Will Muschamp is doing his best to bring the excitement back to South Carolina football and push the program back into the national spotlight.
And in his short time as the new head coach, Muschamp has given the Gamecock faithful some hope.
At the Horry and Georgetown County Gamecock Club spring meeting Tuesday at Crown Reef Resort in Myrtle Beach, Muschamp recalled his opening months on the job as a positive experience and is enthusiastic for the upcoming season.
“It’s been great; everybody has been extremely positive. Of course, we’re undefeated right now so that’s a real good thing,” Muschamp joked. “But, no, everybody has been extremely positive. I’ve been multiple places, our staff has been multiple places and you can feel a genuine welcome feeling from our fan base. It’s been outstanding.”
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Chris Kinon, 22, of Conway, was in attendance at the meeting and – as a Gamecocks fan his whole life – is eager to see what Muschamp can do as he follows in the footsteps of former coach Steve Spurrier, who stepped down in October.
“I think he is the right guy for the job,” Kinon said. “Carolina football, especially on the defensive side of the ball, has always been about intensity and I think he’s bringing that back to the program. I’m excited. He’s been great with recruiting in just the short time he’s had, and I think in the next few years he can keep bringing in more and more talent.”
One of the biggest things Muschamp has done in his six short months on the job was convince freshman Bryan Edwards – a former Conway High standout – to renew his commitment with the Gamecocks. The coach has high hopes for the wide receiver.
“You look at right now, Bryan Edwards is a young man that’s come on campus and [will] compete to be a starter and contribute tremendously to our football team,” Muschamp said. “Football in this area has been outstanding with a lot of the guys throughout South Carolina’s history. A lot of rich talent comes from here and outstanding coaches as well.”
Muschamp said he saw Edwards in the weight room about a week ago and that he “looks great.”
“Bryan is a guy that came off a knee injury at Conway and I think more than anything, throughout our offseason program, really built back his strength,” he said. “I think he became a more comfortable player getting his strength back, number one, but also understanding and adapting to our system and terminology. So, he had a fantastic spring game and played extremely well but I think gained a lot more confidence.”
Muschamp is hoping that spirit rubs off on the rest of the incoming freshmen.
“We’re counting on at least two or three [freshmen] helping us,” he said. “Who that will be, I don’t know. We’ll find out when we get to fall camp, but they’re going to get every opportunity in the world to contribute for our football team this year.”
But the South Carolina head man has some concerns with the offense he takes over, and hopes to develop them as the season approaches.
“We have three seniors and 31 freshmen and sophomores on our roster, offensively. So we don’t have a lot of experience, but I do feel like we have some talented players,” Muschamp said. “I feel very comfortable about eight or nine guys deep on the offensive line that I think we’ve recruited well at that position, I think we’ve developed players well at that position. I do think we’re talented in some other areas, but we’ve got a lot of unknowns at quarterback, receiver, at running back, at tight end. So all of those positions are a little concerning because of the unknowns.”
Muschamp also has a quarterback battle on his hands with redshirt junior Connor Mitch, redshirt senior Perry Orth, sophomore Lorenzo Nunez, and freshman Brandon McIlwain in the running for the job.
“I thought Perry and Brandon separated themselves and Connor Mitch did some nice things as spring wore on and Lorenzo obviously getting injured in the fourth practice, I’ll give him a little bit of an incomplete grade as far as where he is right now,” Muschamp said. “But we’ll take the competition into fall camp, and I think the summer is critical for those guys to make positive strides for our team.”
While the team is still a work in progress, fan reaction shows some renewed enthusiasm about the program.
“I think he’s a good representative for the school, and he creates the image I would think of when looking at the character of the school,” said Gamecocks fan Luke Hughes, 62, of Myrtle Beach. “There’s a lot of excitement and the players model their coach, and if he can bring the enthusiasm and energy that he’s got for the players – they’ll be great. I think he’s going to set a whole new bar and do some great things for us.”