VIDEOS: Texas A&M Week Football Media Availability
Gamecocks Host Texas A&M on Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN
Head coach Will Muschamp addressed reporters at his weekly news conference via a Zoom call Tuesday.
COACH MUSCHAMP TRANSCRIPT
– This Saturday is our Military appreciation game, that we have each year, and obviously, sweater that I have on. But I wanted to personally thank all the veterans, all of the military and their families for the sacrifices they have put forth for us to have a wonderful living situation in this great nation. And I just wanted to personally thank them. And, I know Under Armour and University of South Carolina, really support all branches of our military and I wanted to make sure I opened it up with that. Got to Texas A&M here Saturday night on ESPN. Seven o’clock kick-off at Williams-Brice. I got a lot of respect for Jimbo. They have a really good football team. Four returning starters on their offensive line, four seniors on their offensive line. Kellen Mond is a four-year starter at the quarterback position. I think’s very efficient in what they do offensively. Spiller is really come on for them as a running back. Smith, they use him in a lot of different ways, he’s a really good play maker for them in the punt return game as a running back, as a receiver in the slot and does some different things there. Jimbo does a nice job of utilizing him. I think the tight end is a really good player. In the off week, I think we have some really good tight ends in our league. We looked ahead a little bit, on some opponents down the road, and I think Georgia’s got a really good, young tight end coming. Ol’ Miss has got a really good tight end. Obviously, we’ve played Pitts already at Florida and Wydermyer at Tex A&M is a very well rounded guy. He’s an every down guy. Can block at the point of attack, catches the ball extremely well and they feature him in the passing game. So, really good football player. Some talented young wide outs they like. Defensively, some very good rushers on the edge three and eight and two, all create some issues for you in the passing game. They’re big inside. Very active, Buddy Johnson has been there for a while as the linebacker and O’Neil and Richardson are really good. Safeties that are active in the game as well and they’ve got some really good specialist kickoffs, most of them go out of the end zone. Really good punter’s done a nice job, a left footer. So, looking forward to an opportunity to get back on the field. Disappointed, obviously, with our August outing and I know our guys are excited to get back out in front of our crowd here in Columbia. And looking forward to a night to appreciate the military and play Texas A&M and I’ll open up for any questions.
– [Reporter] Hey Will, is the plan still to start Collin Hill at quarterback on Saturday?
– [Reporter] And did you and Mike have any discussions about giving another guy a look, just, how did those go over this bye week?
– Well, Ryan and Luke both got a lot of reps, and I thought both guys did did a nice job and continue to improve and get better and we feel like Collin gives us our best chance to win.
– [Reporter] Hey coach. Just wondering with election day today, do you guys do anything different, anything special or is it just kind of an ordinary day, ordinary week for you guys?
– Well by NCAA rules, it’s a mandatory off-day. We practiced on Sunday night coming off an open day. We practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of last week. We practiced Sunday night, we practiced last night. And then we’ll be back to a normal game schedule on Wednesday.
– [Reporter] Hey Will, what concerns you the most about Kellen Mond when you’re preparing to face him?
– Well, I think experience number one. I think that the guy’s, you’ve seen a lot of looks and his experience as a player. He’s got legs, he can hurt you with legs. He’s obviously very accurate with the football, he was 21 of 26 the other night. So, I think he has a very good understanding of what they want done offensively. But, he presents a lot of issues, as number one as a thrower and number two as a runner and a guy that’s got… Obviously, their staff and their team believe in him an awful lot and the confidence that they have in him.
– [Reporter] Hey Will. I don’t know how your guys handle voting or how you all facilitated that. But do you have any indication of how many of them voted early and what they might be doing with the downtime today?
– The majority of our team has already voted. We had a small collection of guys ’cause we did have COVID testing this morning. That we provided transportation for them to go vote. But we polled the entire team and it was just a handful of guys that had not voted yet. That wanted to vote today.
– [Reporter] Has there been more chatter about the election cycle this year at their level than you have heard in the past because of everything that we’ve seen?
– I wouldn’t necessarily say about the election, I would say about the the events going on in our country probably more than the election.
– [Reporter] Hey Will, I wanted to ask, how much were you able to see kind of from Luke in terms of, just, obviously, third stringers don’t get a lot of reps during regular game week, how much more were you able to see from him over the bye? And, do you feel like his role changes at all coming off those first five games?
– Well, he continues to improve. He’s very impressive as far as the different things we’re asking him to do, ’cause he’s obviously different from Colin and Ryan, athletically. So there’s some different things that we’re asking him to do at the quarterback position, as opposed to what we’re asking Colin and Ryan to do. But I think he’s continued to progress with that package and has done a nice job.
– [Reporter] Will, you guys are very familiar with Kellen Mond. In looking over the game film, I guess, in the past couple of years. Has there been one consistent thing that has enabled him to have as much success as he’s had?
– Well, I think he’s been very accurate in our game. That’s one of the things we looked at. Coverage wise, you look at last year in some critical third downs. Feel like we’re in position, he threw the ball in there and made some really nice throws in those situations. Really, the last two years, and I’d even say three years ago, The 24-17 ball game there in College Station. It’s a 16 to 16 game here two years ago. They kicked the field goal to make it 19-16. They get the drive, convert to third downs. But it’s a 26,-23 ball game, we’re kicking it an onside kick. And then last year’s game, I don’t think that the final score was indicative of how the game went. It was a 13 to three game going into the fourth quarter, we didn’t do anything offensively and got exhausted defensively, and gave up a couple runs late and 17 points in the fourth quarter. But it’s a 13 to three game, going into the fourth quarter. So, he obviously has had two really good games against us, the last two years, we’ve got to do a better job.
– [Reporter] Hey, Will. You were talking about opponent tight ends earlier. What about your guy Mullins? Can you kind of talk about how he’s progressed since fall camp?
– He’s done a great job. I’m really moving positions Gene and really having never been attached to the core of the formation and all the different things that go into that position. ‘Cause in that position, you’re involved in blocking of the run game, you’re involved in protections. You’re also involved in the passing games. So there’s a lot of different things involved that he has never experienced before. He’s done a great job. He’s a guy, speed wise, that creates a lot of issues for a defense. And you saw the other night against, down in Baton Rouge, on the wheel route on the sideline. The vertical route, designed by Mike on the route on the seven cut there, for another explosive play. But he’s a guy that can certainly stretch the field vertically.
– [Reporter] His make up and personality like, would you say?
– [Reporter] Yes.
– Oh, he’s a quiet guy. He’s very, country. He’s from Memphis, Tennessee and you can tell when he talks.
– [Reporter] Will, coming off the type of game that you had against LSU with the inability to stop the runners as consistent as, I’m sure you would have liked. Knowing that you’re going up against a team that likes to run the football a lot, how much does that excite this team knowing that that’s how they want to most likely attack you?
– Well, we’ve challenged our guys to understand what we’re getting into. That we’ve got to play the run much better and I think we’re certainly more than capable of doing that. We looked at some things schematically that we can do to help our guys. And we got to play better, we got to get off blocks. And, play much better as far as disengaging and snagging and getting off guys. And so, we’ve addressed to some of those things, and I think we’ll play much better.
– [Reporter] Will, did you like what you saw out of your team during the bye week practices? And what areas specifically do you think they took strides and improved?
– Well, I think there was a huge emphasis, obviously, defensively in the run game. And I think that we made some strides there, we did a lot of good on good work. I think offensively, we got to protect the quarterback better. And better timing in the passing game. And I thought we made some strides there. And we’ll find out on Saturday night how many strides we made. That’s the bottom line, as it comes down to game day, and how you play on game day. But we got good work and looking ahead at some opponents and obviously a good start on Texas A&M.
– [Reporter] Will, I wanted to ask, how much growth and development have you seen from Jordan Burch across the first five games and where does he kind of fit into your kind of game plan and your expectations at this point?
– Well, I think he’s, from game one to game five. It’s night and day from where he is. And that was expected for us. We knew that the light would go off and I think the light is going off. I think he plays extremely hard. I think he understands more the expectation of down in down out and what you’ve got to do in this league and how you play. But he is a very physical, violent guy that can make plays on the ball, that can rush the passer, that can get off block and disengage and, he can do a lot of positive things for us. I’m excited about his future, excited about seeing him Saturday night.
– [Reporter] Also, I know Keveon had something with the ankle at the end of the LSU game. You guys expect him to go this week?
– [Reporter] Yeah, Will, two questions. I know you said you guys practiced Monday night and get back to regular game week tomorrow. Is that still early morning practices for you all, Wednesday and Thursday?
– Yeah, mm-hmm.
– [Reporter] And, I guess, you mentioned Parker white, doing kickoff duties now, are there any more personnel changes or scheme changes you expect going into this A&M game?
– No, that’s about it. I mean, there’s to be some different guys on special teams. Getting Cam back and some other guys that will look out on teams as far as coverage units and return units
– [Reporter] Hey, sort of along the lines of younger guys or guys who haven’t played a bunch in the first half of the season. Any guys that took advantage of some increased opportunities during practice. Guys who got, maybe some more reps that really–
– Well, again, I think that we ended all three days with a emphasis on younger guys participating. Rico Powers is a young receiver that continues to come on force for Shawn Amos. A young running back, excited about the offensive lineman and most of those guys. Vershon has obviously played and started a game. Tyshawn Wannamaker one of makers another player that we feel like continues to come on. Good movement inside. Jaheim Bell’s made some strides at the tight end position. Got to have him continue to come on force. I think Mo Kaba is another guy that continues to improve at the linebacker position. And we need him to keep coming force. Alex Huntley, expect for him to play Saturday night. A Guy that continues to make some strides, is now healthy off the ankle. And I thought he did some really good things in the opening date. And obviously, again on Sunday night and last night in both of those practices in preparation. And there’s some other guys that have made some strides. Those are the ones off the top of my head that I think continue to improve and catch your eye. That obviously can help us, as we continue to move forward.
– [Reporter] Hey, Will. In today’s world of college football, how strange is it to be facing a starting quarterback for a fourth time? Is there some advantage to you as a defensive planner, because you’ve seen Kellen Mond so much, and you kind of maybe know his tendencies and knows some things about what to expect?
– No, because he’s a good player. I don’t know that it helps you at all. But no, he is a really good football player, an experienced guy. It’s very unusual to see a guy in his fourth year as a starter. But to see where he’s come, as a freshman, and now he’s continued to progress every year. I think probably the, one of his most talented attribute is his toughness. This guy will stand in there. I mean, think about last year, we rushed him pretty well. We got after him pretty good. And he got up every single time. TJ Brunson did have a targeting in that game and it was a clean hit on the quarterback but, Kellen got right up and kept on playing. And I think that his element of toughness, which I know impresses Jimbo from that standpoint in our conversation, so I have a lot of respect for the young man.
– [Reporter] Will, looking way ahead here but, the Bowl season this year. There’s no requirement for wins or everything. Have you guys gotten any, I guess, direction from the NCAA, the conference office, the Bowl Commission, about how that process will go? Will you guys have to submit a bid to be invited? Have you guys heard anything about that?
– All bowl situations are controlled by our conference. So the conference, it’ll all go through the conference. But, we’re getting ready for Tex A&M right now.
– [Reporter] I guess patching over that. I mean, do you have any doubt that you guys wouldn’t be able to go in that situation considering finances are what they are?
– [Reporter] Hey, coach, real quick. Texas A&M, they have the sixth worst rushing defense in the ACC. Can you talk to us, what’s been the emphasis on getting Kevin Harris and other running backs the ball just to maybe exploit that?
– No different, Chandler, than every week for us. We’ve got to have the ability to run the football. The thing that jumps out at you is what I, and when I started talking about their defense, is their edge rushers. I think are very effective and if you get into a one dimensional game game, it’s going to be very difficult, as far as blocking those guys. So, we’ve got to stay with the run, which that’s something I know we’re committed to. And Mike’s committed to. And, that’s been something that every week is an emphasis for us, regardless, of who we’re playing, is finding ways to run the football.
– [Reporter] Will, now that you’re halfway through this 10 game conference-only schedule, has it been about what you expected it to be? And where do you think your group is at this point?
– Well, I expected it to be tough every week. And it’s been tough every week. And unfortunately, we’re sitting here two in three. And, didn’t think we’d be in this spot. But this is where we are. And we got to continue to take them one at a time. And every week is a season and focus on that. And now we’re focused on Texas A&M. This is where we are.
– [Reporter] Are there any specific challenges to a 10 game conference-only schedule beyond just the fact that, every team you play is good to really good?
– Yeah, I mean, I think that that’s the, there’s exactly what you just said. There’s some really good players, and really good teams in our league and really good coaches in our league. And each week, that’s what you’re going to face.
– [Reporter] Coach, how similar are Mike Bobo’s and Jimbo Fisher’s offenses, especially the way they like to use the tight ends? And I don’t want to say, is it an advantage for your defense but is it a little bit easier, maybe this week, because you don’t have to go against a scheme that’s totally, totally different than what they see all the time?
– Well, Mike, I think there’s a lot of similarities in both guys and their backgrounds. I know both are committed to running the football. Both have play actions off all off all of the running game which creates some issues in you end zone coverage. Both guys are going to be committed to pushing the ball down the field, whether it’s off play action or some look. And both both guys are going to attack you coverage wise. Where they see some tendencies and they see some matchup issues. So I think that there’s there’s a lot of similarities between both.
– [Reporter] Will, I know last came out, Jalen had just found out he could play and then he got in there and played. How much will it help that he had last week to go through knowing that he’s going to play and into this week knowing that he’s going to play? Do you feel like it’ll help him be ready, be even more ready for the field?
– I think so, Pete. I think it would help him a little bit more. But, we’ve done a lot of, crossover work or just, he’s been able to work with Collin, and we do seven on seven. Good on good. So he’s had that work, and what we do offensively. So it wasn’t like he wasn’t practicing with our offense at times. So, he was probably further along than we normally would be if we weren’t going through this situation. But certainly, having invested all the reps this past two weeks in preparation, a week and a half at this point, and two weeks after Thursday. Certainly what help, mm-hmm.
– [Reporter] I was going to say, I’m guessing his attitude probably is a little perkier too, knowing that you can get on the field.
– You know what? Jalen’s attitude’s always been great. He’s a very positive young man. And, he’s handled, those are all difficult situations when it’s totally out of your control. And, I appreciate the NCAA giving him an opportunity.
– [Reporter] Will, how nice is it for you and good for the long run that going into the second half of the season, you don’t have to make red shirt decisions on some of these young guys?
– That’s huge Gene, I mean, it’s a really good rule that they came up with. Obviously, when I’m going back to last year, with four games and being able to make those decisions, but obviously this year the way things have kind of evolved in the situation that we’re in, I think it’s great. I think it was a great decision by the NCAA to allow us to not have to count a year against a young man. Whether he’s a senior or he’s a freshman. And there’s no question that, who knows what’s going to happen moving forward, as far as COVID in the different issues you deal with? To have a young man being able to go play in a game and not count against him, there’s no question that that’s a huge benefit for everyone.
– [Reporter] Hey, Will. I know a little off topic but, the secondaries obviously struggled at times this year. But, Jaycee’s had, probably his best year in terms of just general stats. I guess, what have you seen from him growth wise and, I know he’s pretty vital with his defense, but just how vital is he to you guys in the secondary?
– Well, I think he’s played extremely well. And, even before this year, I think he’s gotten a little more headline, obviously, when you have the game he had against Auburn. But, he hasn’t been targeted a lot, probably in the last two seasons very much. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities. And when he had, he’s made plays on the ball. But, fortunately, he had a game where, he impacted and affected the game more than he has before against Auburn. So, I think he continues to improve and get better. He wants to challenge each week of going against whoever we think they may be throwing the football to, and trying to get in that matchup as best we can, depending on what we’re doing schematically. So, again, I think that he’s having a really good season. I think he’s been very consistent across the board each week in his performance and how he plays.
– [Reporter] Will, going into the LSU game, you said that Israel was just strictly going to be playing corner? Is it a game by game scenario in terms of where you want to play him, in terms of playing corner or safety? Or is that kind of just something that, you feel like he’ll play corner kind of moving forward?
– Well, I mean, he gives you the flexibility to play multiple spots ’cause he can handle and play both multiple spots. So, at the end of the day, we’re going to do what’s best for him and our football team. And if it’s at corner, it’s at corner. If it’s at safety, it’s at safety.
– [Reporter] Do you anticipate him playing corner this weekend or being able to go back and forth? – Being able to go back and forth, starting out at a corner.
– [Reporter] Hey, Will, obviously you’ve seen Jimbo’s offense going all the way back, I wanted to ask, how much has that offense evolved and changed and also what kind of a sort of matchup problem is number zero for them?
– Well, Smith is a very difficult guy, because he can obviously play running back and they can create some two back sets with him, as opposed to when you’re thinking it’s going to be at one back set. So that that does create some issues for you. And I think he’s very, he runs extremely well. But the guy competes really hard when he gets the ball in his hand. He really runs hard. And he’s quick. He’s shifty in space and a very difficult guy to get down in space. We’ve got to bring our feet on and we got to wrap him, but he is a good football player. I think that we all evolve and change. But I know, philosophically, Jimbo believes in the run game. He believes in the play action off the run games. So, whatever he’s building from that, and whatever he feels like, is best suited for his offensive line. And what his back’s like, and then the play actions off that. There’s a lot of carryover, probably through the years, in the passing game that I would say is similar. But, he’s not a guy that focuses on plays, he focuses on players. He’s going to focus on trying to get the ball to 85 to zero to his backs. And that’s something that always stuck out with me with Jimbo, is it’s not about plays. It’s about players and what we can do to get guys the ball. And so, again, he does a very good job.
– [Reporter] I’m curious, Will, before the Auburn game, did you guys talk with the team, leading up through that week about how USC had not beat Auburn as a member of the ACC?