Muschamp’s focus on now, not last year’s turnaround success
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — For South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, it’s time to prove it all again.
No more does he want to talk about the Gamecocks’ turnaround 9-4 season a year ago — their most since going 11-2 in 2013 — or how strong the team looked in rallying past Michigan in the second half to win the Outback Bowl last January.
“We understand we’ve got to have is a buy-in from this football, understand it’s going to be a difficult, physical camp, a violent camp and that’s what you’ve got to do to be successful,” Muschamp, the third-year coach, said Thursday.
Muschamp knows too well the land mines that can show up in year three. He was coming off an 11-2 season at Florida, his only other head-coaching stop, in 2012 with sky-high expectations. Instead, the Gators stumbled to a 4-8 mark the following year. Muschamp was let go before the end of 2014.
Muschamp has reminded his players ever since not to sit still or be satisfied with their burst of respectability last fall.
“It was a good season, but everyone wanted more,” said linebacker T.J. Brunson, South Carolina’s leading returning tackler. “I feel like you don’t want more, you’re wasting your time.”
There will be little wasted time once the Gamecocks hold their first practice Friday. The season begins Sept. 1 at home against in-state opponent Coastal Carolina. The Southeastern Conference season opens the following week against league champion and national runner up Georgia.
Receiver Bryan Edwards, who led the team with 64 catches for 793 yards and five touchdowns, said last year’s wins were nice and provided the Gamecocks a springboard to off-season workouts.
“We get a taste of that success, but we haven’t had any real success yet,” he said. “It makes us go harder. It makes us more hungry.”
Muschamp said the focus on this year began at year’s start when Gamecocks and their fans were still giddy about coming from 19-3 down in the final 20 minutes to defeat the Wolverines 26-19.
Muschamp sees the steps forward that have occurred the first two years. He also knows those who dwell on history often get stuck in it.
So he wants players engaged and concentrating only on practice and improving, day by day and play by play.
“Those are all things to me that good teams have,” Muschamp said. “Good teams understand how to compete, how to practice the right way. All those things to me are important to the kind of team you want to have.”
It’s almost like the players can hear Muschamp’s voice in their heads whenever they want to gloat about last year, laughs Edwards. The message, while pervasive, has sunk in.
“We hear it every day. And when you think about it, we haven’t really done anything. What’s nine wins. Our team goals are to win the (SEC) East, win the state (over Clemson) and compete for a national championship,” Edwards said. “That’s what we want to do.”
Muschamp took his own steps to ensure a different outcome in his third season at South Carolina than at Florida. He let go of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper before the bowl game and elevated receivers coach Bryan McClendon to lead a faster, more dynamic attack.
Muschamp also hired respected quarterbacks coach Dan Werner , who helped run the Ole Miss offense from 2012-16 and spent last season as an analyst for Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“We’ve made progress,” Muschamp said. “I’m excited about this football team. I see a lot of the intangible qualities that you need to have a good team. Does that mean we’re going to have a good team? No. We need to have a good training camp and that’s what we’re focused on right now.”
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