USC coach Will Muschamp’s pre-Wofford press conference transcript from Tuesday

USC head football coach Will Muschamp’s Press Conference transcript from Tuesday – Week No. 11 – Wofford

Opening Statement

We have Wofford here this week. I want to first of all thank our fans; the noon kick there last week was awesome. (It was a) great environment, and our players certainly appreciated it, no doubt. It made a huge difference in the ballgame. It certainly energizes our guys.

(I have) a lot of respect for Coach (Mike) Ayers and the Wofford program. He’s been there since 1988. I was a junior in high school when he came to the Wofford program. They’re 9-1 this year. They won the Southern Conference. They’re as well-coached a team as we will play in my time here at South Carolina. They do an outstanding job offensively. They’re a very difficult preparation. Obviously, there are some option factors involved in it, but they’re very multiple with what they do under center and in the shotgun. They do a really nice job of spreading the field and making you defend the entire field. They have six seniors on offense that are very experienced with the group they’ve got. It starts with the quarterback position. (Brandon) Goodson and (Joe) Newman are both very apt at running their offense extremely well. (Andre) Stoddard at fullback is a guy you’ve got to stop. Obviously any time you face a team like this, stopping the fullback is critical.

Defensively, (they have an) odd structure. Everything we get will be earned. They’re very well-coached and disciplined in what they do defensively, and they’re outstanding on special teams. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

(It’s) Senior Day. I’m excited for those guys and their contributions to the program. It’s Military Appreciation Day. I know we’ll have a good faction from Fort Jackson over here. We’re looking forward to kicking off at Williams-Brice Stadium at 4 o’clock Saturday.”

On the team’s injury situation…

Injury-wise, (Jamyest Williams) has a shoulder. He will be questionable for the game. He did not practice today. I’ll see if we’re going to get him back Wednesday or Thursday. Other than that we should be good.

On the time spent preparing for Wofford’s offensive attack…
“We’ve spent time in training camp and during our open week. At times, we’ve taken some shots here or there in a period or two at practice where we work on things like this. It is different. Today was not a totally new day for our players as far as installation was concerned. This is something we can tweak within what we do knowing that we were going to play this game.”

On practice time and if more time is allocated to defensive work this week…

We don’t really. Whether we’re playing Wofford or another opponent, the times and preparation on offense and defense don’t change. We’re doing a lot more separate this week in preparation for this game. As far as the structure of the practice schedule defensively, you do change. You’ve got to be able to go through some difficult periods, being able to see and get some of the looks that we’ll see on Saturday.”

On the meaning of the phrase ‘assignment football’…

I think from a standpoint of whether you’re a dive player, a quarterback player, a quarterback pitch player, an alley runner or a pitch player. In every defense, back when I first started coaching, you assigned everyone an option responsibility on every single play because you faced it so much. I’m used to coaching in the Gulf South Conference when I was at West Georgia and Valdosta State. We faced probably five to six teams a year that ran some sort of double slot, veer option or triple option principals. Every defense we installed, that’s what you taught. You don’t really do that as much anymore. Zone read is probably as close as you could get to it from a reading and a defender type of situation, like you do in a triple situation. That’s what people mean when they’re talking about your assignment, your eye control. They create a lot of different motions and things. They try to get your eyes in the wrong spot. You have to be very disciplined with your eye control. That takes you to your responsibility. There can’t be any ‘I thought he had the ball’ or ‘I thought he pulled the ball.’ That’s where you get in a lot of trouble, because when they’re able to make you defend inside out from a dive to a quarterback with a lead blocker to a pitch, and we have certain assignments, if one guy doesn’t do his job, the other guys are executing their responsibilities and that’s when you create a big play on defense.”

On any underclassmen participating in Senior Day…

I asked Hayden (Hurst) to go through Senior Day, and we’ll discuss that at the appropriate time when the season’s over. He’ll go through it.”

On what makes Hayden Hurst stand out…

Work ethic. Having a great work ethic is an ability. It’s a talent. It’s something everyone’s looking for, whether you’re in the field of football or the business world, or whatever – if somebody’s got a tireless work ethic, and he’s got a great competitive edge. Those would be the two things that jumped out at me.”

On the relationship between Kurt Roper and Jake Bentley:

I would probably say because it’s a single position, the quarterback coach/coordinator for us and the quarterback have a very close relationship. The amount of time you spend one-on-one with probably three other quarterbacks in the room as far as the game plan, the installation, the comfort level that the player has with what you’re willing to take into a game plan. Obviously, I think that’s a very close relationship as far as those things are concerned. Kurt coaches the guys extremely hard but also, just like the rest of us, off the field understands that they’re college students. He understands that part of it. I think they have an outstanding relationship.

On how Jake Bentley responds to hard coaching…

Very well. He’s harder on himself than myself, Kurt Roper or anybody’s going to be.”

On avoiding an upset like the one against The Citadel in 2015…

We addressed that situation this morning. I leaned on a lot of the experience of the football team that went through that. It starts with your preparation. That’s what’s most important, to prepare the right way. The proper preparation prevents poor performance in a lot of situations. That’s where we start. That’s all we can control right now is our preparation: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday leading up to game day.

On Hayden Hurst being a Mackey Award semifinalist…

It’s well-deserved; he’s a very valuable member of our football team, not just from the tight end position, but from a leadership standpoint. I think he’s everything you want from a student-athlete for what he represents. He’s a shield on our punt team. He contributes in a lot of ways other than just playing really good tight end for us at South Carolina.

On The Citadel loss from 2015 and if the seniors brought it up in a team meeting…

No, I brought it up.”

On the challenges of preparing players to face the option since it’s less prevalent now in high school football…

That’s a great question. It’s funny, I was on the field today with Sherrod Greene, from Rocky Mount High School in North Carolina, (ad he) faced the option about six times last year. His reads are a lot quicker than some of our other guys. It’s like anything else; if you’ve never seen a two-back power, and all of a sudden you line up against someone and they’re going to run the two-back power and you don’t see that very often, it’s not going to be as easy for you to grasp, maybe, as something that you’re used to seeing (and) as the things, defensively, that you’re exposed to the most. That’s why coaching defense is very difficult, because a lot of times you face something different offensively each week. And, different from offensively, you’re running the same play. You’ve got to figure out how to block three down, how I’m going to block four down, how I’m going to block bear. You know, we’ve got to be winning the first man coverage and press coverage outside and if they’re going to be a zone team. There’s obviously some adjustments. I’m not saying that’s not hard. But, it is sometimes a totally different preparation week-to-week, defensively. Certainly, there’s not as many teams running option football anymore, whatever level they may be on. Certainly you can see the guys and our preparation for this ballgame, whether it’s in training camp or in our open week, we see guys that are a little more accustomed to playing it and understood a little more about the angles and the ball distributions.”

On the success of the run game Saturday against Florida…

Well, I think we got the ball on the perimeter very well whether it was the counter play or the power read on the outside, we circled the defense played extremely well in some situations. I thought we blocked on the perimeter extremely well. I showed a clip today of a perimeter run, where Zack Bailey was thirty yards downfield blocking the linebacker. Shi Smith and OrTre Smith and Bryan Edwards are all blocking downfield and created an explosive run for A.J. (Turner) early in the game. I think we’ve continued to improve throughout the year in the run game. I think we had a really good game plan going into the game in our running game, things we wanted to get to against a very good front.”

On Jake Bentley’s self-criticism after a three-interception game and if it’s something he has to watch out for…

No. He’ll be fine. You know, I’m glad he’s our quarterback. He’s a guy that is going to be very receptive to coaching and his own corrections as far as the things he needs to do to move forward. I don’t doubt he’ll linger on it at all.”

On the development of Javon Kinlaw…

Well, I think nothing has shown me that he won’t continue to work and develop. Here’s a guy that showed up on campus over 340 pounds. Kristin Coggin, our nutrition director, does a great job. (Javon) completely bought into that side of it, and that takes time. And you’ve got to change eating habits. When you eat, what you eat, and there’s a lot that goes into that. And the young man has done everything that we have asked him to do whether it’s in the weight room, whether it’s in the film room, schematically, effort, nutrition; I mean, it’s been a total change for him as far the things we are asking him to do as opposed to what maybe he was used to. And, him coming from fall camp, August 1st, whenever we reported, to now, (is a) huge credit to him and his buy-in and his investment. Lance Thompson has done a fantastic job with him. And the guy you’ve got to credit (is) the player in a lot of situations for continuing to put himself in this position and nothing, in my opinion, would ever slowed down his progression as far as his work ethic and his hunger to be a really good football player. He’s got that kind of mentality.”

On his son Jackson playing for a state championship Saturday for Hammond…

We’re excited for Jackson (Muschamp) and Hammond playing in the state championship game. I told him, you won a state championship in lacrosse, and now you’ll have a chance to play for another one on Saturday night. So, that’s pretty neat. But, Erik Kimrey and his staff do a fantastic job. They’ve got a really good team. I’m certainly for the Skyhawks on Saturday to get it done. We need to win first and then they need to get the ‘W’ on Saturday night. We’ll be there. I hope y’all don’t ask too many questions after the game so I can get out there early for that.”

On anticipating and overcoming cut blocks…

That’s something that you’ve got to be aware of and the biggest thing to me is playing the blocks. So many times you get your eyes focused on the ball carrier and that’s when you get ‘Ginsued’ (referencing the type of knife). That’s when you get cut. And the big emphasis to me is (that) you’ve got to play the block first, because if you’re on the ground, we’re playing with ten. And that’s what you’ve got to be able to do. You’ve got to stay on your feet, give ground if you have to, keep your back leg out of it, all the coaching points. You know, we work on cut blocks, not just this week, every week. On the perimeter, you know teams are going to cut you on the perimeter. We put a huge emphasis on the back side of plays, especially starting back with NC State, the first ballgame of the year, they’re going to cut you out of the back side. And stay on your feet on the inside and outside zone that they ran. This is not a different week for us as far as the emphasis of cut blocks.”

On his goal for the number of kickoffs that should be touchbacks…

One hundred percent. Last game, he was great. Not one of them came out. He’s been very valuable as far as that’s concerned. You kick to some of the people in our league, you’re kicking to the best athlete in a lot of situations on the other team. And that’s not a good thing to do, especially when you’re covering sixty yards down the field and you’re creating a space play with a really good athlete. That’s hard, but to be able to have the weapon (like) that, for a guy that can kick it out of the end zone, certainly helps your football team.”

On the going up against Wofford and if their coach, Mike Ayers, can adjust to Carolina’s defense…

“He and (offensive coordinator) Wade (Lang) are not going to see new Saturday, I can assure you of that. That’s a huge part of what they do is identifying what you’re doing. That’s where they can get you in some trouble, because at the end of the day you really don’t want a fast playlist or call list versus a team like this. It takes one mess up and the ball is out of the gate. Once they identify and zero in on exactly what you’re doing, they’re going to have answers. You know that going into the game. You’ve got to have enough changeups in the game to help you as far as those things are concerned without slowing down your players and creating a mistake on defense, so it’s an interesting balance.”

On cut blocks and his thoughts on their place in the game…

“Well, we talk about player safety a lot, don’t we? I see cut blocks creating some issues for player safety. That’s where I stand on it.”

On the line between a clean cut block and a dirty one…

“I think it’s a very thin line. I think it’s a hard line. At the end of the day, it’s a competitive game, and you’re competing hard, and you’re going to throw on a guy whether he recognizes you or not. You’re a linebacker coming inside out of the play, and you don’t see the cut block coming, and you can’t identify it, and it’s a totally legal block based on the rule, and you’ve got a problem. You’ve got a guy with a knee injury. That happens a lot, and that’s just part of it. If we are truly about player safety we’d eliminate it, in my opinion, but I don’t know if that will happen.”

On the effort spent improving the defense this season…

“We still have a lot of football to play, so we will reflect when the year is over. As far as their work ethic and as far as how they have gone about trying to get better, I have been very pleased with how they have worked.”

On Wofford’s defense…

“You better earn it; that’s the bottom line. Coach (Shiel) Wood does an outstanding job. (They have) some odd structures. (We) obviously start with some issues there as far as identifying who the hot rusher is, who the core rusher is. They are really good at zone as far as their eyes are concerned, putting them in the right spots and the spacing concerns. They are going to make you earn it at the end of the day. They are going to make you earn everything you get, and that’s usually the sign of a pretty good defense.”

On the differences in Wofford’s offense when they’re in shotgun compared to under center…

“They can create triple reads from the gun or under center, so there are a lot of similarities. I think they get the ball to the perimeter well from the gun as well as under center. I think there is a lot of carryover in what they do and how they do it.”

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