COLUMBIA — Nine South Carolina players spoke before Will Muschamp held his first press conference of the season on Tuesday. All said a variation of the same thing.
They’re tired of seeing the same garnet and white practice jerseys across the line. They want to go against something else.
Teal is the first option.
“We’ve been grinding all offseason, all summer” said guard Zack Bailey, sweat still dripping off his nose from the morning practice. “I’m just ready for it to be here. I want to start hitting some other people.”
The Gamecocks, a hair out of each major Top 25 poll and continuing to be buffed as a team that could surprise many, aim to make the most out of their first season-opening home game since 2014 on Saturday. They don’t call Coastal Carolina a warm-up, but they hope to have an easier game than their past three openers (North Carolina, Vanderbilt, N.C. State).
“During camp, we really just focus on the Gamecocks,” linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “Now that we’re in game mode, we focus more on Coastal and what they do, because we already installed everything.”
That includes coordinator Bryan McClendon’s new up-tempo offense, something quarterback Jake Bentley called 100 percent installed and available for an entire game, but noting USC can back off when circumstances dictate it.
That’s a defense that right now will have a rotation in the secondary, USC able to show multiple looks but also hoping to find permanent answers at each spot.
That’s Will Muschamp keeping the program trending upward, after improving by three wins in each of his first two seasons.
“I think I’m much more comfortable now in our third year of where we are as far as those things are concerned, that our players understand our expectation of practice, or workouts, or meetings, or gameday,” Muschamp said. “And how we want to be perceived, and I think that we’ve got really good leadership on this football team and guys that certainly take ownership in what it takes to be successful.”
Bailey, Brunson, Bentley and Deebo Samuel, four of the team’s veterans, each spoke of how the younger crowd embraced what every player needs to do to make 2018 a successful season. Most of them were here in the spring so the offseason wasn’t anything new.
It began long ago but Saturday’s result is what counts. For the first time, the Gamecocks will have somebody other than a teammate to pop.
“When we get up in the morning, we’re ready to go, pregame meal’s at 8 o’clock, special teams walk is at 7:45, we’ll have another walk-through before we get on the buses,” Muschamp said, describing his gameday schedule. “Then we’ll get on the buses and come to Williams-Brice and see the Gamecock Nation.”
Kicker leaves team
Shane Hynes, the graduate transfer kicker from Kent State who was put on scholarship, has left the team. When incumbent Parker White beat him for the starting job, Hynes elected to transfer to Wayne State, closer to his hometown.
“He did not enroll in classes here,” Muschamp said. “Wish him all the best.”
Receiver Chavis Dawkins (ankle) is doubtful for this week but should be back for Georgia. Freshmen linemen Wyatt Campbell and Jesus Gibbs, each with meniscus injuries, are likely out for the next month and don’t appear likely to play this year.
Receiver Chad Terrell, rehabbing from spring knee surgery, could return by the Sept. 29 game at Kentucky. Running back Lavonte Valentine could return in a week to two weeks.