Head football coach Will Muschamp and the South Carolina Gamecocks had a disappointing season in 2019, finishing 4-8 (3-5, Southeastern Conference.)
Muschamp, who is entering his No. 5 season in Columbia, expressed confidence that the season would continue as planned, despite the fact that the remainder of the team’s spring practices were cancelled on March 12.
“We plan on playing this fall. We plan on playing at Williams-Brice Stadium with 80,000 people,” he said.
Muschamp lamented last season’s disappointments. “It sticks in your heart there,” he said. The Gamecocks coach said that the offense’s performance was a fundamental issue in last season’s failure.
“We lost confidence offensively. We had some tough breaks,” he said.
Nevertheless, Muschamp has high expectations for South Carolina headed into the fall if the season goes on as planned.
He said he believes that new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is looking forward to coaching the team’s quarterback.
Sophomore Ryan Hilinski threw for 2,357 yards, 11 touchdowns, and five interceptions in his rookie season.
Hilinski faced struggles in his first season, but was often limited by injuries. The quarterback was tasked with leading a Gamecocks offense that was depleted by injuries on the offensive line, as well.
But the California native showed strides in his debut season, especially against No. 1 Alabama, completing 36 of 57 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns.
“Ryan had a really good first five days,” Muschamp said.
Freshman Luke Doty, a highly-touted four star dual-threat quarterback out of Myrtle Beach, should figure into the mix as well.
“Doty has done some great things,” he said.
Quarterback Colin Hill, a graduate transfer quarterback from Colorado State, will be expected to teach the new playbook to the Hilinski and Doty.
“Obviously, Mike’s got a lot of confidence in Colin Hill,” said Muschamp.
Another incoming freshman who has been drawing rave reviews is five-star running back Marshawn Lloyd.
“He’s going to be a really good football player,” he said.
Muschamp had a bold proclamation for South Carolina’s offensive line. “Our offensive line is the best since we’ve been here. The guys are going to be competing there, it’s going to be exciting. We’re more powerful inside that we’ve ever been,” he said.
Seniors Shi Smith is the South Carolina’s top returning wide receiver, with 489 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Gamecocks all-time leading receiver Bryan Edwards has left the program, so Smith and others will need to perform in their increased roles.
Muschamp expressed trust in the team’s defense, especially on the line.
“Jabari Ellis, Keir Thomas, Rick Sandidge, and Zacch Pickens were coming along, they got to continue to do that. We’ve got some good guys coming in that give us some juice,” he said.
South Carolina has suspended all in-person instruction through the end of July, which means August is the earliest that the Gamecocks could meet for practice.
Muschamp estimated that it would take a minimum of eight weeks for the team to prepare for the season, including one month of conditioning and one month of practice.
“We benefitted from having those guys in the offseason program and then five days of practice. If you have a month of practice, we’ll have plenty of time to install the offense,” he said.
In the meantime, the Gamecocks are getting creative to stay in touch. “As a team we’re utilizing this week four hours, which we’re allowed by the Southeastern Conference,” Muschamp said.
The coaching staff communicates regularly, holding biweekly meetings, and each player position group talks via group chats.
Muschamp said that multiple players are demonstrating leadership, and that they have maturely handled the situation.
Both players and coaches are utilizing ‘Zoom,’ an online application that hosts video chats.
Another popular program the Gamecocks are using is called “Learn to Win,” an app that allows coaches to quiz players on play-calling and strategies. “You’re able to send test questions, where players can get immediate feedback,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp said that he and his staff are only allowed to suggest workouts, but head strength and conditioning coach Paul Jackson is getting creative to keep the players active.
“Paul Jackson is giving his guys a lot of ideas whether they have access to weights or don’t have access to weights to workout at home,” he said.
Freshman offensive lineman Vershon Lee got especially creative, sending Muschamp a video of him pushing a car. “I think that would be very beneficial for all of our guys. It gets a good burn on the legs,” he said.
Former South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw was recently named as the program’s Director of Player Development. He’s tasked with keeping morale high for a group of almost 100 student-athletes, and is doing everything he can to accomplish it.
The former Gamecock quarterback has been meeting with the team once a week through an online video chat. He also implemented a Madden tournament for the players to participate in.
“He’s come up with some really good ideas,” said Muschamp.