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VIDEO: Will Muschamp News Conference
Football  . 

VIDEO: Will Muschamp News Conference

Gamecocks Begin Fall Practice Tuesday

Head coach Will Muschamp addressed reporters on a Zoom call Monday afternoon, as the Gamecocks prepare to begin fall practice Tuesday.


– All right, I want to first of all, start out with our thoughts and prayers are with Aubrey Hill and his family. Aubrey worked for me at the University of Florida, was a great Gator, a great friend. Coaching profession certainly took a blow yesterday. His wife Sine and his son, Aubrey Jr. also coached at Carol City coach Rashad Fenton, who’s a great Gamecock here at the University of South Carolina. Just thoughts and prayers are with them, going through this very difficult time. Also want to recognize Rick Henry. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer last week. when I found out I called Rick and you know, he’s been such a pro in everything he does here in Columbia. I appreciate his friendship and his support of the University of South Carolina and support of our community here in Richland County and in Columbia. But he’s going to beat this thing and he was very upbeat and positive. I know you guys know Rick very well, but absolute pro in everything he does. Reporting day. I’ll start with updating you on our roster. We added Jalen Brooks to our roster. We’re putting a waiver together for the NCAA for immediate eligibility. Appreciate Coach Seidel at Blythewood, who coached him at Hickory Ridge in Charlotte and his help. As far as those things are concerned, relationships are so key, in recruiting and certainly he helped us a lot. Roster update Chandler Farrell’s going to continue to play fullback and tied in. But we’re also going to look at him at defensive tackle a little bit, to continue to build depth at that position. Another big guy that is athletic and can move around. As far as injuries are concerned, Jaheim Bell we think will be cleared in November. Spencer Eason-Riddle with the ACL, I would say 1st of September, he ought to be about full speed. Ernest Jones coming off the appendix, 1st of September, Rosendo Louis with the quad, end of September, 1st of October. We feel like he’ll be cleared to be full-speed. Eric Shaw, who had the bone spurs from high school ought to be cleared by the end of August and Chad Terell with the ACL, end of September, 1st of October. So that’s kind of where we are injury wise with our first practice being tomorrow, said it before, the mature responsible teams are the ones that are going to be successful. The ones that are able to adapt and adjust to a lot of different situations, that are going to present themselves, which we’re playing the what if game a lot around here, as far as who is up, who is down, all of those things that we’re going through as a staff, as we’ve been going through really about the last month, we don’t have any depth chart. I know everybody wants one, but right now everybody’s got to be ready in all three phases. I mean, we’re going to have to go through a lot of situational work with guys in different spots to cross-train guys, which we normally do, but maybe even more so now. Guys cannot go into fall camp thinking, “I’m going to get red shirted or this or that or the other.” They’ve got to all get ready to play. ‘Cause you never know when your number’s going to be called sitting in both offensive meeting with Coach Bobo, with our offensive team today and Coach Robinson with the defensive team today, that was a huge emphasis of us as a staff, is to be ready to go. Be ready when your number’s called. The standard doesn’t change. Be ready to go play at a championship level. We’ve got 40 days with 25 practices, which I kind of like. You know, really until we get to game week, we’ll never practice more than three days in a row. I think that’s good for the players. It limits some of the contact, to help obviously, I think will help with some of the soft tissues things that you go through, during camp. So with that being said, I’ll open it up for any questions you might have.

– [Reporter] Hey Will, thanks, you’ve mentioned a few times that the mature and responsible teams will win this season. Just how difficult is it as a coaching staff to talk to a young man and say, “I know you’ve got a girlfriend and your parents probably want to take you out to eat and you just can’t have that normal college life right now.” How difficult is to tell those kids that?

– Well, it’s very difficult. I told our coaches, “Let’s be realistic.” I mean, I think David, the frustrating part of this is you can be extremely careful, go through a drive-thru. Somebody sneezes on your food and you could get Coronavirus. I hate to say that, but I see your look there, John Little, you don’t look very good after I said that, but, but that’s true. I’ve had people that I know personally that have been extremely careful and unfortunately in a situation, they put themselves where they got the virus and we’re all at risk and we’ll call it like it is. We need to limit the amount of exposure to the unknown. That’s what we keep referencing to our players, Be around people, you know. Be around, your cluster that you’ve been with, what we’re trying to emphasize those things as much as possible.

– [Reporter] Okay well when you’re working through a quarterback situation in a pre-season camp, how do you kind of try to attack it, in terms of getting guys to be equal reps and then sort of tapering down, as you get closer to a season?

– Well, again, I think, you know, as far as just overall throws, we’re going to have more off days than we’ve had, which will help obviously with arm soreness and things like that. But we can give these guys as many reps as possible. We go and we chart everything. Chart what group they’re with. We chart drops. We chart all different things. As far as accuracy, as far as what the football will obviously putting us in the right run game, the right protection. So everything’s charted, every day, as far as where we are with the quarterback position is concerned. That’s the way we’ll continue to do it.

– [Reporter] Coach, you’re going to hit on it, but obviously you guys are no stranger to having to step up one guy down, having to step up these last couple of years with injuries, but with this virus now this year, how important does that depth really become and have you and your staff discussed the possibility of repping some of the two’s and three’s a little bit more, in comparison to in previous years?

– Well, no doubt about it. We’ve got to be very fluid. With our different groups that we’re repping through and making sure that those guys are getting the turns and the reps that they need. There’s no question Mike, I think you’re exactly right. You’ve got to be very fluid with our guys, as far as being able to move guys up and down and be very demanding on what the expectation, regardless of what year you are, the experience you have, or talent level. We got to play at a championship level, and that’s what we’re going to continue to emphasize to our players, regardless of who’s in the game.

– [Reporter] Will, what’s the update and how has Ortre Smith been doing so far in practice?

– He’s been doing well. It’s been more of a walkthrough setting. I wouldn’t say that there’s been a lot of football that’s taken place. We did have some opportunities when they upped it to the 20 hour a week. We were able to do some football activity with our guys on the field and he looked good in those situations. We look forward to him being productive this fall.

– [Reporter] Also Will, the University of North Carolina just announced they are going to online classes only for this fall. How concerned are you about what’s going on, on campuses? Not just in Columbia, but from what you’ve heard all around?

– Sure, well I think Gene, it’s certainly a concern. But again, we’ve got to use our best judgment as we continue to move forward and understand to not put ourselves in the exposure of the unknowns. We’ve stressed that to our players as many times as we can. The majority of the classes that our guys are taking, are online. There were some in-person classes that are, some of our guys needed to take whether it was graduation, whether it was because of major, or they felt more comfortable in the classroom. Some guys came to us and said, they feel more comfortable. Some guys came to us and said, they did not want to be in a classroom. So we tried to accommodate those guys the best we could, as far as that’s concerned, but certainly it’s a concern. Anytime you start dealing with the unknown and it’s hard to control some of the uncontrollables you have. So I choose to try and control what we can control and that’s within this building and it’s trusting our players to make mature, responsible decisions.

– [Reporter] Hey Coach, it was just obviously announced a little bit earlier publicly, your first game is going to be hosting Tennessee. Just kind of your thoughts on opening with the Volunteers. It’s become a pretty good in conference rivalry. I know it’s a new year. That’s the team that certainly had a strong ending last season.

– Yeah, they did. They ended very well. The season I remember, our game up there last year, we had all the momentum. We have a 75 yard touchdown drive before half. Brian makes a fantastic catch on the goal line there. We get the score. We have all the momentum, but you give up 14 points and your defense isn’t on the field. It’s hard to win on the road in the Southeastern conference. We actually gave up 35 points last year and our defense wasn’t on the field. So didn’t do as much offensively in the second half when we gave up too many explosive plays defensively, but they certainly turned it around and played extremely well. They’ve recruited well. I’ve got a lot of respect for Jeremy and obviously their entire staff. They do a really good job.

– [Reporter] Hey Will, I think since the last time we talked to you, the pack 10 or pack 12 and the big 10, pushed their seasons to the spring. Do you have an opinion about that? Or what do you think about that and did any players or their families come to you and say, “Hey, is that something like that under discussion here in the SEC?”

– I’m sure on the commissioner and the athletic director and the president level that probably had come up. As far as coaches were concerned and the conversations we had, once we announced the 10 game schedule and kicking off on September 26, that’s all we’ve been focused on. That’s really the only conversations that I have. I can’t comment for other conferences and other leagues and the decisions they make. Commissioner Sankey has been very prudent in his approach. To this whole process he has said all along that the Coronavirus would determine the timeline and he wanted to be as patient as he could be, almost to a point of being very frustrating for us as coaches and for our players, because of the uncertainty out there of when things were going to start to evolve and happen. But certainly, him continuing to listen to our medical staff that he appointed in March, got ahead of the game probably than the other leagues, as far as that’s concerned, to get us the right information. Again, it goes back to the health and wellbeing of the student athlete. That’s paramount, that’s the most important thing. That’s always going to be the most important thing. We’re at a point right now where we’re moving forward with our season. Until some somebody tells me differently, I look forward to kicking off on the 26th of September.

– [Reporter] Well, just one quick point before something else, do you go into fall with Ryan Hilinski as the starting quarterback? Or do you go in the fall with an open quarterback competition?

– No we’ve got an open competition, not just a quarterback, but across the board. Everybody’s got to earn their opportunity and earn their playing time. Those guys will continue to rotate just like they have been in our walkthrough situations, whether it’s Jay Urich, whether it’s Collin Hill, or whether it’s Luke Doty, those guys will continue to rotate.

– [Reporter] A different subject. Where is your condition, given all this, where is your team conditioning, as opposed to where it might’ve, where it usually would be, coming into it?

– I would not say that it’s where it normally is. I would say that there are probably some guys that are in really good condition right now. I would say that we have a very small percentage of our team that’s going to need some extra work, as we continue to work through. Now thank goodness we have 40 days, instead of 30, which we would normally have in a training camp situation to continue to get guys in better conditioning, to endure the season. So we’ve got some time here. Again, that was always on our side, because of Commissioner Sankey’s approach. But I would say that we’re not as, we’re probably not where we normally are, but I don’t think that we’re very far off, Josh. I do think there is a small percentage of our guys, because of quarantine and maybe some other issues, that we need a little more work.

– [Reporter] In terms of practice, will you structure anything differently to get more guys ready and can GAs, et cetera, have they loosened the rules that those guys could help you more?

– Now the GAs have always been allowed to work no different than a full-time coach. Analysts cannot, as far as any instruction on the field. We are going to structure some things a little differently for reps purposes. I think some to take off some of the older guys reps wise as especially early in camp, because I don’t, again, I don’t think from a conditioning standpoint, we may be where we probably were in summers past, because of the work.

– [Reporter] Hi Coach, hope you’re doing well today. In terms of handling practice and getting started and having the players all back on campus now, how much do you preach more about life lessons than worrying about the X’s and O’s, considering all the unknowns around this virus and the uncertainty of the season itself?

– Well, Joe I think that’s a conversation every day with our guys. I think we’ve been very transparent with our guys, as far as dealing with the virus. We’re all at risk players, coaches, staff. We’re all at risk. We all got to make really good decisions, as far as washing our hands and as far as wearing a mask. As far as the social distancing things are concerned, and those are emphasized in every meeting on the field. Those are things that we’re constantly talking to our players about, in those situations. But I think today was, always when we start camp we try to get to know each other better on a player-to-coach relationship, from a player-to-player relationship and a lot of those meetings took place today.

– [Reporter] Yeah, as far as when it comes to teams having to disclose infections with the virus, is there some sort of a uniform, I guess, code or route that the teams are going to be able to tell you, or have to take, the way everyone’s uniform with how things are disclosed?

– I know that we have a uniform testing agency, but I have not been informed of anything, as far as announcing, as far as those things are concerned by the league. I know we’ll be tested on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday, three times a week. That’s really all I know right now, Hale.

– [Reporter] I guess you’re probably still a little bit in the dark, like everyone else, when it comes to the recruiting side of what you guys are going to be able to do, I can’t imagine you’re anticipating anybody being able to come to campus, but as far as your staff being able to get out on the road and do like you normally would for games on Friday nights, any idea of what that might look like?

– I have no idea. I know it’s dead through September. The end of September. We’ve been informed that. I think they’re going to do this on a month-to-month basis, based on where things are. Obviously, there’s some states that are playing football. There’s some states that aren’t playing football, as far as high school is concerned. So we’ll figure that out as we continue to move forward. My biggest concern right now, is the guys we got on campus. Obviously recruiting is a forefront priority, and we’re continuing to work through that right now.

– [Reporter] Will, you kind of mentioned Jalen Brooks, I guess, is there a timeline of when you know about his waiver, how optimistic are you in, if that does happen, if you get immediately eligible, what kind of impact do you think he can make this year?

– Well, just in the short time we’ve been with him, he runs around extremely well. He’s a big, physical guy. He’s a very intelligent, he learns extremely well. So in a very short time, he’s made a very favorable impression on our staff. But again, with those waivers, Collin, you never know, you never know exactly when they’ll, I’m sure that there’s, because of what we’re going through, there’s a lot out there. There’s a lot on the NCAA’s plate right now. We do feel good about some family situations, that we feel like are real and that we feel that he should be ruled in favorably to play this year.

– [Reporter] Hey Coach, thanks for doing this. Just with the freshmen class, how have they been dealing with all of this, this entire process? Have you had to do anything differently to really get them acclimated and make sure they’re ready to go this season?

– Yeah, when they first came in, we worked in four different lift groups and they had their own lift group, as far as about the first three and a half to four weeks, to make sure they were acclimated to the weight room, the proper fundamentals and techniques in the weight room, maybe not moving as high a weight. Paul Jackson and his staff did a really good job of orienting them to the weight room, to make sure that they were ready to go, as far as those things are concerned. But I’ve been extremely impressed on both sides of the ball with those freshmen. We had obviously a lot here, midyear on campus. A lot of these guys are going to contribute to our football team this fall. Over these next 40 days will determine how much they’ll contribute to us and how they do throughout camp. But I’ve been extremely pleased with this class.

– [Reporter] A couple of quick things. Following up on the question about Brooks. What did you like about him as a player? Why do you think a guy like that started out in D2, being overlooked and emerged as a major player, major caliber player? Number two, where are you guys on the Mike Bobo investigation into that issue with him out of Colorado State?

– Sure, well first of all, with Jalen. He has grown a lot since he played in high school. As far as his body is concerned, his body’s changed tremendously. We know some people that he throws with that all reached out to us and talked about his work ethic, his athleticism, his hand-eye coordination, his ball skills, and his tape is really impressive and is a position that we need some more productive guys and some more dependable guys, at the position. So we continued to research him. We were extremely impressed with what we saw and we felt like he can be a huge contributor to us. As far as the Mike Bobo situation. Those claims to me are completely absurd. I’ve known Mike since 1993. He doesn’t have a racist bone in his body and that’s really all I’ll comment at this time. I look forward to commenting further, but I don’t want to give the article any more credibility, ’cause it doesn’t deserve any.

– [Reporter] Hey Coach, just another practice question. I noticed that this year, at least on this camp schedule you all are giving Sundays off instead of Mondays. I think that’s a flip flop from last year. Is that something you’re going to continue into the season? If so, what’s kind of the reasoning behind that?

– No, John really that’s just in training camp. We kind of just the way the days fell. I didn’t want to go any more than three days in a row, as far as practice was concerned. So our typical in-training campus, we’re going to have Sundays completely off, which is mandated by the NCAA. Then Mondays will be a meeting/workout day. Then generally, we’ll be practicing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and then have some sort of team stretch and meeting on Friday and then some form of a scrimmage, whether it’s a full scrimmage or a half practice, half scrimmage, depending on where we are and what evaluation that the ninth practice will be a full scrimmage. I think that’s the end of August. I don’t have the exact date with me, but we’re going to go back to in the season to a Sunday practice, Monday off model, and then practicing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, walkthrough on Friday. That really just the way it fell in training camp. But John originally, we thought September was going to be open recruiting and we felt like not knowing what was going to happen on the back end of the virus. We were going to try and get all of our official visits done early in the season, just in case things got cut off in late October, November. You hear all the experts saying it’s going to spike again. I wanted to at least get some exposure to our guys on campus. That’s why we weren’t going to practice on Sundays. We’re going to practice on Mondays to be able to spend more time with the recruits, if they were able to come on on campus on Sundays. But now it’s dead till the end of September. So that kind of eliminates that thought process was what we originally thought. That’s why we originally had scheduled for our season to have off day on Sunday. So we could spend time with recruits, because it’s difficult to do that, when you’re preparing with your team.

– [Reporter] Hey Will, thanks for doing this. Running backs position where you all have had a lot of turnover, over the last season. Last time you mentioned the contract, Zaquandre White was still in quarantine. Is he out of quarantine? Are you interested in seeing what he adds to the backfield the next few weeks?

– Absolutely. All of our players, we don’t have anybody in quarantine at this time. Zaquandre was only quarantine, because he came from out of state and our CDC policy in the state of South Carolina is you’re quarantined for seven days. So he was quarantined for that. But he’s an explosive guy that’s got really good top end speed. I think he brings a lot to that room in the short time he’s been here. Our guys have really enjoyed him being here and being around. I think we’ve got some ability in the room. Some of it’s inexperience, but I’d rather be coaching an explosive fast twitch guy that maybe lacks a little of experience at that position, as opposed to an experienced guy that can’t make any plays.

– [Reporter] Hey Will, I think you might’ve just answered it, but since last time we talked to you, have you guys had any positive Corona tests?

– No, we tested our entire building today. I think it was about 245 tests this morning. Staff, everybody in the building, all players obviously, and we’ll know those results probably tonight.

– [Reporter] Also thinking ahead a little bit, you guys go to a hotel the night before a home game. Will you continue to do that, all through this time?

– We will, we certainly will, yep.

– [Reporter] Hey Coach, through this off season, what have you seen from Josh Vann and kind of how important do you think these next six weeks can be for him?

– Oh, it’s going to be huge for them. I mean, we got some guys at that position, especially. They need to start producing. So, we’ve got some young guys we’re excited about. Shaw’s obviously a guy that’s been a productive player. Xavier Legette is a guy that really came on in his freshman year to carry on, has done some nice things. We’re going to play Luke Doty at receiver some, but these next six weeks are huge for Josh. He’s going into his junior year. We need to get more production out of some of these guys.

– [Reporter] Will, you mentioned how you’ve got nobody in quarantine. Do you feel like these protocols, this bubble you’ve created is, has been effective for you this summer and are there other phases? If things get out of hand in a month from now with school’s back in session, things like that, do you have other other, I don’t know, tools that you can use to try and keep this under control?

– Well again, that’s, I want to again, I’ve said it before Clinton Haggard and his staff have done a phenomenal job. George Wynn, our director of football operations, of making sure we had all the right protocols in place. I’ve got to credit our players. We didn’t do as good early on in June, that we’ve done recently. I think it was a learning process of understanding what you probably could and couldn’t do. Again, you’re dealing with college-age kids. I mean, they’re going to be college kids and we want them to be college kids. We just wanted to do it very boring lifestyle right now. That’s the way we’ve got to lead our lives. So, as far as moving forward, we need to continue to make good decisions. There’s no different protocols that we’ll have, as we continue to move forward. As far as those things are concerned.

– [Reporter] Hey Will, you kind of talked about, I guess when quarantine started about a lot of these 20-21 commitments being reservations. How do you feel your recruiting has been, over the last couple of weeks, now that you’ve kind of gotten a plan in place and where do you, how much do you like this 20-21 group currently?

– I do, I mean, I feel really good about where we are. We need to continue, address some needs, especially on the back end in the secondary. I feel pretty good about where we are all offensively. Like to add another linebacker and another front guy, but we feel pretty good about where we are, with the guys that we’ve got. I think there’s a long time till December and now I think there’ll be a lot of things that’ll change, as we continue to move forward.

– [Reporter] How concerned are you about mental fatigue, because of all the uncertainty about the season and where are your guys in that area right now, as they begin, what’s normally the most mentally fatiguing part of the process?

– Well, I think that some of the uncertainty now, obviously when we announced a 10 game schedule, we announced the two new opponents. Now we announced the first ball game and at seven o’clock, we’re going to announce we’re going to be in a meeting, but we’ll announce the rest of our schedule. That’s going to create a lot of excitement for our guys. Our guys want to play. At the end of the day, our guys want to play. They want to be safe and we want them to be safe and we’re going to be safe. Then we want to play as long as it is safe. That’s where we’re making sure of that as we continue to work through this. But you know, you got to have the right mindset, going through training camp. That’s something we’ve talked about today. We’re going to continue to talk about tonight of improving every single day and approaching the day, the right way mentally to get right physically, to what you got to do, to endure a very difficult 10 game schedule. Our guys understand that. But I think as they continue to move forward and there’s an end in sight of games, of opponents, those things make our guys really excited, because they’re excited about playing football.

– [Reporter] As there are responsible entertainment options are very limited right now, have you all done anything internally? I mean, movie night or anything just random, to try to give them that kind of outlet?

– Well, I think that there at times, and I’ve talked to our leadership committee at times, that there are some really good ideas. Then there’s some times where they just seem to need some time away from us. We have spent more time around our players when we went from the third, from the eight hour care a week in June to now, I mean, excuse me, July 13th to the July 24th, we’re a 20 hour week. Believe me, they enjoy doing the football stuff, but they like getting out of the building too. So I think that we only went back to the, I guess it was a 14 hour week, last week. So they’ve spent a lot of time in the building with us. We spent a lot of time together. We really, as far as what we would call true training campus is today and tomorrow and Wednesday, and then we start school on Thursday. So, and then we’ve got some orientation, some different things some guys got to do. So some guys will be kind of in and out, as far as practice is concerned. So I think that there’s something we talked to our leadership committee about, some extra things, but we spent a lot of time together, more than we are normally doing.

– [Reporter] Hey coach, thanks for doing this. Do you have an idea of how many number of your guys will be wearing that face shield attachment that kind of goes over their mouth, that’s attached to their face mask, or will they be wearing more of those pullover covers, like you’re wearing?

– I couldn’t put a number on it. I know that we are required to wear a face shield. Then when they’re on the sideline, they need to have some sort of face covering, on the sideline, as we go through adjustments. So when they’re sitting down, they have their helmet off, they need to have some sort of Gator or mask on the sideline. Then while they’re playing, they need some sort of face shield covering on their face mask.

– [Reporter] Coach, can you just describe how big of an advantage it is for Collin Hill to have had such a close previously relationship with Coach Bobo and just what that means for him, coming into a new program?

– Well, sure. Mike puts a lot on a lot on the quarterback at the line of scrimmage and there’s no question, it’s something obvious we’ll help him. But Ryan’s working extremely hard. I came up here Sunday afternoon. Ryan’s watching tape he’s in with Mike Friday afternoon, watching tape. So Ryan’s extremely bright and working hard. You know, you got Jay Urich, you got Luke Doty. All of those guys are working extremely hard. The great thing, if there’s a positive about what we’ve gone through, as far as football’s concerned, is the amount of time we’ve been able to spend with our players, starting on July 13th. We’re able to spend time in the meeting room and get some walkthroughs done. You start on the 24th, we’re able to go out there with a ball, get a lot of walkthroughs done. So there’s been a lot of teaching opportunities for our guys anywhere from 16, 18, 20 opportunities with them on the field, with them in the meeting room, which in normal situations, we would have never have had that going into training camp. So we’re much further along schematically, in all three phases than we’ve ever been, as far as that’s concerned, because we’ve been able to hit through the installation now, two times and now as we move into training camp, we’ll be going through the installation three times, which is very beneficial for a new system, very beneficial for a young player, in that regard.

– [Reporter] Obviously you mentioned other guys on the roster as well, but bringing in a veteran like Hill, who’s had some impressive numbers when he’s been able to stay healthy. What has his presence in particular meant to a guy like Hilinski, as he continues to move forward in his young career?

– I think it’s been really good for both players from the standpoint, number one, competition. Because competition makes you all better. At the end of the day, when you know you got to walk in the building every day, whether it’s a meeting room, whether it’s a walkthrough, whether it’s a practice and you got to bring your A-game all the time, that promotes consistency in your performance as a player. I think obviously Collin’s experience in the offense is going to be helping Ryan, because those guys at the end of the day, they both want to win and they want to help South Carolina win. So they’ve worked very well together.

– [Reporter] Hey Will, a belated thanks for your really nice tribute to Rick there. Just kind of a little bit off the field. What sort of empathy do you have for like the band, the cheerleaders, the mascots, and other people kind of impacted by what’s going on with the virus in college football?

– Well, it’s impacted us all in so many ways. You think about our loyal fan base, not being able to have 80,000 strongly on September 26. It’s an unfortunate situation that we’re all going through. I think we’ve all experienced some form of loss, going through this pandemic that we’re traveling through. I’m hoping to get back to as much normalcy as we can and playing football, being able for our fan base. Hopefully, we can get as many people in the stands. That’s not a question for me. That’s a question for Coach Tanner, in case you were about to ask it. So again, I hurt for them as far as not being able to have the normalcy that we have at Williams Brice Stadium, or when you go on the road in the Southeastern Conference to a place like Nealon Stadium or between the hedges, or in the swamp, or wherever the case may be, to have that experience. ‘Cause there is something special about that in our league. But thank goodness we’re playing football and thank goodness we’re going to have that opportunity this fall. So I think that, be mindful for what you have and appreciate what you have, even though it may not be what you totally are used to having in your life.

– [Reporter] But specifically for, I mean, you’ve got students there, I’m talking about fellow students in the band, cheerleaders, mascots, how hard must that be on them, do you think?

– Oh, I think so. Now what Ray’s told me is that the band’s going to be at the games. What he’s told me on the home games. I don’t know about the away games, but certainly on the home games, which I would assume that cheerleaders are going to be allowed to be there. I don’t know about what numbers of fans we’re going to be able to have in the stands. I don’t know all that. But again, that’s a question for Coach Tanner, but yeah, there’s no question that when you take away from the college experience, that was one thing in our meetings today with our players, all the defensive coaches and the defensive meeting got up and talked about their background, where they’re from, their family, all kinds of different things. It was one thing I took from Travaris Robinson, from Rod Wilson, from Mike Peterson, from Tracy Rocker is, this is the greatest time of your life. This is the best time of your life and it’s interesting to hear you talk about different guys about what are your team goals and then what are your personal goals? “Well I want to go to the league.” Tracy Rocker, Rod Wilson, T Rob and Coach Rocker all played the national football league. They all cherish their college experience a lot more than they did in the NFL, regardless of how much money they made, the friendships they had, the guys that were in their weddings. I mean, Mike Peterson talked about Albert Hill today. I mean, so that’s the, cherish the time you have right now. It may not be exactly the same as it was, and it may not ever be, I don’t know. Hopefully it will be, but to experience the pageantry of the Southeastern Conference at South Carolina, at Williams Brice Stadium, whether you’re a cheerleader, whether you’re a student in the stands, whether you’re a band member. It’s disappointing for everybody about losing that part of that experience. ‘Cause that is special.

– [Reporter] With linebacker being a little shorthanded these next couple of weeks, who are we going to look to in the middle would be and how you guys kind of juggle that as you wait for those three guys to get back into the mix?

– Well right now Damani’s playing the MIKE and the Sam, Brad Johnson’s playing the Sam. Gilber Edmond, who’s a freshmen, has come on and played the Sam pretty well for us, but Damani can play both positions. Rashad can play the MIKE and the Will. Mo Kaba has been a young player I’ve been really impressed with, but we’re going to get Ernest back. We’re going to get Spencer Eason-Riddle back eventually get Rosendo back. So I feel like we don’t need to panic or anything. We’ll end up being fine at the position. Jahmar Brown is a guy that can always go play the dime/will for us, in any situation. So again, I feel pretty comfortable about the skill set we got there.

– [Reporter] Is it possible for Mo Kaba as first look out?

– He’s going to play will and dime.

– [Reporter] Will, I know the last time we spoke, you mentioned that, at travel squad could be, usually 70, but depending on how many people you do take, in terms of handling this with the virus going on, could that number be a little bit smaller for home games, in comparison to years past? Has the SEC put any kind of regulations out, in terms of trying to shorten that or make that smaller?

– No, right now it’s at 70 and I would assume that it would probably be at the same number, but I told the guys, and I’m going to tell them again tonight, if you’re not playing, you ain’t traveling. We’re going to be taking guys that are going to be playing and not just eating a steak, before the game and an orange at halftime. We got to have guys who are playing.

– [Reporter] Okay, okay. I know that you’re happy playing football and moving forward. I’m wondering, have you taken any time and thought about what the PAC 12, the big 10 and many of these other conferences are doing by not playing in the fall and just wonder if you’re doing the right thing at the SEC and the ACC and the big 12 are doing the right thing, or any players come to you and kind of question considering most of the nation is shutting down for the fall, but you guys are moving forward? Any lack of confidence, coming from any parts?

– No, I again, I think Phil, we’ve been very transparent with our players. There’s been a lot of questions. We’ve had a lot of team meetings. We’ve had a lot of position meetings. We’ve had a lot of meetings with our leadership group about the different things we need to do to make them feel comfortable with where we are, moving forward. Certainly we’ve had two players that had decided to opt out and I totally respect and understand their decision. I totally understand that we’re all at risk right now. Coaches, players, staff members. But I trust Commissioner Sankey, our medical task force, that he has put together that feels like that it is safe, as we continue to move forward. As long as it continues that route, I’ve got to trust in their leadership. I do trust in their leadership that they’re making the best decisions. ‘Cause we said from the onslaught that the wealth, the health and the wellbeing of the student athletes, was the most important thing. I believe that that is every decision we make is about that decision. I’ve got to trust that they they’re doing what’s best. I look at the numbers in every state, in our footprint, in the Southeastern Conference, I talked to coaches about their positives and every building, it is much, much less than it is in each state. Whether we play football or not, Phil, Coronavirus it’s not going away. It’s going to be here. In my personal opinion, and I’m not a doctor. Shutting our country down is not the best thing to do, I can assure you of that. So right now, the medical task force people, the experts are telling us that they feel it’s safe to play at this time. Could that change, certainly it could change. But at this time, they feel like it is safe enough to play. Again, their health and wellbeing, the student athletes is paramount.

– [Reporter] Will, getting to football. I mean, obviously last year, you guys struggled a little bit. The off season, normally every day, would it be about, “Hey, we only won four games last year. We need to improve in all phases.” Do you feel like there was any kind of drop off on the focus and fire, because of what we’re dealing with amongst your players?

– Well, I think that, players are all competitors, all guys are motivated differently. I think as you continue to harp on the negativity of last season, which we didn’t, we weren’t consistent enough defensively. We lost confidence. As the year went on offensively, we didn’t do enough to help the quarterback position, after we lost Jake, whether it was Ryan playing to carry on. Jay Urich, whoever was playing that position. We didn’t help that position enough, as coaches. That’s me, there’s nobody blaming anybody. So at the end of the day, we’ve got to do a better job with that, which obviously you make changes. I think we’ve made the right changes. I’m excited about Mike. I got a lot of confidence in Mike. I think Mike’s experience, I think his success that he’s had offensively brings a lot of confidence to our players offensively, and we needed that. They’re really excited in the five days that they were exposed to him in spring practice. In the time we’ve had to be able to be on the field with our players and have some walkthroughs. You can see some excitement with our guys, which we didn’t have that late in the year offensively. Then defensively, we just need to be more consistent. We did some good things at times. We gave up 35 points, when our defense went on the field. A lot of that was on special teams. We needed to be better in our coverage and return units. So again, there’s some improvement certainly out there for us and we’re looking forward to it. I think that you can continue to bring up the negativity of it, or just continue to be very constructive and learn from some things we’ve got to do. We are less than 50% scoring touchdowns in the red zone. That’s hard to win. It’s very difficult to win, if you can’t do that. So there’s some things that we have pointed to as a staff, to our players that are really important, that we must make some strides. We only outscored our opponents three times in the fourth quarter, for the entire season. So there’s some obvious things that we have pointed to that we’ve got to improve on and that we plan on improving on.

– [Reporter] Coach, with all the unknowns about the upcoming season, what are your biggest concerns, going into the season?

– Well, I think obviously when you’re installing a new offense, you got to form your identity. What is that identity going to be? I have a good field, but I want to see how things continue to transpire, as we move forward. As far as those things are concerned. The comfort level of that identity with our players, we’re going to have some youth at the running back position, like I’ve said before. I think we’ve got some ability, but we’re young at the position. Concerned about the receiver position of having some guys step up again. I think we have guys that have the ability, but those guys need to step up and play the way they’re capable of playing and being more dependable at the position. ‘Cause I do think we’ve got some ability to position. You lose a guy like Javon Kinlaw, and Dylan Wonnum up-front, two very productive players for us. I think we’ve recruited well. I think we have some guys that are willing and more than capable of stepping up and fill in those voids extremely well. But I like it linebacker, what we’ve got back and in the secondary, what we’ve got back with the experience that we have, as far as those things are concerned. We’re going to have a new punter. Joseph was an outstanding punter. We’re going to have a new punter that needs to come in there and be able to flip the field and control the field position like Joe did it and multiple times and how he helped us. So again, I would say probably the biggest concerns up front. It would be the receiver position at running back, with the youth that we have at those positions and then up front defensively and guys that are demanding double teams and that can win the one on ones.

– [Reporter] Hey Will, what is the turnaround time for Covid tests in your program? How fast are you kind of finding out about potential positives and how much flexibility does that kind of give you? Or how much of an impediment is it, if it’s not that fast?

– No, we have improved tremendously from June and I do want to thank Bill and Lou Kennedy, Nephron Pharmaceutical have been such great Gamecocks and supported our entire university, but also the athletic department, as well, and the football program. They’ve been wonderful. But generally, that turnaround’s happening within the day.

– [Reporter] A little off topic here, but Auburn did get added to the schedule. You got a long history with Auburn. What are your most outstanding memories of that first time that you got hired your first college gig?

– GA, 1995. Yeah, long time ago and there Dave, but it’s a great place. It’s great people. Really about three different tenures there. As a graduate assistant, ’95 and ’96 and then went back as a coordinator in ’07 and ’08. Was it ’06 and ’07? Then back in ’15 and when Gus hired me. So it’s a great place, with wonderful people. I took my son Whit to throw with a throwing guide down in Mobile and was able to see Antonio Coleman. One of my old players. I called him up and met him. Met him down in Mobile to talk and talk about some of the great times we had. That was about a month ago, but just a wonderful experience. Remember going there in ’95 with Coach Bowden, Terry Bowden. Then was fortunate to work under Wayne Hall, as a defensive coordinator. Actually, Coach Tracy Rocker in college, and then Bill Oliver, who came the next year and worked with him. So I got to work for two of the better coordinators that ever worked in our league and really in college football from that standpoint, but just wonderful learning experiences, but Auburn’s a great place. Great people and a wonderful place to live.

– [Reporter] When you and Mike both spoke in the spring about getting guys in the summer, the freshmen in the summer that there are play makers and getting into the fall before you all really knew and understood what your strengths were, as an offense. When do you hope to have a good feel for that and how to kind of put together game plans and so forth, based on those strengths?

– Well, I think John, after that first scrimmage, you take those first nine days and you start kind of formulating who we need to continue to point to, ’cause you really have two weeks of practice and then you’re starting into game preparation. So after the ninth practice, you start whittling down the number of reps and where you’re repping guys, ’cause those next two weeks, you’re going to continue to improve what you’ve got. ‘Cause really your base installation is done after install nine, then you’re just working on some different gimmicks. Third down, look some different things that you might be doing. Game plan lies, especially for the first ball game, especially. So I think after that first scrimmage, you got to start narrowing down rep-wise, where guys are repping, so you can continue to build the depth on your team, but find out the guys that can help you make plays.

– [Reporter] Well, look, what’s this been like for you? ‘Cause obviously you’ve been coaching college football, your whole life you’ve been playing, you played college football. I know you mentioned a couple of weeks ago. You’re out with your son enjoying your birthday. That’s not something you’re probably used to doing. I mean what’s this like for a head coach, these last couple of weeks? Is the wife ready to just get you out of the house?

– Yeah, there is no doubt about that, but it is what it is. It’s the situation we’re in. It’s great to walk out today. We had the team run today. Coach Jackson, we didn’t practice today. We lifted them and ran them today. Coming off, I gave them a three day weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and then to run them today a little bit and have had some opportunities to have meetings and things this afternoon. I thought it was really important to get out and you walk out and smell the grass and just cut the grass and it’s like, you get that feeling back very quickly. I wish we could have them in the building longer. They’re happy they’re not having to be in the building longer, but that is what it is. But I’m excited about tomorrow getting back on the grass and coaching and that’s what it’s all about.

– [Reporter] My memory’s not good, so I can’t remember you answering about it, but what have you seen from Jordan Burch in the limited time that you’ve been able to kind of work with him? Will he solely be back the season?

– Well, we’ll move him around. Again, we need to get to our best rushers and our rabbits package. He’s certainly got it. He’s exhibited some ability to possibly do that. He’s been very bright. He catches on extremely well, very competitive in the weight room, very competitive in the meeting room, very competitive, when you were in the walkthrough situations. Mike Peterson has been really pleased with him and how he retains information day-to-day. But again, Collin, we’re a lot further along, especially for young players, because of the opportunities we’ve had since July 13th, to spend time with our players and be teaching our players, basic defenses that we’re doing. Fundamentals and techniques that we’re a lot further on than we ever have been. I’ve actually sped the installation up a little bit, as far as the days of when we work on certain things, whether it’s red zone opportunities, third down one minute, really about two days, as far as you know, our installation is concerned, because of where we are as far as insulate. But he’s doing fine. But again, we’ve been in pajamas, this entire time. It’s time to put on some. Actually, we’ll be in helmets again tomorrow and Wednesday. We’ve got an acclimatization period. We’ll be in shells on Friday and Saturday and then full gear on Monday and Tuesday, have a lift day. We’ll have another test day. We’ll test once a week, as far as COVID is concerned, throughout training camp. Then shells practice, Thursday. Helmets practice Friday. Then a scrimmage on Saturday. That’ll conclude practice nine, which obviously we’ve got to continue to start narrowing some things down when we get there.