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South Carolina's Will Muschamp looking for improvement from Gamecocks

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 3/12/2019 Matt Murschel
Will Muschamp wearing a suit and tie © Curtis Compton / TNS

Ideally, Will Muschamp would love to exit spring with a depth chart fully intact but the South Carolina coach knows that’s not going to happen.

“You'd like to be able to come out and know your top 22 on each side of the ball which is not realistic,” Muschamp said during the first week of practice for the Gamecocks. “We've got some guys that are injured and we’ve got some young players that we’ll be counting on this summer of learning; what to do, how to do it the South Carolina way and obviously make a dent in the two-deep [depth chart] in August.”

South Carolina is coming off a 7-6 campaign; one in which five of the six losses were to ranked teams.

The Orlando Sentinel caught up with Muschamp last week to discuss what he expects out of spring practice, his senior quarterback and what he’s seen out of Zacch Pickens, the top prospect from the program’s 2019 recruiting class.

What do you expect to get out of spring practice?

Will Muschamp: “You'd like to be able to come out and know your top 22 on each side of the ball which is not realistic. We've got some guys that are injured and we’ve got some young players that we’ll be counting on this summer of learning; what to do, how to do it the South Carolina way and obviously make a dent in the two-deep [depth chart] in August. But you know, we would like to come out of here and have a pretty good idea of the two-deep and who can help us play championship football and where we need to make some improvements in August, but as much as anything individually for our players, just making sure that they learn or continue to learn and master what we do, how we do it as far as on offense, defense and special teams.”

You have senior quarterback Jake Bentley back. What sort of growth would you like to see out of him?

Muschamp: “Taking care of the football. He's got 14 interceptions and six in the red zone last year and that's something that we've talked about and analyzed and looked at. We can't afford to have those types of catastrophic turnovers in the red zone and momentum-changing plays in the game like that. We’ve got to do a better job of just being more consistent at the position.”

What’s a point of emphasis for this team during the offseason?

Muschamp: “You know the big thing with every player when spring is over - myself and the position coach or coordinator will meet with every player and go through what are the things that they need to do to increase their role within our organization or improve their role in our organization. Everybody’s got a role in the organization. Some may not like where they are, if you don't like we are, do something about it. Those generally means go work a little bit harder or go learn a little bit more; go watch film, go do the things you’ve got to do to be a successful player.

Those are all things that we’ll challenge every player in our organization at the end of spring practice. What are the things they need to do to improve whether it will be from a weight standpoint; from a weight room standpoint; from a practice standpoint; from a film standpoint; from a knowledge of our system standpoint so there's a lot of things that will go through after spring is over with our players to make sure they understand what they've got to do to take the next step as a player.”

What positions have you liked so far in practice?

Muschamp: “We’ve had a really good competition up front defensively. We've recruited well at that position and we've got some really good young players and some good players that have been on campus and I'm excited about the competition at that position. That's something that in our league, to be successful, you’ve got to be good there. I do like the talent level in our secondary. We're not as deep as we'd like to be but we have some talented guys that I think as young players played well and will take the next step forward going into next year.”

What has impressed you so far about freshman defensive lineman Zacch Pickens?

Muschamp: “Zacch’s going to be a really good player for us. He’s a young player. He’s only been in practice for four days at college at the University of South Carolina. We're going to continue to teach and coach him but the intangible qualities are all there for him to be successful as far as he's very humble. He's a guy that's very coachable as far as dealing with him day-to-day and certainly athletically God's blessing with a lot of ability.”

What improvements do you want to see heading into 2019?

Muschamp: “I think you identify the things you need to work on. We need to do a better job against good people, the people we've got to beat in our league, and run the football offensively and stop the run defensively and that's been that's been an issue for us. The perimeter what I would say screen passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage defensively and on offense, we need to do a better job on the perimeter but those are two sticking points to me.

“Number one being turnover margin: we were minus-six in sec games last year. So those two stats, if we improve those we’ll help ourselves a lot because we've been a pretty good situational team and we've been a good one score team as far as winning football games. When the game's on the line, I think we're 13-4 in three years. So understanding those things and improving in those two areas are critical for our team.”

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mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com.

Twitter: @osmattmurschel

Facebook: @osmattmurschel

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