Transcript of USC Coach Will Muschamp’s press conference before Texas A&M game

Will Muschamp Press Conference from Teusday – pregame Texas A&M

Opening Statement

“We’ve got Texas A&M here at Williams-Brice (Stadium) at 3:30 (Saturday). We certainly need our crowd ready to roll and loud, and I know they will be. I want to thank the ones that stayed for the entire duration of the game Saturday. I was like something I’d never been through before, and I certainly appreciate them. They were certainly loud at the end there. We appreciate that.

“(I have) a lot of respect for Jimbo (Fisher). He’s a great friend. We worked together back at Auburn in the 90’s, then obviously we were together at LSU. He’s a really good football coach, and he’s got a good football team.

“Offensively, Kellen Mond is playing at an extremely high level, completing over 60 percent of his passes and (he’s) a guy that can hurt you with his legs as well. He’s playing really good football for them and getting them in and out of the right runs against the right looks. They’ve got a really good stable of backs, and (Trayveon) Williams is a special guy as far as running through contact. He creates a lot on his own. (Jashaun) Corbin is a young back that’s really coming on for them. (Jace) Sternberger, the tight end, has been a huge addition for them and is a guy they certainly have targeted a lot, as Jimbo always has with the tight end in his offense. (They have a) big, physical group of receivers. The offensive line is mostly all back from last year with guys we’ve faced.

“Defensively, Mike Elko does a fantastic job. Mike was at Wake (Forest) for a while there. I’ve always liked watching his teams and his defenses play. They’re very disruptive up front. The front four – (Landis) Durham, (Kingsley) Keke, (Daylon) Mack and (Justin) Madubuike – are very disruptive guys. They create a lot of issues for you. They’ve done an outstanding job in the run game. (They have) two very active linebackers in (Tyrel) Dodson and (Otaro) Alaka, both guys that are very active that we played against last year. Donovan Wilson, a safety, is a very physical presence on the field. He does a really nice job for them.

“They’ve got really good team speed, which obviously helps their special teams. Their punter is averaging about 60 yards a kick, I believe, so we’ve got to manage for that in the game. They’ve got good specialists as well and good team speed.”

On the team’s injury situation heading into the Texas A&M game…

“Injury-wise, Jake (Bentley) practiced today. I thought he looked good. If he’s healthy for Saturday, he’ll be the starter, but I’ve told both Jake and Mike (Scarnecchia) that they need to be ready to go play/ We’ve got two guys we can win with, and that’s good to have. J.T. Ibe is going to be out. Dennis Wonnum has started some jogging but will be out for the game. A.J. Turner is questionable, and Eldridge Thompson is having surgery on Thursday. I think I announced last week he’ll be out for the season.”

On Jake Bentley’s status and if the decision on whether or not to give him the start will come Saturday…

“No, I think it will be determined before that. He looked good today. I think he will be fine, and at the end of the day we will continue to look at some mobility and things tomorrow. I’m never going to put a young man in a situation where he can’t protect himself, and he couldn’t on Saturday. Mike (Scarnecchia) performed really well. He’s a guy we had a lot of confidence in going into the game, and even more so, obviously after. At the end of the day, we will make decisions in the game to win the game.

On why Jake Bentley is the starting quarterback going forward…

“He’s played a lot of football for us. He’s got a lot of experience, and I think he’s played really well for us. Obviously, Mike (Scarnecchia) has a smaller sample set and played well with his opportunity. I’m making the decision that I think helps us win. At the end of the day, that’s what we are going to do, but we have two guys I have confidence that we can win with. I feel comfortable with both guys.”

On the struggles with run defense and how the Gamecocks can improve in that area…

“I think it’s not one thing that you put your finger on and say ‘eureka, here we go.’ It’s some misfits at times, whether it’s from a secondary position or a linebacker position, getting bounced out of the gap at times, leveraging the ball, and tackling. You go back and look at our A&M game last year; the ball got on the second level several times, but we tackled every time it happened. A six-to-eight-to-10 yard gain didn’t turn into a 20-to-30 yard gain. That’s where the huge gash runs have happened for us this year, where we have given up tremendous amounts of yardage by not tackling on the second level. That’s been frustrating and a little bit of the issue at the safety position, a bit at the corner position, and some at the nickel position. Those are all things we are going to continue to work on. We work on tackling every single day that we are in pads, because it’s something you have to do well in order to have a good defense and be the team defense you want to have. I think if you go back and look at the Missouri game, I think they did a nice job in the run game on some things, and they caught us in some numbers. At times they got a hat on a hat, and you have to defeat a block at times. At times, you will be at the point of attack; a tie goes to the offense. You’ve got to defeat a block and make a tackle. We didn’t do that enough times.”

On his level of confidence in Michael Scarnecchia…

“We felt like he was going to play well, and certainly in the circumstances, he played extremely well. Going through the weather and all of the issues that we had coming down to a one-minute drive to win the game. You don’t ever know until you see a guy do it. You either feel really comfortable about the situation, or you may be a little unsure, but I was never unsure about how Mike was going to perform.”

On the growth he’s seen from Jaycee Horn…

“Maturity would be the first word. Obviously, the guy is blessed with a lot of ability, but when you’re in the meeting room, when you’re at walkthrough, he’s very focused and dialed in to what he needs to do to be successful and to be a good football player. For a young player, that’s really important to have that maturity and understand when to dial in, because some players have a hard time keeping their focus over extended periods of time or consecutive day-to-day operations. That’s the one thing that jumps out to me is his maturity, to be able to handle those situations. No moment is too big. He handles the moment very well regardless of the situation.”

On what he can take away from his time coaching against Jimbo Fisher in Florida vs. Florida State games…

“It’s his first year, so he is still recruiting to be, schematically, where he wants to be, and that takes time. (He has) a traditional two-back run game, multiple tight end sets as far as their 12 personal groupings, (and) a lot of concepts run-game wise and pass-game wise are very similar protection-wise. Those things are going to carry over, that’s who you are as coach, and then you adapt, which is one things Jimbo does a great job of – adapting to what he has with his players and adapting to fit the scheme and system for what his players can do. We go a long way back to LSU spring games and fall camps, going against each other a bunch. But he’s done a really nice job of adapting, and they have some really talented guys. They recruited well and have done a really nice job with those guys.”

On the possibility of weather impacting Saturday’s game…

Coach (Ray) Tanner handles all of that. If there was an issue – and I haven’t talked to him – he’d certainly let me know.

On the offensive line’s play through five games…

“I think they’ve played extremely well. Coach (Eric) Wolford wasn’t pleased after Saturday. He felt like there were some things we had repped in practice that we missed in the run game. I think, again, we did a nice job protecting. I think they only sacks we’ve given up were late in the game against 41 from Kentucky, who’s an outstanding player, in some obvious passing situations. Again, we’ve been very consistent up until Saturday in the run game, getting a hat on a hat, getting our guys some opportunities with some running lanes.”

On the number of first-down runs called against Missouri and if that was an attempt to make it easier for Michael Scarnecchia…

“We wanted to be hard-headed in the run game. We felt like that’s something where we needed to be able to establish the line of scrimmage, to give us some opportunities down the field. The game changed, obviously, in the third quarter with the weather. That was an issue, but I think you saw as we continued to work through the game he had some opportunities. He took advantage of them. Again, we needed to be able to run the football. I think we ran for 130 yards, something like that, against that defense. They’ve been porous in the passing game, but they’ve been very good in the run game. We needed to be able to do that to create some opportunities for us down the field.”

On the challenge of facing a Texas A&M defense that held Kentucky’s running game in check last week…

“We can’t get ourselves in a situation where we become a drop back team. They’re very active up front. You’ve got to keep them off-balance. I’d say the same things about Missouri. Their inside techniques are very good. (Terry) Beckner us a really good player. That’s why we did not want to get into a one-dimensional game with them. That’s why needed to stay in the run game. Sometimes it isn’t pleasing to the eye, but you have to do those things in order to be able to create some balance in what you do and not let them tee off on every single snap. That’s what’s happened in our league with some of the defensive lines we face.”

On the improvement of Jamyest Williams at safety…

“I think he’s continuing to improve each week. We’ve got to continue to improve communication and things like that, make sure we’re all on the same page, but again, he’s been a very productive player for us. He’s been a productive player last year and this year. I think he’s done some nice things for us.”

On the maturation of Deshaun Fenwick on the scout team…

“He continues to grow and improve, and I think the weight room is really important, for Deshaun to continue to catch up to his body as far as the strength and the endurance and those things are concerned. He has done a really nice job in the last month or so on the scout team as far as running the football and giving a great look, and (we’re) trying to give him some reps with our other guys as well.”

On the issues in the punting game last week with a blocked punt and a dropped snap…

“We missed a protection issue on the first one, and on the second one, we were fine if we just catch the ball and punt. But on the first one, we had a miscount.”

On the status of Bryan Edwards, who’s dealing with an ankle injury from the Kentucky game…

“We’ll monitor him. He practiced today and was fine, but he got a little fatigued on the ankle Saturday.”

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