through contact, and if they can make a guy miss on the second level, and if they can score. So I mean, that’s going to be a huge, you know, evaluation for those guys as we move forward. But as far as the mental aptitude, and as far as the work ethic, and all those things, I’ve been very pleased.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will, obviously you’ve been through turnover before, but you talked about all of the new aspects on a coaching staff, obviously with the new recruiting class in as well, I’m wondering, with everything being mostly virtual now, and obviously, having these small groups, what the, I guess adjustment has been like, trying to get everybody kind of caught up to what you guys do here at South Carolina this summer, as opposed to maybe another summer, where you could have things more physical?

– Well, it is different, but it’s the new normal, and unfortunately, I think we might be doing it for a while. I’ll probably tell you that I’m probably one of the ones that struggle with it the most, I can’t turn on a computer, unless Joe Lyle does it for me, or George Wynn, so it’s been a struggle for me, probably more than the players. The players are much more adaptable to these situations than the coaches are. But they’ve handled it well, we have, because of the size of the Long facility, we’re able to get in some of the meeting rooms, and social distance in the meeting room, and being able to get eyeball to eyeball, and teach, and coach, and take it from the classroom to the field. So, Mitch, since we’ve been able to meet with them, starting on July 13th, you know, we’ve been able to do that in the meeting room, because of the size of our building, which is obviously, we appreciate that, and I know our players do as well. But we’ve also done, when we do meet as a team, we’re able to meet in the indoor facility, social distance in there, we’ve got a big screen in there that we’re able to go through. So there’s a lot of adjustments, and again, Clint Haggard and George Wynn kind of set up all the parameters of how we meet, and the social distancing that’s got to take place within the meeting in those situations. But again, I think our guys have handled it well.

– [Reporter] Will, I know you mentioned the limited meetings, have you limited the number of people in these meetings? I know some of the NFL teams have talked about, you know, potentially not having a quarterback or two in the meetings, being able to separate them, so just in case if a player get is, it won’t affect all the players. Have you had any discussions like that, whether it’s in the quarterback room, or at any other position?

– Well, we are social distanced in all meetings, so there shouldn’t be any contact tracing if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do in the meetings. I know Clint and George check most all the meetings, I usually stick my head into most meetings, and check to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to, and following the proper protocol, and if we do that, we shouldn’t have any issues, as sure as that’s concerned. But we have, you know, put different guys at that position in different lifting groups, to make sure that there isn’t a contact trace, that they can go back and look on that may have occurred in the weight room, or something like that. But we’re using the game day locker room for most of our underclassmen, we’re trollying them over, like we used to, so we can social distance in the locker room, and then we’re using the Long Facility for most of the upperclassmen, so we social distance in the locker room. And we’ve got some protocols within the shower heads, and bathroom, and things like that.

– [Reporter] Do you plan on doing things like this the entire season.

– Yes, yeah.

– [Reporter] Will, you mentioned the potential importance of depth this year, will you structure your practices any differently to be prepared for an eventuality, where you’ve got some guys who might have not taken a practice snap, who have to play?

– Well again, based on listening to Clint, and talking in terms of how we practice, as long as we’ve got face covering, we should be fine, which we will, as far as practice is concerned. But I think in all situations, we are preparing, as a staff, based on what I’m hearing from the South Eastern Conference, I think we’ll be tested three times a week, Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, to ensure the safest situation on game day for our student athletes, and the opposing student athletes that we’re playing. But you know, again, I think that we’ve all got to keep in mind, you know, being able to move people around that can go and be a productive player, if you are in a situation where you lose a student athlete at a position.

– [Reporter] Is there a certain number that you feel like, if we had an outbreak, and we lose 12 guys, or 18 guys, it’s not terrible, or does there become a situation, where it becomes a safety issue, if for instance, you have to play walk on’s on the offensive or defensive line, how far down that road have you gone mentally?

– Well, we’ve had a lot of discussions, as far as, as a league, and I think a little of that was the decision, was to stay a league only schedule, to make sure that we could all work together, because we have one commissioner that’s going to end up making the decision at the end. We did have one discussion about that, and in my mind, you know, I said 30, from the standpoint if you have 85 scholarship guys, and obviously, depending on position, and quarterback and centers are two major issues you could have, but if you’re down to 55, well, that’s, you know, we’re 45 active on game day in the National Football League, and 53 travel on the roster, so you’re taking yourself down to a 55 man roster, which should be doable. Anything more than that I don’t think could be doable.

– [Reporter] Will, a couple quick things. Are you, first of all, will Ernest be back for the start of practice?

– Oh yeah, yeah, he’ll be back.

– [Reporter] I mean, you know what it’s like to prepare a team properly for games, and a season, is there any concern that practice won’t look like practice, and some things will be compromised, because of what you guys are going to have to go through?

– No, I think, what I said earlier, we need to be smart about how we practice, and we need to do a great job of monitoring our catapult system. I’m going to really lean on Clint, and Paul Jackson during this time, as far as, you know, how they feel like the guys are doing. We monitor total yardage, which is a huge indicator for us on, you know, how much a guy’s been on his legs, and how many, what they would say, above 12 miles an hour is what they consider a hard effort, and how many of those are we registering in a practice? So we monitor all this daily, to make sure that we’re not making mistakes, and we’re not over using the athlete, we need to be realistic that some guys are not in the same shape as others, as far as their conditioning is concerned. So we just need to be smart, as far as those things are concerned. I haven’t made a practice schedule, for the first time in my coaching career in August, because obviously, we had to wait on the schedule, number one, but number two, I’m going to see how we go through next week, and I’m going to sit down with Paul, and talk in terms of our conditioning by player to see what he thinks, as far as those things are concerned.

– [Reporter] But there’s obviously nothing you can do about, I mean, contact is necessary for preseason practice, and for getting ready for games. There’s nothing you can do about the kind of squalls that you get on the field,

– Right.

– [Reporter] Because of that, is there?

– I mean, again, I think that, you know, you got to be contact ready for September 26th. And we will be.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will, still wondering, I mean, obviously some states are playing high school football, others are not, how is recruiting working? I mean, are you going to be able to bring any guys on campus? You can’t go out and see some players from some states, others you can, I mean, how is recruiting working during this entire pandemic, and keeping the wheel rolling of your program?

– Well, it’s difficult, I mean, it’s been tough, we are dead through the end of August. I don’t know what it’s going to look like moving forward in the fall, we’re still waiting to hear on that, and whatever guidance we have from there, we’ve got some plans, as far as those things are concerned. You know, what official business will be looking like, when they will be able to happen, I don’t have any answers to those questions right now. So we’ll continue to work through that, and try and anticipate, as best we can, of what could, and might happen. It’s been frustrating, a lot of kids are, you know, frustrated from the standpoint of not being able to come on campus, not being able to see, some kids are making decisions, and creating reservations more than commitments, in my opinion. So we’ll see what happens as we continue to move forward, but I don’t have a lot of answers right now.

– [Reporter] Will, over the summer, and even here recently, we’ve seen where like, Dabo Swinney, and Gary Patterson, and Steve Addazio, and coach at Washington State all being called out by players for one thing or another publicly, so are you guys in the college coaching profession facing a new dynamic in dealing with your players moving forward, because of maybe, the players now feeling more empowered with social media, and social movements, and things like that?

– Well again, I think that, I don’t know that things have changed, I don’t really feel like that, I don’t think players have changed. I think that maybe the times have changed a little bit, as far as how we communicate, and I’ve always tried to be upfront, and transparent with our guys, as far as where things are. I always tell the players all the time, if I’m upset about something that you’ve done, or said, or what’s happened, I’m going to address it eyeball to eyeball, man to man, and that’s how I was brought up, and that’s how I like to deal with people, and if there’s an issue, or problem, let’s get it handled. And that’s what I encourage our guys to do, but I think as much open form as you can for your players, so they have a voice, and they understand that their voice is valued within your organization, is really important, but that’s the way we’ve always been. And when I make a mistake, I admit, hey, I made a mistake. When something doesn’t go right, or it doesn’t follow through the way that I wanted it to, I stand in front of the team, say it was on me, it didn’t happen the way we wanted it to happen. And that’s the way we try and deal with things, but I don’t think players have changed at all, I think maybe the times have changed a little bit, and because of the different media opportunities you have to communicate have allowed that to happen. The way we communicate is not what it used to be, and that’s just the way I was raised, you dealt with things eyeball to eyeball, not put it out on Twitter, but that has changed a little bit, and that’s frustrating for a guy like me to deal with at times, but that’s where we are, and you got to understand that point. But you can’t always look at things through a misopic view of how it affects me, you know, you’ve got to be able to step in somebody else’s shoes, and say, “I wonder how they see this. I wonder how they see the circumstance.” And I think a lot of times, especially in my position, when you’re able to ask a player to step out of his shoes, and see it from my point of view, they normally look at me, and go, “Okay, Coach. I understand what you’re saying now. I understand what you see, and what you thought, and what you saw.” But again, we try and be as transparent as we can.

– [Reporter] And if I could follow up, have you discussed with your senior leadership the new NCAA rule that will allow for social messaging on the uniforms, and how you might deal with-

– No.

– [Reporter] Conflict if it might arise?

– No, we haven’t talked about that yet, I think that’ll go through the student advisory on campus, here in the athletic department, is based on what Chance Miller and Ray both told me, and then we’ll discuss with our players, we move forward.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will. I think at some point this off season, you mentioned Jovaughn Gwyn potentially working at center, is that still in the cards, or with Jordan opting out, does that kind of get shelved for the-

– No, we rep, you know, just in pre practice, as far as snaps are concerned, obviously Hank and Eric, but you’re going to see Vershon Lee, you’re going to see Jovaughn Gwyn, it’s a bad day when you run out of a center, as far as snaps are concerned, and those things, but Jovaughn will continue to play there. Vinny Murphy, as well as playing guard, so all those guys will rep in there at the center. So they’ll snap with all four quarterbacks every day.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will. Ray Tanner’s kind of talked about telling programs to kind of restructure their budget, try to save as much money as possible. I’m curious, from the football side of things, how have you guys gone about maybe trying to tighten the belt a little bit, in terms of money, and is there anyway that you’ve kind of done that right now?

– You need to ask George Wynn, Chance Miller, or Ray Tanner that, I don’t deal with budgets.

– [Reporter] Hey, Will. How do you guys social distance when you’re in your individual position meeting rooms, and especially when you have a position, like center, or quarterback, how vital is the social distance in those meeting rooms?

– Well, we’re using, for the offensive line, and defensive lines, we’re meeting in the indoor, and so, we’ve got a big screen there. We structure our lift times, where one group will be in the weight room, one group will be in the indoor meeting. We utilize our big team meeting room for our receivers, you know, some of the bigger groups, the defensive meeting room for our defensive backs, the bigger group, we’re using our staff meeting for the line backers, the quarterbacks are able to meet in the quarterback room, because it’s, by law, social distance is there. So all meeting rooms have been approved, we’ve got name tags on all the chairs, where the guys know where they’re supposed to be sitting in the rooms to make sure we’re social distancing, keeping a mask on, you know, continuing to talk to our guys about washing their hands, and all that, all that stuff.

– [Reporter] Coach, I didn’t know if you were aware, there was an online to petition that sprung up over the weekend to save the South Carolina and Clemson game, it’s being directed to Greg Sankey, and various state politicians. It claims to have signatures from both you, and Dabo Swinney, are you aware of it, did you sign it, or is that an imposter that signed it, maybe using your name?

– It was an imposter. Hey, I want to play the game, that was a league decision, and we’re all disappointed, everybody in the state, everybody at our institution, and I’m sure theirs, so it’s frustrating, but this is the situation that we’re in.

– [Reporter] Thank you.

– [Reporter] What have you heard about Paul Jackson over the course of the summer, and how do you feel like he has impacted the program since his arrival, going through the summer session into August?

– I think Paul, and his entire staff have done a really good job, you know, it’s been really a grind on them, because you know, John, going back to June, because we were in, I guess phase one, coming back in the weight room, we had to spread our groups out. Thank goodness we’ve got a huge, 20,000 square foot weight room, but we had to spread our groups, so they were starting at seven in the morning, and they were walking out of here at 5:30, six, seven o’clock at night. It was about a 12 hour day for them, four days a week, on a four day lift plan, which is what we’re on now, so. But I think they’ve done a really good job, I think that, you know, to keep up, to see the last, since July 13th, from my standpoint, as a Coach, when we’re able to work with our players a little bit more, to see the enthusiasm that our guys have in the weight room, through the walk throughs, that says a lot about his group, ’cause they’re keeping that enthusiasm going. And I didn’t see a bunch of guys that felt tired, or were not excited about being in the building, and that’s what I saw, and I think you attribute that to your string staff, and Paul’s done a fantastic job of that.

– [Reporter] Well, he’s been pretty active on Instagram too, posting some workout videos of the guys, and of other things, you like that?

– Yeah, that’s great, he works out every day too. Does he put any Instagrams on him?

– [Reporter] I don’t know if he’s done that or not.

– He wears all them tight shirts, he gets them smediums.

– [Reporter] Coach, how will traveling be maybe a little different this year? Have you guys discussed maybe sending less people, taking more buses, and if you have to, you know, take a plane, how that works?

– Well, I told our guys when we started, I said, “You know, the travel limit’s at 70, it might be at 50 this year, so you better figure it out. We’re not going to be traveling the orange eaters, and steak eaters, so understand that part. You got to be contributing and playing if you going to travel.” I told Coach Tanner, back in, I guess it was May, I was thinking about traveling, as far as those things, if our league would bump back all the games from 3:30 or later, travel the day of the game, fly in four hours before the game, go eat you a pregame meal, and go to the ballpark. When I was at Valdosta State, and worked for Chris Hatcher, we did that, we were undefeated, you know. We got fancy, and flew to Delta State in the first round of the playoffs, and got our ass kicked that next day. We got fancy, and we stayed in a hotel the night before the game, we thought we were big time, and we got out there, and got waxed, so. Now, they watered down the field, and Steve Campbell’s the head coach of South Alabama, before the game, but we got waxed, ’cause we got fancy. So I told our guys, we might be traveling just like you did in little league. You got your helmet, and your shoulder pads, and we going to fly day of the game, you pick up your stuff, and you walk in the ballpark in your cleats, and let’s go play. So if that’s what we got to do, that’s what we’ll do.

– [Reporter] Have you had input at all, in terms of saying, “Hey, maybe we should play earlier games”, have the coaches in the SEC discussed that?

– No, those decisions aren’t going to be made by coaches. They may ask our opinion, but they ain’t going to do what we tell ’em, I’ve learned that in this league.

– [Reporter] Will, since he’s been on campus, just what kind of impact have you seen from Joe Cox, both on this receiver group, and kind of on the recruiting trail?

– Well, I think Joe, number one, is a really bright guy, he’s got a really good work ethic, he understands, you know, you always like to have somebody in the room that kind of understands what you want done offensively, defensively, special teams, whatever case may be. And he’s got a great understanding of what we’re doing offensively, and the guy’s a tireless recruiter, he relates with players extremely well, he’s also a guy that can coach guys hard, so I’ve been very pleased with Joe. Now I know why Mike was so high on him coming here, and I’m glad we made that decision, I’m glad things have worked out this way.

– [Reporter] This is the last thing for me, and I apologize if you addressed this earlier, and I missed it. But do you have any staff members within the program, who have decided to stay out for a little while, due to health concerns, or anything-

– No.

– [Reporter] Of that nature?

– No, I’m not letting Clyde Wrenn in the building. Clyde’s an older fellow, and he’s mad at me, he won’t talk to me, I’ve been trying to call him, and he won’t answer my calls, so I got to deal with that. But no, he’s been great, I just, you know, concerned about his age right now, and I’ve asked him to stay out of the building. But other than that, everybody’s been fine.

– [Reporter] Was going to find out, two years ago, Debo stepped up and had a great year for you, elite player, SEC. Last year, Brian Edwards stepped up, do you feel like Shi Smith is ready to be one of the elite players in the SEC this year?

– Sure, I think, you know, Shi, you know, you look at the receiver position in who we play, you know, the number one thing is you got to beat press coverage, and Shi can win verse press coverage. And he’s a guy that’s got big time, top end speed, you know, I think you go back to, I told Shi the other day, you know, your freshman year was something that we were expecting more to continue to come, and now is your opportunity, as a senior, to end it the right way. And I certainly believe he can be an elite receiver in our league.

– [Reporter] Also, you had a birthday this week, congratulations, and happy birthday. Were you able to go out, and do anything special on your birthday?

– I went out to Hickory Tavern with my son, Witt. Carol’s at the beach, and Jackson’s in Athens, so it’s just me and Witt, we had a heck of a time.