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VIDEO: Will Muschamp News Conference
Football  . 

VIDEO: Will Muschamp News Conference

Head Coach Meets With Reporters on Zoom Call Following Scrimmage

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke with reporters via a Zoom call following the Gamecocks’ first scrimmage of fall camp Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.


– Well, you know, it’s practice nine. We’ve had really, three good, really good days back to back, and going into today in the stadium for the first time for, especially some young players, I had one coach say he’s got the bright-eyed look. I said, “It’s his first time at Williams Brice.” And so, but really, operation from the press box, we still had some mishaps as far as communication and things are concerned, but kind of somewhat expected. With each group, which we repped three groups today, got about 45 snaps. It’s about 125 scrimmage snaps and a lot of kicking work. We got a kick off. I wanted to get another one we didn’t, but I got, we got a lot of pump work as far as our protection and covering with Kai being a new kicker and Kingsley’s done a nice job with that as well. So to, being able to get out and spread the lanes and cover and Jaycee Horn and Jamie Robinson have done a good job returning punts for us, will be our top two guys at this point, but it was good to be able to get them in some live situations, catching the ball with, with people covering down the field and that was, that was really good. We incorporated within the scrimmage, which is good to transition, to be able to go to a, to a special teams unit, you know, from an offense or a defensive set. So that was really good to be able to rep through that, that on the field today, but you know, the guys competed and that was the big thing. I challenged them going into the stadium today was, was competitive edge. Let’s go compete. Let’s, let’s try to exhibit mental toughness and what we need to do to be successful. We did have too many issues that were self-inflicted, jumping off sides on defense twice, a couple of delay of game penalties, three false starts, you know, a critical error on the snap on a two point play, a bad toss on the goal line on a fourth down to score. So, so again, you know, some things that we need to correct but, but I liked how our guys competed. I like how the guys went about it and got after each other. That was good on both sides of the ball, offense and defense, some good explosive plays and really good stops on third down defensively, played firm in the run game with our first group, certainly not with our second or third group, nowhere near where we need to be there, got to continue to have guys come on. We got to continue to build depth on our football team and going through this situation that we’re going through, you never know who can be up or down within the week and you’ve got to be able to have answers as coaches. So we’ll go back and evaluate the tape and watch it but the most pleasing thing for me was just how the guys went out and competed and played fast and that was really what we challenged them. Going into our calendar, moving forward, our players will be off tomorrow unless they need to have treatment, which we got a couple of guys banged up here, nothing serious. We need to be able to get those guys back as soon as possible. I have canceled all football activities for our organization on Monday. We will have COVID testing Monday morning, and then we will go to campus and as a team demonstration, obviously you’ve seen the video of the Jacob Blake situation in Wisconsin was a horrific situation, to a team demonstration, supporting racial equality and being totally against police brutality and our leadership group came to me on that. We want to make a statement on our campus. We’re going to do that. I think some other student athletes will join us hopefully, and, and to remove football and focus a little bit on the more important things in our life and in our country right now and so I totally support them as far as that’s concerned. And I’ll open up for any questions.

– [Reporter] Hey Will, thanks for doing this. You mentioned some guys are banged up. Any new injuries, any new Corona quarantines, anything like that?

– No, we had a positive, we had, excuse me, a test Wednesday, and we had all negatives. So we had, in the building, I think it was 300 something tests all negative and we’ve none, nothing, nothing normal of camp, you know, an ankle, a little shoulder, nothing that’s going to be extended of a guy out for awhile.

– [Reporter] I guess getting your quarterbacks out for the first time sort of in that kind of setting, how did they kind of perform?

– Well, I was pleased with both. I’d like to watch the tape first, but as far as functioning, we had a couple delay of game, we need to correct those issues and understand where the clock is but, you know, for the first time of the coaches, I told the coaches do not come on the field. The guys got to manage things for themselves. I thought we did some really good things. I thought both guys had really good command in the huddle of what we’ve got to do to be successful and I thought there was some explosive plays. I mean the, offensively, when, you know, I think our defense was very good in our red zone period and our third down period and then when we went to the move the ball period, the offense kind of took over the scrimmage and a lot of our explosive plays and really the offense when they did stop themselves, it was because of some self-inflicted issues from jumping off sides and false starts and things like that. So it was kind of a back and forth scrimmage, which was good.

– [Reporter] Hey Will, what are the chances do you think, that you could want to intentionally play both of your quarterbacks, you know, in the first couple of games to just kind of see how it goes.

– Well, Gene, we’re going to do what it takes to win and if it means playing both guys, if it means playing Luke Doty at quarterback some, we’re going to do what it takes to win and that’s what we’re committed to doing for our team.

– [Reporter] Will, I was going to ask, have you seen any separation on the receiver front from some of those second, third and fourth guys or is that still kind of a bit of a mix?

– Oh, a little bit of a mix. I mean, I think Josh Vann was a player of the day, I want to say two practices ago so I was pleased to see Josh come on force. We need Josh. He made a couple plays today in our third down period, I know on a first down situation early in the scrimmage when we were in move the ball, so that, that is good to see Xavier, Jalen Brooks, Shi, I mean, those, those, those were our top three guys. Dakereon’s done some good things. We need Josh to continue to come on force. Rico Powers has done some nice things. So I’ve, I’ve, that group has continued to come on and improving in my opinion.

– [Reporter] Will, have you heard any word on Jalen Brooks and if not, just how good does he continue to look out there in the last setting?

– No, we have not heard anything on that. I don’t really know that there’s any timetable for that. You never really know in those situations and I know the NCAA is overloaded right now, probably with, with waivers and different things that are going on in our, in our college athletics, but you know, he’s a really good player. He’s got vertical speed. You know, I think he registered, I think I told you guys on 22 miles an hour on the catapult, which is really running well. He catches the ball well. A guy that understands coverage, he’s extremely bright. So he’s a guy that can threaten you down the field, which is always an issue as a defensive back in man or zone coverages. When, you know, a guy can get on top of you and win. So our guys understand that when they cover him in one to one, on one situations, he’s a guy that can get on top in the, in the round.

– [Reporter] With no Ernest Jones out there, how was linebacker play? How was the communication there? How do you see that going with, with no Ernest?

– Well, John, Sherrod’s has done a really nice job, he really has, you know, come in and, and, and I thought he flashed today on several plays. Damani Staley has done a really nice job. Those two guys have been very, in my opinion, consistent in camp. I think Sherrod’s played his most consistent ball and that’s been his challenge. There’s been some times he’s played really well and there’s some times he hasn’t played as well. And I told him, going into training camp, this is a huge challenge for you, is just the consistency in your performance. You’re a senior, you’re a guy that needs, we need to be able to consistently perform. Damani coming into camp and then all of a sudden, you know, Ernest has the appendix taken out and then we switched him to the Mike linebacker. Damani has never been a very vocal guy and I’ve been so proud of him and how he’s gotten really comfortable being uncomfortable because that’s not something he likes to do, but he has taken that as a, as an opportunity and a challenge and I appreciate the way he’s handled it, but he, we, we, we’ve, you know, anytime you have something like this happen, you get better from it, unfortunately, and right now Damani and Sherrod have done a really nice job, Brad Johnson has had a terrific training camp and is playing really well at the Sam linebacker. He’s a guy that, that really is, is doing a nice, nice job for us, you know, there at the, at the Sam. So again, I think that we’ve got some guys that can really play well at the linebacker position. Mo Kaba who’s a young player, that continues to develop and improve. I’ve been pleased with that and then we need to get Ernest back and Spencer Eason-Riddle and get Rosendo Louis back. So we’ll get those guys back, I feel pretty good about where we are.

– [Reporter] The running backs today, did those guys get kind of tossed in with the first group or?

– Yeah, we just, we’re rotating those guys through. Rashad Amos had a couple of nice runs for a young guy. He can really see the inside zone well, in my opinion, the duo play, and he makes nice cuts. He gets north and south. He’s got to hang on to the football. He had, was loose a couple of times when we, we can’t tolerate that and he won’t play if he turns it over, but, but I thought Kevin and Deshaun both got some positive run in moving the pile. Yep, I thought, you know, those, all three of those guys showed up. Now, we’re not very good right now upfront defensively with our second and third group. We got to continue to improve there. We stunk.

– [Reporter] With those guys, will it just be sort of like the quarterback spot? Just, just see who kind of shakes forward these next couple days, a week or so, to see how —

– Yeah, I think, I think, I think not the next week, the next two weeks, the next four months, I mean, at the end of the day, they all got to be ready for the number to be called ’cause you never know what’s going to happen in any given situation and all these guys got to be ready to play. I mean, we can’t sit there and, and think that we’re just going to rep these two guys and get them ready. That’s that’s not the case. We got to have all guys on hand. That’s why we’re we rep the way we rep and three different groups are getting opportunities and mixing the groups and co-mingling those guys and putting them with the first group, putting them in the third group. So to continue to get those guys to come on for us.

– [Reporter] Will, we’ve heard from the players about Mike’s personality and coaching style on the field and conversely Joe Cox who they say is more mellow than Bryan McClendon was as a wide receivers coach. I was wondering, when you put together a staff, how much do you think about good cop, bad cop dynamic, for lack of a better term?

– Yeah, I do think that there is something to that. I don’t think that at, on one side of the ball, that, that you can have all bad guys, as far as, you know, getting after a guy. You know, you got to, you know, we’re going to coach a guy so hard. I always tell the guys, you know, at the end of the day, you got to coach ’em hard and you got to love ’em hard. And as long as they know that you, they have your, you have their best interest at heart, however your coaching style, can be very effective. One of the, a guy that I really look up to in this profession is a guy named Tony Dungy. He’s never raised his voice in his coaching career, from what I understood. Everybody that ever played for him, everybody that ever was around him, Mike Peterson, I mean, they just talked in terms of the respect that he commanded and he didn’t have to raise his voice. I’ve worked for other coaches, Hall of Fame coaches, that raised their voices a lot, but you don’t always, and I always tell the players, don’t listen to the tone, listen to the message and there can be a good message conveyed from, you know, increasing the volume and then there can be really good message from someone that maybe doesn’t increase the volume as much. But I do think it is important to have a good mixture on your staff is what you’re asking and I, and that is calculated in the hiring process of, you know, where are we going with this hire? But I mean, Joe is a very good technician. I sat in his meeting, I believe it was a day ago, and listened to him coach the guys and the detail that he has with the players is outstanding and he’s a really good young coach.

– [Reporter] So are you the good cop or the bad cop?

– Most time I am the bad cop. Now I’m not going to say bad cop, I’m going to say I raise the volume sometimes.

– [Reporter] Will, I mean, with Mike’s really first chance to kind of show the offense in a scrimmage setting, how much did he show off? Were you pleased with the execution that they had and the kind of gimmicks and plays that he’s going to install once the season gets here?

– I think, you know, Mike is really big into match-ups and I think that’s what he does a really good job of. So there’s some, there’s some change up, you know, obviously day to day and then week to week as we’ve worked through camp and, and there will be game to game. So it’s all about identifying your playmakers, the guy you know you can depend on, and if you’re not a dependable guy, you can’t play the guy. So whether it’s from an injury standpoint, from not taking care of the ball, from not understanding your assignments and that’s what scrimmages are great for because the coaches are off the field and you’re not sitting there being able to line a guy up every other snap and tell him what to do, which there was some of that from the sideline today. I don’t know how big our crowd is going to be on September 26. I guess 20,000 people in Gamecock nation can be loud at 20,000 people, I think. So some of these guys need to learn to, where to line up.

– [Reporter] You mentioned you’re taking Monday off for protest and Dawn, Coach Staley, did a long thing yesterday, but there’s a lot of evidence in the media coming out of Wisconsin that the police might not be in the wrong in this case and there’s still a lot of work to be done. My question is, do you think it’s proper to do this protesting being led by you and by Don and others around the country before the full story is told? And we know if, for sure, the police officer was in the wrong. I mean, perhaps the victim had something to do with, with what happened in this case, based on the information that’s coming out.

– All I can tell you is what I saw on video and it wasn’t right, in my opinion, and it wasn’t right in our player’s opinion and I’m going to stand up for that.

– [Reporter] Hey Will, you’ve talked about your leadership regarding COVID, regarding social justice. I know you’re really happy with the team leadership. Who are like the main guys that have kind of really stood out to you this summer with regard to that?

– Well, I think, you know, we only have, we don’t have many seniors on offense, so to speak, and I don’t necessarily say it always has to be a senior, but Sadarius Hutcherson has been a guy that’s, that’s, you know, that obviously has a very good leadership role. He’s a very good player and he’s been around here for a long time care. Keir Thomas, defensively, Jabari Ellis, you know, Ernest Jones is a, is a junior, but has been a really good leader for us. I mean, Jaycee and Israel, both are guys that have a voice on this football team and, you know, those would be the guys that jump off the bat but you know, at the end of the day, we don’t have a lot of issues as far as our team is concerned and I think a lot of that credit to those guys, but not just those guys, really our entire team, it just kind of, you know, I always talk in terms of ownership within the organization and ownership within your team. It’s not my team, it’s your team and the good, really good teams, the championship teams, I’ve been a part of, national championships, Conference championships teams that played for national championships, were teams that, the coaches were the stewards of the ship and the players really ran the team and you didn’t want the peer pressure on top of you as a player because it was important to you to not let down your teammate and I think we’ve, this group is starting to understand that a little bit more and holding guys accountable within the organization and when guys make a mistake, within the locker room, there’s a lot of times it gets handled and so those were things that I think are really important and, you know, the, the echo of words that I hear our players talk to our younger players and talk to each other and how they talk to each other as far as how we need to handle things, especially in this COVID situation, I’ve been very pleased.

– [Reporter] Also, Will, I heard from a bunch of players earlier in COVID that you reached out to all or most of your former players, just to kind of check on them, ask how they were doing during COVID, and with handling that. Was that a COVID thing or at that time of year, do you always reach out to all or most of your former players?

– I reach out to a lot of the guys and just check, check on him to see how they’re doing. Fortunately, here at South Carolina, most, a lot of the guys live in Columbia. So I see a lot of guys, you know, Perry’s always around, Michael Scarnecchia, there’s a lot of guys that are in and out of our building. Joe Charlton came in the building yesterday and just so you all know, he told me he was killing it. I know that shocks everybody that he would say that, but he said he was just absolutely killing it, which I was shocked when he said it too, but he came by the building yesterday, but, you know, I think it’s always important at any time and during this COVID, obviously, I had to hold a bit more time on my hands to be able to reach out and check on guys and see how they’re doing and how their families are.

– [Reporter] Will, where did things kind of stand at the, at the center position for you at this point? Who’s kind of in the mixed there and is anyone kind of taking a little bit of lead with that first team group?

– Eric Douglas right now is, has been, you know, very consistent. You know, Eric’s tough, Eric’s a fighter. I mean, he’s an, he’s tough and he going to line up in there, he’s going to make all the right calls, extremely intelligent. Hey, Hank Manos done some good things. Vinny Murphy has done some good things as well. So we’ve got three guys we feel very comfortable with in there that we can win with, but Eric has been the most consistent.

– [Reporter] After the way last year started for him, what does it kind of say about him, the way he’s sort of come back?

– Oh, you know what? These young men all go through a lot and, and it’s not always what you see Sunday through Friday. What, what you, what you guys see and what everybody sees, is what happens on Saturday afternoon, and people have no idea what these young people go through. So, but Eric comes, his mama and daddy are great people, a guy that just continued to fight, continued to hang in there and, you know, I tell him, I tell these guys all the time, you know, this is football and playing football is just a small, small scope of life and handling adversity and battling adversity when things don’t go your way, and life’s not fair, life’s not fair. Things are always going to go your way. It’s not always going to be positive and you got to be able to handle those things in your life and to be a good father and to be a good husband and to be a good American citizen, you got to handle those things and, and I, you know, that’s just a learning process that we all go through and you do go through it still as a coach, you know, 49 years old, you still, you still are going through things that you learn and, and, and observed that you see, and you say maybe, well, maybe we need to look at this a different way, but Eric is a, he’s a tough young man.

– [Reporter] Yeah, coach, I know a big part of your job as always, always just coach, just to help mold these young men off the field as well as on but could you kind of describe the, just how much greater the challenges have been this year because of all the social unrest, the civil unrest, them being involved in protests this year, kind of describe the challenges of being a coach this particular season.

– Well, there’s no handbook for it. So you got to, you know, my father used to always tell me, God gave you two ears and one mouth, you ought to listen twice as much as you talk and that’s what I’ve tried to do during this time, learning about the virus, number one, so I can at least educate our guys as best I can and if I don’t know, I tell them, I don’t know, I’m going to get you an answer, but I don’t, I can’t help you in this situation. So I think that’s number one is being a really good listener and I think listening to our players is really important right now. It’s really, not that it’s not ever been before, I’ve always felt like I was a good listener, but I think now is a really important time to, to understand maybe how they view things, as opposed to maybe how I view things and I think it’s important, I always ask players to, you know, step in my shoes for a second and it was funny, I had a player this spring say, step in my shoes for a second and it was, he said it in a, in a good way. It wasn’t, I mean, he was just, he was saying in a positive way and I said, you’re right. I said, you’re exactly right. You always tell me that, I’m going to tell you that, and so I think open dialogue, being a great listener, I think all of those things in order to be a really good, you know, you know, I always look at, you know, my dad would use to always say is, is, is coaching is teaching and teaching is the ability to inspire learning and, and I think that that’s what we’re trying to do right now is learn more about each other and learn what we to do in situations, continue to be tough, continue to coach football, but also be a good listener, you know? And I think that’s very, that’s very important right now.

– [Reporter] So you’ve learned more about the young men on your roster this year than maybe any other in your career?

– I would say what I would say, Eric, is this, is I’ve had more time to spend time with our players, which, that’s what I enjoy doing and I’m not saying this in a negative way, so don’t anybody take it negative but I didn’t have to go speak at 900 places this spring. So I was able to get on the phone on a Thursday night and, and call five players and check on them and see how they’re doing. So I was able to do a lot more of that than, than, than maybe I’ve done in the past and I’ve always tried to do that. I’ve always tried to do that, but I think that I’ve had more time in order to do that.

– [Reporter] Will, a couple of, first, how’s OrTre Smith looking? Is he kind of in the mix at one of those, maybe six main receiver spots?

– Yeah, you know, OrTre is, has not been practicing a little bit. He’s had a little bit of an issue and we’re dealing with that right now and working through that but we expect him back.

– [Reporter] Is it that knee again?

– No.

– [Reporter] And President Caslen at least has started considering the plan that he might have to shut down the campus after a bunch of positive tests. If that were to happen, Will, how would it affect you guys in the program and how you go about your daily business?

– Well, I don’t know that it would affect us at all as far as that’s concerned, you know, just as you know, going to virtual school totally is what you’re talking about? So I don’t know that that would affect us at all. I know it would, again are a lot of our guys don’t, don’t necessarily like the virtual setting. They would rather be in a, in a classroom situation. But again, we had a 3.6 cumulative GPA on our football team this past spring and so, I know our guys would understand they got to handle the situation. It’s it’s you got to adjust, adapt and overcome and, you know, President Caslen’s done a really good job through this whole pandemic and managing, and again, there’s no handbook for him either as far as managing this whole thing on campus and trying to do the best job we can do to get back to some normalcy, the safest way for our students and our student athletes.

– [Reporter] Will, how far along is Keveon Mullins in terms of his sort of transition to that tight end position? And, and what do you feel like you’ve kind of have their behind Nick?

– Well, I think that, you know, really, we got a good competition at the, at the position and, you know, tight end is a, is a difficult position to play and learn ’cause you have to be involved in the run game and understand all run game and being able to block three down, four down, bear, whatever the case may be, understand protections, ’cause you’re going to be involved in protections and then you got to understand the route concepts. So it’s not just a standpoint of being a receiver and understand the route concepts, the hots and the things that are built in the perimeter blocking game, which is pretty simple, so you’ve got a on your plate, but he is a threat in the middle of the field. He can stretch the field vertically. He runs extremely well. He’s a guy that’s going to be a huge contributor on special teams for us. I’d like to watch the film and see how he did today, but I think he’s transitioned pretty well and certainly is a threat in the, in the, in the receiving game and you know, right now, as far as tight ends are concerned, if you look across pro football, college football, whatever, it’s about just tying somebody up. Let’s, let’s have a tie. In a tie, the offense wins and that’s kind of where we are.

– [Reporter] Yeah, Will, has OrTre practiced at all and if you were playing today, who would run out first team with your wide receivers?

– Well, no. Yeah, he has practiced. He has been practicing. He hasn’t practiced the last couple of days, but you know, right now, you know, say, you know, depending on what happens with Jalen’s waiver situation, but Shi and Xavier and Jalen would probably be our top three and I think Rico would be in that combination, knowing the number of practices we have before our first game obviously is going to help him, you know? Dakereon will be in that fold and Luke Doty will be in that fold as far as that’s concerned.

– [Reporter] Hey Will, how’s the punter competition going and how have your punt returners done when facing Kai Kroeger and his left leg? I know you mentioned earlier in camp how, you know, the ball comes off his leg different when he’s a lefty.

– It’s a different rotation, but, but Kai has kicked the ball well. He just needs to be a little bit more consistent in, in how he’s kicking it, but Kingsley’s kicked the ball well, but Kai has been, you know, probably the, you know, the more, you know, guy that’s, can flip the field force the best and then Jaycee and Jamie both have done a nice job catching and fielding kicks. We chart that every day and then both guys can give us some things in the return game, we believe.