The SEC has descended on Birmingham, all this week, as talking season hits full swing. The South Carolina Gamecocks got their chance in the spotlight on day three. Head coach Will Muschamp took to the podium for the Gamecocks SEC Media days session Wednesday. The head man was joined by quarterback Jake Bentley, linebacker T.J. Brunson, and wide receiver Bryan Edwards. The three seniors will look to lead South Carolina to new heights in year four under Muschamp. The Gamecocks SEC media days session is the first step on the winding road that will be the 2019 season.
Gamecocks SEC Media Days Overview
Muschamp spoke about a variety of topics during his time at the podium, including the new operations building, the daunting 2019 schedule, and the veterans he has returning on his roster. However, one of the first things he mentioned pertained to his team’s performance off the field. He mentioned that for the first time in his coaching career, and the first time at South Carolina, his team had a cumulative GPA above 3.0 for the 2018 fall semester. They team repeated its outstanding academic performance in the spring semester.
As far as his current roster, their goals, and challenges for the upcoming season he was excited and confident. Here is a summary of what coach Muschamp had to say during the Gamecocks SEC media days session.
Coach’s Challenge to the Players
“This off-season I really challenged our players in terms of, leave no doubt about the things that don’t take talent. Effort, toughness, discipline, and a competitive edge you need to earn what you get every day, and to have a team first mentality. Those are basically the core values of our program.”
Coach’s Comments About the Offense
“Offensively, I thought we really improved in some areas from 2017 to 2018.”
” I think the tempo really helped us. I think (Offensive Coordinator) Bryan McClendon and his staff did a really good job of implementing it when we needed to, and when we felt like we could take advantage of the defense.”
“Inconsistencies and turnovers in the red zone are what really hurt us in continuing to build and take the next step. We had 56 trips to the red zone, and 13 times where we came away with no points, including eight turnovers.”
” We had 21 turnovers on the year. The team has to do a better job of making better decisions and taking care of the football. Some of the inconsistencies we had offensively I felt were self inflicted. If we can eliminate those things then i think we can continue to take the next step.”
Muschamp’s Comments on the Defense
“Defensively, we flat out struggled. We weren’t very good, call it like it is. There were some injuries and we really struggled throughout the year.”
“We need to improve tremendously. Some of the growing pains we went through this past year, I believe will be positives for us. The game experience guys got, probably too soon, will certainly be positives for us. We must improve.”
The Daunting Schedule
“I know people are going to ask me about the schedule, but hell the schedule is hard every year. That is how I look at it. We have a great opportunity as a program to take a step forward, and be in the lime light on most Saturdays in the South Eastern Conference.”
“We, in my opinion, have the best team coming back at South Carolina since I’ve been there, and we are looking forward to that opportunity.”
A Word From the Players
The South Carolina quarterback spoke a lot about leadership. Bentley was a part of the Gamecocks SEC media days contingent for the third time. He spoke about his maturity and growth during his career, and how he has become a better leader for the team. The signal caller also praised his top target Edwards and his left tackle Sadarius Hutcherson for their development as team leaders. He also spoke about his desire to share as much as he can to his talented freshmen back-ups, Ryan Hilinski and Dakereon Joyner.
Bryan Edwards has a chance to re-write the Gamecocks’ record books with a big senior season. The Conway native touched on taking over the main role in the receiving corps with Deebo Samuel moving on to the NFL. He spoke about how motivated, confident and excited he is to take advantages of the opportunities the season holds. Edwards also returned the favor and praised his quarterback for raising his level in terms of leadership. He also talked about the versatility the team has in their wide receivers’ size and skill this season. Josh Vann‘s off season improvement and OrTre Smith‘s return from injury were mentioned by both Edwards and Muschamp.
T.J. Brunson reiterated his coaches sentiments about the schedule, saying he and his teammates are excited about the challenge. The senior linebacker admitted to playing banged up most of 2018. Last season’s leading tackler said he feels great and looks to be more explosive this fall. He said the team didn’t execute and finish plays like they needed to, but with a healthy unit he believes they can bounce back. Brunson, Edwards, and Bentley all spoke highly about the work the entire team has put into this off-season.