COLUMBIA — He has a question at quarterback, concerns in the secondary, and a team that went 3-9 last year. But that hasn’t dulled Will Muschamp’s enthusiasm for what he believes is possible in his first season at South Carolina.
“We’ve got good enough players here to win the (SEC) East,” he told a sellout meeting of the Midlands Gamecock Club at Williams-Brice Stadium. “We need to stay healthy, that’s No. 1. We’re very thin at some critical positions, and we cannot afford an injury. If we can stay healthy, if we can have the ball bounce our way ... we’ve got good enough players to win the East.”
The Gamecocks have won the SEC East just once, in a 2010 campaign which preceded the run of three consecutive 11-win seasons under former head coach Steve Spurrier. Although Muschamp may be rebuilding after USC’s worst season in over a decade, he showed no shortage of confidence Wednesday in his first speaking stop on the spring booster-club tour.
“I don’t look at long-term goals,” he said. “I’m looking at this 2016 football season and trying to win the East and get to Atlanta. That’s going to be our goal every single year I’m here, because that’s realistic. That’s where we ought to be. We ought to be competing to win the East. ... So that’s our goal here, and that’s going to be our goal here from year one to year 10.”
Getting there this season will require finding a starting quarterback from the seven signal-callers he could have in preseason camp. Muschamp named freshman Brandon McIlwain and rising senior Perry Orth as co-No. 1s in a post-spring practice depth chart released Wednesday, but cautioned that their status could change.
“That’s not to say a decision has been made,” he told the crowd of over 400 at the Zone in the stadium’s south end zone. “We’re going to have to make some tough decisions in fall camp, because there’s only one ball. I do think the ability is in the room, and I do feel the work ethic is there.”
The depth chart “is going to change every day in fall camp,” he told reporters before the event. The post-spring two-deep “was very unfair to some guys” like quarterback Lorenzo Nunez, who started two games last season but missed most of spring with a hyperextended left knee.
“It’s incomplete, where he is right now,” Muschamp told the media. He also mentioned linebacker Skai Moore, who was not on the depth chart due to an injury that kept him out of spring.
“How can I put one player on the depth chart at first-team who didn’t go through spring, and another player on the depth chart who didn’t go through spring, and I’m not really sure where he’s going to end up anyway?” he added. “It’s just not fair. I’d rather say we’re going to evaluate in the fall. There’s even some things position-wise we’re going to do early in camp as far as experimenting with getting guys in the right spots.”
— Wednesday’s meeting was the first of nine Gamecock Club events around the state at which Muschamp is scheduled to appear. The stop in the Charleston area is set for May 24 at Alhambra Hall in Mount Pleasant.
— Athletics director Ray Tanner kicked off the meeting by saying USC ranked 17th nationally in revenue, and was one of just 22 schools to operate in the black. According to the USA Today college finance database, USC took in $113.172 million in revenue and had $107.430 million in expenses in the last reporting cycle.
— Muschamp wouldn’t take the bait when one supporter asked him his thoughts on the Clemson game. “We have media people here,” he said. “We look forward to it.”