Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp’s Outback Bowl press conference quotes from Thursday
USC head coach Will Muschamp’s press conference quotes from USC Athletics Department
WILL MUSCHAMP: First of all, I’d like to thank Jim McVay and the Outback Bowl people. We’ve had a great time. Weather has been outstanding. The hotel is phenomenal. Tampa has been wonderful. Hospitality is outstanding. We’ve had two practices. A little sluggish today. I thought we had a very physical practice yesterday, a little more sluggish today, and injury wise, Rico is down and probably won’t play in the game. I think everybody else should be good by their standing in practice yesterday, and there will be practice today. Sherrod Greene is back on the field today, A.J. Turner.
We’re getting ready to play a good Michigan team, a team we’ve got a lot of respect for, got a lot of respect for the program first of all, the winningest program in college football. Coach Harbaugh has done a really good job, and I’m a football fanatic, and you go back and look at Coach Schembechler and Coach Carr and all the great players that have played at this program. I have great respect for their program. Charles Woodson, one of my favorite players to watch as a defensive back. Anthony Carter, Desmond Howard, he’ll get mad if you don’t mention his name.
But we’re looking forward to a great game on Monday. I’ll open it up for any questions.
Q. I asked Coach Harbaugh the same question. A lot of people talk about it’s not a playoff game, it’s a meaningless bowl game. He said the bowls are important, but it should expand to 16 playoffs. What’s your feeling on that?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, first of all, anytime you hit the football field, it’s meaningful. That’s nonsense in my opinion. This is a huge game for our program, an opportunity to win nine games, an opportunity to play Michigan, a team that we’ve got great respect for. But I think the bowls are really important to college football. Our guys are having a wonderful time.
But I think the bowl games are really important for college football, and I think it ‑‑ you know what, there are four team. The fifth team is pissed off. There’s 64 teams in college basketball, and they’ll have shows on Sunday night and the 65th team, their coach is pissed they didn’t get in the tournament.
So it’s a long season as it is, and the bowls are really important for college football. And I think that our guys are having a great week and are excited to be here.
Q. You mentioned the word respect in terms of Michigan a couple of times already, but how much respect can your program earn if you’re going to win this game?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, absolutely. I think you see the progress we’ve made in year two and continue to move forward in the culture of our program. You know, in order to continue to get where we want to get, that’s winning a championship, and that’s what we’re going to do. But you’ve got to invest in that, and that’s what we’re doing right now at South Carolina. In my opinion in just the brief time that I’ve been there, the total investment of the football operations building, the investment in paying your coaches, those are things you’ve got to do, and that’s what we’re doing at South Carolina. If you look at the four teams in the playoff, they’re invested in their programs. That’s what we’re doing, and that’s what’s exciting at our place right now.
Q. With A.J. (Turner), is he 100 percent?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Mm‑hmm, yeah. I feel real good about A.J. He’ll return kicks for us and be involved in all special teams.
Q. And also with Rico (Dowdle) out will Mon (Denson) and Ty’Son (Williams) take over ‑‑
WILL MUSCHAMP: Absolutely, uh‑huh.
Q. Playing the No. 1 team in the country your last game, is that a help or a hindrance going to a bowl game?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, it’s never good to end the season with a loss, especially against your arch rival, obviously, but I don’t know that it helps or hinders you going into a bowl season, regardless.
Q. Terry (Googer) has been in concussion protocol since A&M, but have you talked to him about his future at South Carolina and anything about him wanting to come back next year?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, that’s in our medical people’s hands. I don’t make those decisions. Terry has been with our team as far as that’s concerned. He’s been with us at the bowl game, and we certainly wish him the best as far as the health and those things are concerned. But I’m not really ready to comment on those things right now.
Q. Who are you looking at to take Jamyest’s (Williams) place?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, we’ve got a rotation in. We’ve got Chris Lammons obviously we can play in there, Steven Montac can go, and D.J. Smith. We’ve got three guys that we feel comfortable playing in there.
Q. What’s Skai Moore’s legacy as a Gamecock? What is he going to leave to this program?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, he needs to get another interception so he can set the record is the first thing. He’s going to end up the leading tackler in four years says enough to me. The guy is extremely instinctive, extremely bright, intelligent. He’s going to play for a long time because he’s athletic and can play every down. He can play on special teams because he’s a really good space player. In my year in the NFL, one of the many things I learned of the guys that have longevity in that league are intelligent. They can play multiple spots. He has pass rush ability, he can cover and play cover in spice. He can play two back run teams. Honestly, God willing, injury‑wise, if he can stay healthy, he’ll play for a long time. Somebody will be very happy that they picked him.
Q. With the great group of underclassmen that you’ll have back next year, how much could this game springboard you guys into next season?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, I think it’s always important that you have a positive feel leaving the season, and the only way you can do that is by winning the game. You get these nice bowl sweats ‑‑ you wouldn’t even want to wear them if you didn’t win, so you want to be able to wear your bowl sweats and that kind of deal. But there’s no question it creates positive momentum for you in your season and you continue to progress in the right way, and that’s what we’re looking forward to doing.
Q. How do you like Bryan’s (McClendon) preparation for the game, and secondly, how much will your offensive production Monday against Michigan factor into the decision you’re going to make?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, I think the preparation has been really good, number one, by Bryan, but our entire offensive staff, as well. We’ve got a really good staff in place, and I’ve been very pleased with his command of our team, our staff, our players. We’ve been very productive in our practices at home but also since we’ve come to Tampa. I think he’s done a really good job. Obviously game day is important, from a calling standpoint, from an adjustment standpoint. Certainly if you make the right calls and the right adjustments, you’re going to be productive, so that is important. But I’ve been very pleased with his progress.
Q. How important is it to recruiting playing a New Year’s Day bowl game?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, you know, it’s ‑‑ you get the noon kickoff here on January 1st, everybody is watching, so any exposure your program is going to get is obviously going to help you, and I think that as much as anything, they see the progress that our program has made in a very short time. Again, as I said, we’re investing in our program. It’s an exciting time to be a Gamecock.
Q.What are you expecting from Brandon Peters, the Michigan quarterback? Limited playing time, but what are you expecting?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, I mean, they are who they are schematically in my opinion. I think that they are — a guy that, athletically, can do some things with his legs, but he is an accurate thrower. He’s a guy that he’s played extremely well, then got hurt against Wisconsin and missed the last couple ballgames. But when he’s been in there, he’s been a very productive guy. They’ve played three guys throughout the year, O’Korn as well, may see him, I don’t know that. But he’s a guy that within what they do schematically, the multiple shifts, motions, the two back, the run game, the play actions off the back, they’ve got talented skill guys outside that we’ll be in some 50/50 ball situations, we’ve got to win those down the field. We’ve got to do a great job of control off the play actions and get in multiple tight end sets and different blocking surfaces and they’re going to give you some issues in the game, and we’re going to have to obviously adjust, and Jim does a nice job of giving you some different looks. Those adjustments will have to be ‑‑ very important in‑game adjustments.
Q. How important are bowl practices for younger guys?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Really did a lot in Columbia. Every day in Columbia we set times with them to take advantage make sure they got reps. But I haven’t made the seniors practice, or we didn’t have many, but from my standpoint, that’s more of an emphasis for those guys. It’s basic fundamentals, techniques, schematically we’re very simple in what we do and how we approach things. They got most of that work there.
Q. Any guys that particularly progressed?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Yeah, Jordan Rhodes is a guy that really ‑‑ he had surgery on his nose the day that we left Columbia, so he isn’t anticipated right now with us down here, but he’s a guy that I thought improved tremendously. That’s was something that was a preexisting issue, it wasn’t anything that happened on our campus. But Jordon Carty showed something, Eric Douglas, we’re excited about him, and our young receivers, our freshmen are all playing. Offensively most of the guys are already in the fold. Tavyn Jackson I think is nicely contributing, getting him back healthy a little bit. He’s having a little bit of an issue with a hamstring. Been very pleased with his progress. Inside M.J. Webb has done a nice job for us, and then there are some guys that have flashed, Aaron Sterling, this is a huge time for him to continue to prove that he’s playing a lot. Damani Staley has done some nice things for us. Davonne Bowen shows up with flashes at times. All of those guys, Sherrod Greene has been injured a little bit, but he’s played and started for us this year. Again, we’ve got a very young team. 70 percent of our team is freshmen and sophomores, so it’s ‑‑ but this is a very valuable point for them because it is an opportunity to rep. This is a developmental game, and you’ve got to take reps.
Q. Rhodes at left tackle?
WILL MUSCHAMP: He’s been repping at right.
Q. Carty at left, then?
WILL MUSCHAMP: I mean, he’s been on the scout team for sure.
Q. So far this is your first trip to the Outback Bowl ‑‑
WILL MUSCHAMP: It’s actually my third trip.
Q. As a head coach.
WILL MUSCHAMP: Yeah. I stand corrected.
Q. Has the experience met your expectations?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Absolutely. It’s exceeded our expectations. When you get down here in this weather and the hospitality of Hillsborough County and Tampa people and the Outback Bowl people has been awesome.
Q. You mentioned Eric Douglas, but what has he done to kind of show some improvement, and where do you see him fitting in?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, Eric is really bright, and he can play multiple spots on the offensive line. Obviously we’re losing Alan next year, and we’ve got to find a center, so that’s been a guy that we’ve repped there. He’s done a nice job there. He also has played guard, and he athletically could be an emergency tackle in some extreme situations. Extremely bright. Really like the way he’s continued to progress for our football team.
Q. You mentioned center; would Chandler Farrell be a guy in consideration next year?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Absolutely. Chandler has done a nice job for us, and Donell Stanley has been a guy that’s done that. So we’ve got some options. You’ve always got to train and have three ready to play in a game.
Q. When you take a look at how this team has progressed since fall camp, what are some of the things that have impressed you the most?
WILL MUSCHAMP: I think this is a really fun team to be around as far as their approach to practice and how they approach it working and understanding and the culture of the organization. You know, somewhat of a blue‑collar mentality. That’s my mentality. That’s what we want to be. You have guys that are recruiting players that buy into that workmanlike mentality. We’re going to do some special things. I really liked our work ethic and how we approach practice. I could probably count on one hand where we just had really poor practices in this past year. A lot of that goes to leadership. When your best players are good people, normally good things happen for you, and that’s the situation we’re in right now.
Q. Obviously at the tackle you guys are pretty veteran at the starting spots. How much development do you feel like the guys behind you have done?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Well, I think Taylor Stallworth has had an outstanding year. He has played really well for us. He’s been very consistent each week. You know exactly what you’re going to get out of him. He’s been a guy that needs to play extremely well Monday for us. I think Javon Kinlaw is a guy that showed up at 340 pounds in May. He’s down to under 300 pounds now, I think, and is playing at a really high level in the latter part of the season. Kobe Smith continues to come on, do some nice things for us. I’ve been very pleased with his progress. Ulric Jones continues to do some nice things for us and giving us a good 25 or 30 snaps in a game, which is what we need. So I’ve been very pleased with that progress, and then you’ve got Keir Thomas and Dante Sawyer, two guys that move inside in situational football, 3rd down and 1 to help us out, and Keir is certainly a guy that continues to grow, can be in that role next year.
Been pleased with the progress. I think Javon’s transformation has really helped us defensively tremendously.
Q. When do you remember being aware of Jim (Harbaugh) and his career? Was it when he was a quarterback at Michigan, an NFL guy?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Quarterback at Michigan.
Q. What do you remember about him?
WILL MUSCHAMP: Tough, hard‑nosed, exactly the way football teams play. Go back, football fanatic, especially college football. I love the history and tradition of football, and seeing him play for Michigan and obviously I think he had a 14‑year career. He was a first‑round draft pick, had a great career there, obviously had some ‑‑ AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh when he was with the Colts, I remember that game. They lost right at the end there. But had a great career, and then obviously with San Diego, he was a program that did a fantastic job, but they had never really won before that. Obviously he got the opportunity at Stanford. But his dad was at Western Kentucky when I was at Eastern Kentucky, and I was coaching the defensive backs for Roy Kidd, and Coach Harbaugh was there, and I remember recruiting in Bradenton and Jim was an NFL quarterback with a Western Kentucky warmup suit on, recruiting for Western Kentucky. I don’t know how legal that was, and there’s a Statute of Limitations, so I’m sure he couldn’t get in trouble for me saying this. But it was unusual. But I did see him in high school in a Western Kentucky jumpsuit.
Q. You’re underdogs in this game, but they’re Michigan playing in a program in college football ‑‑
WILL MUSCHAMP: I don’t know that that really matters when it comes to game day. I think our guys understand that ‑‑ the respect that I have for Michigan and that we as a program have. But it’s all about your preparation. That ought to be your motivation for everything you do. And we’ve prepared hard for this game. I like where we are. I wish we had a little better practice today. But I like our mindset and where we are.
Q. At the contract signing you said just because you get fired doesn’t mean you’re a bad coach. Did you ever doubt your ability to ‑‑
WILL MUSCHAMP: No, absolutely not.
Q. What did you make of the little flare‑up at the bowling competition last night? I know you didn’t probably like that they had ‑‑
WILL MUSCHAMP: It was a little gamesmanship. That’s good.
Q. Did you see something there that you think might carry over?
WILL MUSCHAMP: I mean, running your mouth off at a bowling alley doesn’t do a lot for me.
Q. They were intense about the competition, I’ll say that. They were having ‑‑
WILL MUSCHAMP: Whether you bowl or not, you’ve got to compete.
Q. First year of the early signing period, good thing or bad thing, or is the jury still out?
WILL MUSCHAMP: My opinion really doesn’t matter, so I don’t normally give it. Say what I say, so I’m not going to give my opinion.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports