Will Muschamp says Tigers have a “really good football team” at pre-Clemson press conference, Tuesday

USC enters the field during 2001 versus Wofford, Saturday. ColaDaily photo. 

Transcript of USC head football coach Will Muschamp’s pre-Clemson press conference, from the USC Athletics Department.

Opening Statement

We’ve got Clemson here at Williams Brice at 7:30. Looking forward to one of the great rivalries in all of college football. We’re certainly playing much better and coaching much better than we did a year ago. Clemson’s got a really good football team. You look at (them) offensively, the year Kelly Bryant has had has been outstanding. I’m sure for them, the uncertainty going into the year of how he would perform and he has played really good football for them. (He has) 154 carries, not all designed quarterback runs. He creates a lot of issues for you in off-rhythm plays. He’s had 300 attempts and he’s completed 66 percent of his passes. He really plays good football. You go back and look at Virginia Tech and several other games where he’s making some plays, whether he’s throwing it or running it. He’s really playing good football.

They have a really good stable of backs, (Tavien) Feaster and (Travis) Etienne. They’ve got top-end speed guys. They’ve got a good stable of receivers. Dion Cain we know well and Ray-Ray McCloud, who is also a punt returner for them, does a really nice job, and Hunter Renfrow in the slot. They’re very difficult to cover. They’re deep up front in their offensive line; they play a lot of guys.

Defensively, Brent (Venables) does a great job. (Clelin) Farrell and (Dexter) Lawrence and (Austin) Bryant and (Christian) Wilkins and those guys are very disruptive in the run and pass game. We have to negate the front and block those guys; that’s the bottom line. That’s going to be the key to the game for us offensively. They’re deep at linebacker. They’re going to get Kendall (Joseph) back this week, and he’s a really good football player. Tre Lamar has played well for them. (Dorian) O’Daniel, I think, is their leading tackler and he’s had a fantastic year for them. They’re really deep in the secondary. They’ve got good team speed. They’re good on special teams. Ray-Ray is a really good punt returner. I think he’s hit one this year and maybe two last year.

It ought to be a great environment here at Williams Brice. We’re looking forward to getting home and playing these guys.”

On the team’s injury situation…

Antoine (Wilder) will be out this week. He dislocated his elbow. (Jamyest Williams is) good to go. He practiced today. Everybody’s good.”

On the keys to Jake Bentley having success offensively Saturday…

First of all, we’ve got to block the guys up front. That’s going to be key so he’ll have some time. That’s where it all starts in the run and the pass game. You’ve got to be able to negate the front. I know he’s going to compete and make good decisions. He’s been making really good decisions for us. Obviously, taking care of the football. Create some explosives and go make some plays. At the end of the day, when you play a really good team you’ve got to make some plays. That’s the bottom line. Certainly, that’s what we’re expecting him to do.”

On using last year as motivation…

As a coach, you’re always looking in terms of motivation. We’re all motivated differently. Some guys are self-starters, and you don’t really have to say a whole lot to them. Some guys need to have a reason to get excited. This ballgame, you don’t need a lot of motivation at the end of the day. We had a really good practice this morning. The guys were highly motivated. We don’t play until 7:30 Saturday night. We need to have a good gradual build up emotionally to the game, and I think we will.”

On the changes from last season…

I think we’re a deeper football team. We have more depth. We’re an older football team, although 70 percent of our roster is still freshmen and sophomores. This football team competes. That’s one thing when you turn the tape on, you will see great effort. You will see guys running the ball. You will see guys offensively finishing plays. We have really good effort on special teams. We had a couple good examples from last week’s game that I showed the team this morning. Again, I think the one thing that I’ve been most consistent with this football team is the effort and competitive edge. Last year that was something I told our team. We had some guys that flat-out didn’t compete when the adversity set in. That’s the bottom line. That’s one thing as a coach; you always want to have your football team go compete. That will give you an opportunity to win games.”

On maintaining eye discipline defensively against Clemson…

They create a lot of window dressing, so to speak, on some different things. On the run and pass game, they do a really nice job of getting the ball on the perimeter. We watched some wrong things last year as far as motion and those things are concerned. It created a lot of issues in the run game. They certainly took advantage of that. T.J. (Brunson) and Skai (Moore) have played really good inside linebacker for us this year. Sherrod Greene continues to come on. Eldridge Thompson has done some really nice things. We continue to improve that position.”

On yards after catch from receivers…

That’s a huge emphasis. Whether you’re playing corners or middle field coverage, at the end of the day, on the outside, it’s still one-on-one with other guys running to the ball. When you’re able to break tackles and you’ve got strong guys like that, they’re able to run through contact. That’s huge. It something from my perspective as a defensive coach, it always concerns you to be able to get big guys on the ground, especially in the 50/50 balls. When they’re able to body you up like OrTre (Smith) is able to do and Bryan (Edwards) is able to do. And Deon Cain is able to do that as a bigger receiver in those situations. Without a doubt, you create some explosive plays being able to do that down the field.”

On the offensive line’s improvement during the season…

I think we’ve improved tremendously from the beginning of the season. I think in all three phases, this football team has taken some steps forward. We have not been as explosive on special teams, obviously, without Deebo (Samuel). There have been some kicks we felt like may have hit if he had been back returning. I think in all three phases our football team has continued to improve. I’m looking forward to the matchup of our offensive line having made some strides. They’re certainly much improved from a year ago. They’ve got a good front and we have a great opportunity in front of us.”

On the defensive line and matching up Kelly Bryant…

I think you’ve got to be really disciplined in this football game. You’ve really got to be cognizant of your rush lanes and fill your rush lanes up. I told our defensive line not to be selfish, at the end of the day. You’ve got to play within the scheme and system of what we’re trying to do and understand that this guy is a really good athlete. He can hurt you throwing it, and he’s hurt people running it as well.”

On Jake Bentley’s improvement from last year…

I think it’s night and day. Number one is what we’re putting on him at the line of scrimmage, the amount of different things that we’re going to allow him to do. As far as decision making, a much higher percentage of the offensive play book that we’re able to carry into a game now. The adjustments we’re able to make at halftime that we probably couldn’t do a year ago. It’s night and day from where he was a year ago, no doubt about it.”

On establishing the run early against Clemson…

You don’t want to get in a one-dimensional game with this group. We did a year ago. They do a really good job of pressuring the quarterback, and if they know you’re going to be in a throw situation the entire game, it’s going to be a long day. You’ve got to stay balanced. You have to be hardheaded in the run game a little bit. When you play a front like this, you’re not always going to hit a 20-yard run every time you run it. You’ve got to be able to stay patient in the run game. You can’t get one-dimensional.”

On his understanding of the Clemson-Carolina rivalry…

I’m not an outsider anymore. I get it, and I understand where you’re going with it. I get it.

On when he first understood the rivalry…

On the first day on the job, when 38 people tell you to beat Clemson.”

On the importance of tempo after Syracuse used it with success against Clemson…

We go into every game with the opportunity to play with some tempo depending on how the flow of the game is going. That’s something that we have within what we do.”

On the importance of gap integrity against Clemson’s runners…

No doubt. If you get displaced, the last play of the 3rd quarter against NC State went for 92, 89 (yards), something like that. It went a long way. You weren’t going to catch him. So you’ve got to stay in your gaps. I always talk in terms of keeping your head in your gap, maintaining gap control and disengaging and getting off blocks. They do a really nice job, and when Kelly (Bryant) is at quarterback, they create an extra gap for you in the run game. Those are all situations that you have to be able to try and gain an extra hat in the run game and borrow a guy from another side, stunt some things and create some disruption as best as you can.”

On maintaining emotions for an entire game after possibly not doing that against Kentucky…

I thought we opened the Kentucky game pretty good with a touchdown pass and then and interception in the first series defensively. I think, at the end of the day, we need to coach better and play better.”

On Jay Urich’s role playing Kelly Bryant on the scout team…

Jay is a very similar guy as far as stature is concerned and body-wise. Jay is a really good athlete. He runs extremely well and throws it extremely well, so there’s a lot of carryover there.”

On his approach to rivalry games as a player…

I needed to get as emotional as I could, because I wasn’t very good. (laughs) I needed to be jacked up and ready to go every week. I had to be that way at practice every day. I wasn’t very good, so I had to be excited every day.”

On winning the Clemson game and how that would affect recruiting…

“Certainly it would to show progress within our program. There’s no doubt about that. Again, I’ve said it many times: one game is not going to make a decision for a young man. And if it does, we probably don’t want him. So, that’s the way I kind of look at that. No doubt progress is being made.”

On the Clemson’s offensive success and if it’s a product of scheme or talent…

“I think it’s a combination of both. They do a really great job schematically, spreading out, creating space ways with really good players and accuracy at the quarterback position, which they have, obviously. Kelly (Bryant) is completing 66 percent of his passes. So he’s been accurate with the football, especially in those 3rd-and-6 situations. And, obviously, his legs have helped him as well in some situations. It creates for you, as a play-caller defensively, some issues because of his legs. When you play man-cover, you’re not watching the quarterback. When you’re not playing tight coverage, they’re able to complete passes, so it’s kind of an issue as a play-caller defensively. You’ve got to make some decisions from that. I think, schematically, they do some really nice things, and they’ve got good players.”

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