HOOVER, Ala. — The break never came last year, which added another face-palm to the book of Will Muschamp’s head-coaching career. He finally had a dynamic and explosive offense, but South Carolina’s defense was so riddled with injuries that the offense couldn’t save the season.
Muschamp enters his fourth year at USC with a senior-studded team that is without question his best. The commitment several high-profile players showed by pledging to a 3-9 team four years ago is expected to pay off.
Cue the palm. The Gamecocks’ schedule is so brutally tough that the Gamecocks could play fantastic football and still not see many more wins.
“I’m not worried about the schedule, I’m worried about the Gamecocks,” Muschamp said. “I’m going to worry about the things we can control.”
It’s what he’s said since the schedule was announced and what he should say. He’s not going tell Gamecock players or fans how difficult it will be to get to a bowl game.
That’s for everybody else to say, which they’ve been doing all week. It was the most popular topic Wednesday as Muschamp and his players took their turn through SEC Media Days.
USC hosts Alabama and Clemson this year while traveling to Georgia, a slate nearly guaranteed to boast at least two playoff teams. That doesn’t even mention games at Texas A&M and Missouri and a game hosting Florida.
North Carolina is coming off a wretched season and has a new coaching staff, but the game is in Charlotte, where the last time USC played it wilted in a Belk Bowl shutout to Virginia. Appalachian State on Nov. 9 is no pushover, either.
But that’s the schedule. And Muschamp knows that if any team can get through that gauntlet, it’s this one.
“I look at our senior class and you look at guys like Bryan Edwards, who’s probably going to leave South Carolina with every receiving record there is. Donell Stanley, who’s a four-year starter, Bryan’s a four-year starter, Jake (Bentley)’s a four-year starter,” Muschamp said. “You look at the five seniors on the defensive line along with the depth we’ve recruited there.”
He pointed out that many of those players were committed to other schools or waffling on their commitments to USC when he arrived, and none of them had to show any loyalty whatsoever to a 3-9 team that saw its legendary coach quit halfway through the year. But they did, and they stayed, and now it’s time for them to go out in style.
“I think it’s the first class where it’s all coach Muschamp and coach Muschamp-recruited guys. Guys that have bought in fully to what we want to do as a team,” said Bentley, the QB who like Edwards, stands to complete the season with every major record for his position. “Lot of guys who are extremely confident, lot of seniors that have played two or three years now.”
Muschamp rebutted every query about the schedule with the fact that the schedule’s hard every year. Next season the Gamecocks drop Alabama but pick up a game at LSU.
He knows that the schedule can’t be a crutch, or an excuse. The games are there, the Gamecocks have to go play them.
And while his first three years haven’t been what he really wanted, they’ve been good enough to make him a record-holder as well. Muschamp has won more games in his first three years at USC than any coach before him.
“Ever’s a long time,” he said. “That being said, I’m not satisfied with where we want to be and where we need to be.”
Muschamp announced that sophomore defensive back Jaylin Dickerson will miss the 2019 season. It’s the second injury Dickerson has suffered in three years.
Dickerson has an unusual bone growth on his femur which was causing problems with his hip. “I’ve been coaching 20 years and this young man has had two of the most unusual situations, as far as with his shoulder and now with his hip,” Muschamp said.
A promising DB prospect, Dickerson redshirted in 2017 after injuring a nerve that caused a painful shoulder. He played in 10 games last season but missed spring practice with the same shoulder problem.
Johnson and Sorrells
Freshman Tyquan Johnson has been cleared and will be with the Gamecocks in camp. The last freshman recruit, Jaquaze Sorrells, has not been cleared but Muschamp feels good that it will happen.
The Gamecocks report Aug. 1 and begin practice the next day.