VIDEO: Will Muschamp News Conference
Head Coach Addresses Reporters After Scrimmage No. 3
Head coach Will Muschamp addressed reporters on a Zoom call Sunday evening. The Gamecocks held their third scrimmage of fall camp Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
– We had about 140 scrimmage snaps Saturday we started at noon, treated it just like a game, had a pregame meal over here at the facility. And I went in the stadium, went through the pregame routine, which we’ve done twice now, but 140 offense and defensive scrimmage snaps more than I had anticipated but I thought it was really good work. And I saw some improvement. In all three phases we had 20 special team snaps. We incorporated within the scrimmage when punts came up. We had seven live punts which we had to cover and hold up or come after the punter. We had 12 field gold PAT situations. We were much better in protection than we were the previous scrimmage. And we started the scrimmage with a live kick offers, kickoff return. Think you saw some of the football yesterday and the special teams issues people were having. So we’re going to concentrate again on Tuesday’s practice with a lot of those situations that’ll come up. Offensively, though we communicated better, I thought we were very much improved in our assignments. I thought we executed better. We used crowd noise, like it’ll be in the stadiums and the Southeastern Conference this year. So I thought for all the communication to perform, for the execution to be better, we don’t, I don’t even know if we had a procedure issue. I think we had one, our receiver moving at one time during the third down period. But other than that, really, both quarterbacks played extremely well, both Ryan and Colin. We have not made any decision on that. As far as the quarterback is concerned, we’re going to continue to work through that tonight, end it tomorrow and then maybe even look at Tuesday’s practice. We don’t officially start on Tennessee till Thursday, that’ll be our first practice for Tennessee. But both guys did a really nice job, both guys commanded the offense, our first six possessions, offensive, but we had five touchdowns. So it says a lot there. There’s some critical mistakes on defense, a critical pass interference on third down, which never should have happened if you’re in the right leverage and you stay in the right leverage, we’re getting off the field. We had two bus from the safety position on touchdown. So again, some things that are certainly correctable, but disappointing in your third scrimmage to be going through that. But I thought offensively, guys came out with energy and juice. I think our team learned a little bit of a lesson. Defensive, we didn’t come out with a lot energy and a lot of juice and it showed. We’re not going to play in front of 80,000 people this year. You can’t rely on anything externally to get you excited. You guys got to come from within. It’s got to come from the unit. It’s got to come from the team, yourself. You got to be a self starter. And I think that fortunately it wasn’t September 26th and some of our defensive players need to learn that, but not very good starting the scrimmage, but on a positive note, respond in the second half, the situational work, I thought we were good. So hopefully again, we learned a lesson as far as that’s concerned. We had Ernest Jones back, he scrimmaged about 35 snaps. So it was great to get Earnest back out there. But again, we need to be better on that side of the ball. Again, I talked about special teams a little bit. We let Jamie Robinson handle all the punt returns, thought he made really good decisions. He and JC will both continue to battle for that as far as the first game is concerned. We need to punt the ball better, we need to be better in our protections and punt, that’s going to be a huge emphasis on Tuesday. We kicked the ball well as far as field goals and PDTs with Parker and we protected much better than we have before. And that the kickoff coverage look really good as far as some guys that showed up and some guys that showed that they’re not necessarily ready for September 26th. So we’ll continue to make some of those decisions as we move forward. Came out of the scrimmage clean as far as injuries are concerned, and we’re going to get Spencer Eason Riddle back on Tuesday off of his knee that he has been slowed coming back from his ACL from last fall. So with that I’ll open it up for any questions,
– [Reporter] Hey, Will, thanks for doing this. You said the quarterback battle will continue. Is there one aspect, one facet of that position that you’re looking for one of those guys to take these next couple of days before you name the starter?
– I wanted to go back and look at some things tonight that we’ve done through training camp. And as far as that’s concerned, we’ve started really, we’ve already gained playing Tennessee. We’re going back through some things tonight. And as we work into this week and we’ll introduce Tennessee to our team on Thursday, but I wouldn’t say there’s any one thing, rather the totality of the competition.
– [Reporter] With the opener two weeks out, do you guys have anyone out with the contact tracing and within that two-week window, does it now start becoming more real potentially if guys are out now that they won’t be able to come back?
– Yeah, it does. I mean, you’re talking in terms of, I said it on our radio show the other night, as far as our standard is concerned and our policies here in the state of South Carolina, contact tracing is a 14 day quarantine. Regardless, if you can test back in, if you can produce multiple negative tests after maybe a false positive, and that’s not being other places, other schools, other states are not doing the same thing. If you’re able to re re-enter of negative test at five to seven days, that’s a huge difference. That’s a week as far as that’s concerned. And so, again, we got to continue to look at that. We need to be uniform as far as the league is concerned on that in my opinion. But right now, I believe we have to live COVID test and nine quarantining, but we’re getting, I want to say, four or five back tomorrow is what the number is. So yeah, those guys will be back in the building tomorrow. – [Reporter] Hey, Will. I guess two questions. Is the plan to name a starter, at least internally by Thursday will you guys start introducing Tennessee?
– Well, again, I want to visit with Mike again, we talked briefly about it today and really broke up in stars and I’ve been working on Tennessee. So I want to get back with him tonight or tomorrow, and we’ll discuss it further.
– [Reporter] There’s also running back competition, is there any headway there in terms of naming the starter, a pecking order there? – Well, we’re going to continue to work through it. Zaquandre, I thought looked good Saturday. He looked good early in camp, and we held him in the first scrimmage, a little bit of a hamstring. He looked good coming back off that. And then tweaked it a little bit before the second scrimmage. This is his first live tackle. So it was good to see him, he’s got some juice, he’s got some energies, he’s a competitive guy, really enjoyed being around him and the positive energy he brings to our team, but he’s going to help us. There’s no doubt about that after seeing him early in camp, and then obviously the past couple of days, and then the scrimmage, I was extremely impressed with how he ran. Kevin Harris was at his sister’s wedding so he didn’t… He’s probably been our most consistent back going into the scrimmage and I thought Deshaun did some nice things Saturday. He was good. We had some sustained drives offensive, we were able to stay on the field and to move the ball portion of the practice, and to be able to finish an eight, 10 play drive, Deshaun did some nice things. – [Reporter] Hey, coach, you talked about cutting down on procedure issues, what else were you able to see from the offensive line this past weekend?
– Well, again, I think that we still need to find another tackle. I feel very good at Dylan Wonnum at left tackle or right tackle, he can play both. He worked at left during the scrimmage primarily. Feel very good about our inside players, Hutch at left guard, Eric Douglas at center and Javan Gwen at right guard. I think all three of those guys have had really good camps. Jordan Rhodes did some really nice things, coming back. We got to get him in shape and being able to sustain, but he is got 36 inch arms, he’s got power in his body. He we’re going to look at him at right tackle a little bit this week, we had looked at that in some past situations this past week. I think Vershawn Lee, for a true freshmen or any player, he did a really nice job. Vershawn is really smart and he knows where to be, he’s very athletic, he’s a very dependable player. Jaylen Nichols, Jukai Moore got to continue to come on forth, Jazston Turnetine needs to continue to come on forth. So we’re still searching a little bit at that tackle position right now. And we need to have somebody to firm that up this week.
– [Reporter] Will, once you determine the packing order on quarterbacks, will you do anything more to separate number one and two contact tracing wise?
– Well, we’re already doing that. We’re making sure that those guys in the meeting room, in the locker room, none of the quarterbacks live together. So that as far as roommate concern, there will be no issues there. So we’ve already done that.
– [Reporter] Okay, so their daily routine would… They’d be safe with whatever their daily routine is now from that regard?
– Through Clint Haggard and his staff, really, when we came back in July, knowing how critical that position is.
– [Reporter] So how are you going to handle going into and coming out of games, naming players or not naming players that have tested positive or in contact tracing? Is that going to be treated like, “Hey, here’s an injury report,” or is that nobody’s business? How do you think you’ll handle that?
– We’ll tackle that on September 26, probably. Maybe that about 5:30, six o’clock, something like that.
– [Reporter] On the flip side, you must obviously be aware that you got to have to make adjustments for your opponent. I mean, suddenly some teams got 10 guys out in the key positions and that that might alter your game plan, I guess.
– Well, Jean, it certainly can. I mean, there’s no question. That’s the unknown that we’re dealing with right now. And so I think as a coach, you don’t want to give your opponent any competitive advantage going into game day, obviously, and there’s also some student athlete, HIPAA laws that apply as well. So again, those are all things we’re going to abide by and I’ll protect our team as best we can.
– [Reporter] Will, did Shi Smith, Dakereon and Jaylen Dickerson all scrimmage yesterday, and how are they looking?
– Yeah, Jaylen, I think will get back Tuesday. He ran extremely well. Shi ran extremely well. He’s got a little bit of a back right now, but he’ll be fine. Dakereon really, probably at his best day. Dakereon had two contested balls in our third down period really made nice plays on both of them, but probably at his best day of camp so far, really proud of him.
– [Reporter] Will, it’s crazy to think that it’s almost four weeks of training camp right now and I know you guys are finishing up as you get ready to prepare for Tennessee, how do you think the guys have handled it this year in comparison to where you’ve been in years past heading into that first week of the season?
– Well, it’s a little different, Mike, as far as just the duration of camp is much longer. I like it from a standpoint of limiting a lot of the contact back to back days, which I think creates some issues for you. So from that standpoint, I’ve liked it. I think some of the players have expressed to me, they like it better that way. So maybe that’s something we need to look at as we continue to move forward with this. But I think our guys have approached it extremely well. I was disappointed defensively, how we came out in the scrimmage and we didn’t respond as well as we should have. Why does it take us to get to halftime and get them in the locker room and talk to them to get it to respond the right way. We need to handle that on the sideline. And that was disappointing, but for the most part, going out into every practice, I think we’ve had the right mindset and mentality to improve and get better. And I’ve been very pleased with how our guys have handled a very difficult time. And I think back to June and July, when we didn’t have a schedule, when we didn’t know in training camp was going to start, and all of the unknowns that we had, sometimes it’s hard to really focus on something when you don’t know what, there’s not an end date, or you don’t know when you’re going to start and transition to something else. It’s very difficult, especially young people. And it was frustrating for us as a staff at times, but I think that they’ve handled it extremely well. And it is what it is. This is what we’ve got to deal with. I’m very pleased at how they’ve handled themselves as far as any of those issues are concerned.
– [Reporter] Mentioned the other day that he’s limited some of Luke Dodi’s at wide receiver to get him more at quarterback, what’s the reason and function behind that? And along those same lines, would you still feel pretty good about putting Luke in at wide receiver for however many snaps you needed?
– Yeah, John, Luke, and I should have said when we talked about Dakereon, Luke did some really good things at the receiver position, caught a couple of nice balls and RPOs across the middle, did a really nice job outside. As much as anything we talked about continuing to build depth as far as the quarterback position is concerned in order to have Luke ready, he needed to get more snaps. And so Mike came to me and said, I’ve got to get him more ready to play than he is at this point. And that was really much as anything was cause of depth. And we’ve done that at multiple positions where we purposely has gone into a practice and said, “Keir Thomas has played a lot of football for us. Let’s make sure that we’re getting these other guys the turns into reps that they need in case we get into a situation where we lose somebody.”
– [Reporter] Will, do you expect any suspensions to come from that fracas that you guys had in the football dorm back in late August?
– [Reporter] Yeah, Will, as Traevon mentioned on his availability, playing a little bit more regular this year, just what about that personnel grouping, especially with Brad at the sam, makes you feel comfortable about having that group on the field at pretty any given time.
– Connor Brad has played really well. He’s had a great camp. And we looked at some different things and when JJ moved to bach, Brad is a guy who we talked in terms as a very viable member of our team. He’s been phenomenal on special teams, but he’s playing really well at the sam. He’s still playing buck, he’s still going to be a DPR, designated pass rusher, on third down in one minute situations, but he’s played really good football for us. And it’s all about getting your best 11 out there. And he’s certainly one of our best 11. And so we’ve got to figure out some different ways to get him on the field, he’s played well in the slot as far as… You’re limited a little bit coverage wise but he’s a physical player on the bubble screens and the quick screens and a lot of the things that we’re facing, but he’s a physical guy in the run game, he’s played well in the space. So it’s his emergence as much as anything of what excites you about what he can bring to the table.
– [Reporter] Did you get a chance to, I guess, watch some of the games in the more empty stadiums and maybe talk to coaches who went through playing yesterday about kind of different communication stuff, with the smaller crowds?
– Well, you’re obviously going to communicate a little bit better. We’ve tried to make it as difficult as we can on our team, as far as crowd noise and we had more crowd noise than we’ll probably have during the season, just sometimes when we go on the road, sometimes the game management people don’t always follow the rules, so you got to be prepared for that too in our league. But I haven’t talked to any coaches personally from their experiences, but I wouldn’t see much different at our place as far as some other places are concerned. And as far as the noise is concerned, it’s going to be more from the speakers than it is from the crowd than we’re used to. Excuse me, John.
– [Reporter] Correct me if I’m wrong, I feel like you said a couple of times throughout camp that you feel, because of the way camp was structured, you feel a little bit more prepared than usual. When you look at some of the games that happened yesterday, some sloppiness and some coaches had said publicly that they feel like they’re behind, what do you feel like you all have been able to do to get you all to that point where you feel a little bit more prepared going into this season than normally?
– Well, John, I go back to July when we were able to have the OTAs and being able to have the walkthroughs with a ball. I think what I was referring to is schematically further along as far as when we hit camp, we had been through our installation three times, as far as our first 10 days were concerned. When we started back, I think it was July 13th, then as we continued to work, we were able to do with the ball on July 24th, and we didn’t start camp till August 17th. So we had a lot more time as far as just concentrating on ball, that time being replacing spring practice, so to speak. So I think schematically, we’re further along. What concerns you a little bit, is I think is the overall conditioning of your team. We’ve had some guys that have missed 14 days in camp and that’s a long time. And then you have a COVID issue or an injury situation and then maybe the guy that’s backing him up has missed 28 days. And we’ve had that happen, unfortunately, a couple of times on contact tracing. Well, that’s a huge drop off as far as the quality of football. Schematically, we’re much further along than maybe we would have been at this time because of the days that we had in July. But because of some of the issues that you’re dealing with, I do think it affects the quality of football.
– [Reporter] What did you make of the Sunbelt threesome built teams beating three big 12 teams yesterday? Is that just a result of the ultra seasoned everybody’s head and how would you feel about the big 10, if they decide to come back and play in early October, how would you feel about them joining the group?
– Well, sure. I mean, I think that, I don’t know enough about the big 12 teams nor the Sunbelt teams that played, or where is their roster. I mean, I saw with Georgia Southern 33 players that didn’t participate in their game, did that affect them? There’s no question it affected them. So it’s not fair to comment on a situation where I don’t know who they were missing, who was not on the field, ’cause that is going to effect your performance, that is going to affect possibly the outcome of a game. And as far as the big 10 plan, I think it’d be great. I think it’d be great for college football.
– [Reporter] Mike had said that Shi, he wanted to see more from Shi in the middle of camp. And then on Friday he saw Shi make a little bit of a resurgence, I guess. What have you seen from Shi across the course of this camp with what he’s been able to do and produce?
– Well, he was a player of the day for us offensive on Tuesday and Wednesday. So he had very productive practices. He’s been a very productive player. I think the one thing, and so I’ve told Shi, he needs to be more consistent. He needs to be down in, down out, he needs to be more consistent. ‘Cause he can win in press coverage, he can win and man to man coverage and certainly is a guy that can be a very productive player for us.
– [Reporter] Will, do you hear the other news from the other teams in the league, I mean, Tennessee had 34 guys out the other day, A&M’s best receiver just opted out today. Do you hear that kind of stuff and does it affect how you guys will game plan for this season?
– I will week to week figure out who’s up and as best we can and go game plan and go practice and prepare the right way. We can control what happens here at South Carolina and nowhere else. And that’s what we always talk to our players about. Now we need to live it and that’s what we plan on doing.
– [Reporter] How is Mo Kaba coming along? Would you feel comfortable playing him sam on defensive snaps and will we see him on special teams?
– Yeah, Mo’s a very physical, tough hard-nose guy. I mean, I love the way he plays the game. I thought Saturday night, at scrimmage number two was very effective and I thought he was good yesterday. I thought he did some really nice things, got to work on his pad level a little bit. And then just overall knowledge of everything that’s going on, we’re asking a lot more of him than it’s ever been asked from Mo from an assignment standpoint, from a communication standpoint. And certainly as he continues to progress, he’ll help us defensively and certainly he’s going to help us on special teams. But he is a physical, physical, tough young man. And I’m glad he’s a Gamecock, I can assure you of that. But he’s got a very bright future, John.
– [Reporter] there was noise about Rico and Powell early in camp. How have those guys come along? Would you feel pretty good about playing them some snaps out there too?
– Yeah, right now Rico and Jakarta are two guys we plan on playing depending on contributing forwards right there. Mike continues to do some nice things, but Rico’s done some really nice things, sure has. And he’s going to help us on special teams too ’cause he’s tough. I mean, he’s a guy that can cover kicks, he’s a guy that can block, he’s a guy that creates a lot of value for himself as a football player because of his physicality that he plays with.
– [Reporter] Well, at the beginning you talked about how important it is for these guys to be able to help you out in multiple ways not just being able to do things maybe that they were asked to do when they got here recruited wise. When you look at just your background as an NFL coach, being able to manage rosters with obviously much more in comparison to college, how much do you think that can help you? And I know there’s other coaches in this conference that have had that experience as well, but how much can that help you, especially when we get to road games as well?
– Well, I think that you’ve got to be pretty flexible as far as what you’re doing. And that’s one of the things as we start, in Thursday’s practice of doing what I call more crossover work, where it’s our first group on offense versus our second group on defense and running what we run and not necessarily having as much scout teamwork, as much as anything having better looks but running what we run defensively. Preparing and making sure that our guys on both sides of the ball and on special teams get the right looks to prepare them for the game. And you can do a lot of that in walkthrough to make sure guys understand assignment wise, but you’ve got to do more good on good work. And you got to prepare and develop the middle and the bottom half of your roster. And that way those guys get quality looks and practice as far as that’s concerned and you’re running our defense and our offense, we had about an hour and a half to two hour special teams meeting today and it was strictly gone through if this happens here at end, who can play left tackle on punt. If this happens here, who’s going to be are… And those questions were, who’s going to be our missile? All right, he goes down, who’s the next missile. And we really felt like on special teams, we got to be three deep across the board. And then have we trained, has this guy got enough reps as the third team’s right missile to go in and be an effective player for us in the game. You talked about your shield, communicate and all those guys. I mean, all of those things and we went through about two hours today of special teams. just going through, let’s get us at least a three deep and then be able to cross train some guys. So if you do lose a guy, you got some answers and you may have to have an answer on game day with an injury, obviously, we always talk about that, but then you’re dealing with the virus as well so…
– [Reporter] You and T. Rob come to a decision yet on your best five defensive backs and nickel yet?
– Well, obviously JC and Israel, I think RJ has had a solid camp. I think Jamie Robinson’s played really well. I certainly know those four are guys that are in that group. Shiloh’s done some really good things. I mean, his physicality that he plays with, he’s a physical guy. He plays with tremendous effort and a guy that certainly has had a good camp for us. Cam Smith’s done some really nice things in coverage for us. He’s a man cover guy that can get his hands on people. John Dixon’s been a guy that’s flashed and shown some things for us. Jaylen Dickerson, we’re going to get him back on Tuesday, was having a really good camp and tweaked his hamstring a little bit and we shut him down for about a week. So, again, all of those guys that at certain points, we’ve got some young players that we like coming along; Donald Fortune, Joey Hunter, Dominic Hill. So we’re continuing to develop a pretty good group that we feel good about. I certainly think we’ve got four that we feel pretty good about where those go four are going to fit, that’s the interesting part; is Jamie the nickel? Is JC a nickel? Where do they all fit right now? And that’s what we’re trying to decide.
– [Reporter] I apologize if I missed this, has Marshawn had his surgery and how has he come along from that? How are his spirits?
– Great. I mean, he’s a very mentally tough young man. But he’s always positive. He’s been in the tremor. He had it, I’m sorry, John, he had it last Wednesday, but everything went extremely well. Dr. Guy did the surgery and very pleased with the surgery and Marshawn’s been in the training room getting treatment and it looks great and very positive.