COLUMBIA — Will Muschamp could have played it safe.
Something like, “Second place in the SEC East: I’m lovin’ it!”
Or “Let’s try harder in ’18!”
The South Carolina head coach didn’t chip up to the green with this “All gas, no brakes” thing — the Gamecocks’ overtly official, very visible football mantra.
There was no input from the school’s very sharp sports marketing folks.
No calls to Madison Avenue.
We can’t even credit the coach’s wife for this one (but Carol Muschamp did come up with the Gamecocks’ popular #Spurs Up! recruiting pitch).
No, this is all William Larry Muschamp’s baby.
He settled on “All gas, no brakes” just after South Carolina rallied from 16 points down to cap an unexpectedly good 9-4 season with a 26-19 Outback Bowl upset of Michigan.
“That was just my mindset going into the offseason thinking forward while we were in Tampa about our football team,” Muschamp said Tuesday. “To me, it’s just constantly pushing the envelope in what we have to do to be successful and not holding up for anything.”
It had better work, at least the effort part. The Gamecocks unveil a new offense advertised as more up-tempo than the often stodgy stuff of 2017. Gas-pedal application and envelope pushing are necessary starting Saturday in the season opener against Coastal Carolina and definitely next week against SEC-rival Georgia.
This is in-house hype, not a media creation.
And it doesn’t say “Somewhat frequent gas.”
It implies that athletic director Ray Tanner is working on securing leases and reserves.
The stakes are high here. If it works to the tune of one of the SEC’s best offenses, Muschamp’s nickname goes from “Boom” to Will “All Gas, No Brakes” Muschamp (though perhaps just “No Brakes” to close friends).
If it flops, Muschamp has to buy everyone on the team a vintage bottle of new Coke.
‘Just like the slogan’
There cannot be too many strategic restraints placed on first-year offensive coordinator Bryan McLendon.
Or quarterback Jake Bentley.
But so far, so enthusiastic.
“It’s a representation of what our offense is going to be this year and what our team is going to be,” Bentley said Tuesday. “And there’s no let-up. There’s no brakes. I hate to say it just like the slogan, but really there isn’t.
“It’s full speed ahead and just whatever aspect it is, whether it’s in the film room, the class room or on the field — just giving all you got and not worrying about what comes next, just what you have to do that play.”
The mantra isn’t just about offense; it applies to defense and special teams, too. But max acceleration, or lack thereof, will get more scrutinized when South Carolina has the football after a 2017 season in which the Gamecocks finished 12th in the 14-team SEC in scoring offense (24.2 points per game).
Muschamp knows “All gas, no brakes” meshes so well with a potentially high-powered attack featuring Bentley, star receiver and kick returner Deebo Samuel, receivers Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith and Ortre Smith, an experienced offensive line and four good running backs.
Like pro wrestling
Still, most individuals or teams in sports get tagged with a nickname or phrase after they’ve done something, not before.
Babe Ruth wasn’t dubbed The Big Bambino or The Sultan of Swat after finishing 12th on the playground. The exception, perhaps, is professional wrestling, where calling cards are part of the introduction.
And in this case, where “All Gas, No Brakes” Muschamp finally got Jim “Hard Boiled” Harbaugh in a head-lock at the Outback Bowl.
“We just put the pedal to the floor and keep pushing each other as a team,” is how Samuel explains the mindset.
Fill ‘er up.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff