WATCH: Will Muschamp Weekly News Conference included select players with transcript & more
Nov. 05, 2019
Appalachian State Week Football Media Availability
Gamecocks Host Mountaineers on Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2
Will Muschamp addressed a number of topics at his weekly press conference, Tuesday, including the rash of injuries the Gamecocks have sustained and how it will effect the depth chart heading into the Senior Night game against Appalachian State. South Carolina’s defense has been relatively stable, but the offense has taken blow after blow at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, right tackle and tight end. The silver lining among the broken bones, torn ligaments and MRI results are the key players expected to return Saturday.
According to Muschamp, slot receiver Shi Smith, running back Rico Dowdle and right tackle Dylan Wonnum should all be available this weekend. Tight end Nick Muse is out for the season with a torn ACL, wide receiver Josh Vann has a broken hand and running back Tavien Feaster is questionable a groin injury, but on balance, the Gamecocks offense should have as many top players available as it has had since Dowdle was following Wonnum off right tackle in mid-September.
But even at full strength, Appalachian State would present a formidable challenge. The Mountaineers were undefeated and nationally ranked before falling to rival Georgia Southern on Halloween. Appalachian State employs a variety of motions and shifts to create defensive lapses. Muschamp broke down the challenges the Mountaineers present, “Every defense has a key. When motion occurs, sometimes that key could change based on who is motioning. That’s where they try to get you confused … and they mix that with tempo. You can’t not get aligned, get your cleats in the dirt and your eyes in the right spot, because they will snap the ball and move fast. But they will mix motion with a motion or a motion and a reset or a motion and then a snap. So, you’ve got to be alert.”
The Gamecocks will host Appalachian State for Senior Night at Williams-Brice 7 p.m., Saturday. South Carolina is a 4.5-point favorite.
Notes from Will Muschamp press conference
- Five seniors, including Jake Bentley, will have eligibility remaining but have been given the option to walk for Senior Night. The conversations about returning to the team for next season will be had at a later date.
- On scheduling Power 5, FBS and FCS teams: I’m in favor of the model we have. Play who you want to play. (Muschamp doesn’t seem to support the idea of dropping all FCS opponents from future schedules).
- On tight end position now that Nick Muse is out for the season: Offense will continue to work in two-TE sets. Freshmen Traevon Kenion and KeShawn Toney are working alongside Kyle Markway.
- Additional injuries: Defensive end Keir Thomas should be available Saturday. CB/RB A.J. Turner remains questionable. OT Jaylen Nichols is out.
- On NFL prospects for draft-eligible juniors: We care what the NFL thinks. Not what we think or their parents think or the player thinks. Our concern is what those 32 teams think. Sometimes it’s time for a kid to go. We feel like it’s our job to provide information.
You all ready? Senior night here versus Appalachian State, it's seven o'clock at Williams-Brice. Before I get started on this week, I want to again thank our fan base for last Saturday night was starting Gamecock walk you know, eight, 10 deep as we're walking in the stadium and it makes a difference for our football team and certainly the gameday atmosphere is as good as anywhere in the country. You make a difference for our team and more than anything for our players and it's really important, and I can't thank you enough and appreciate the positive support. It hadn't been the season we necessarily wanted to record wise and certainly appreciate you guys. A very important night for our seniors. 25 young men that have represented themselves, their families, the University of South Carolina in a first class manner. 11 of these guys have already graduated, 11 more will graduate in December, and then three more will graduate in May, so all 25 will walk out of here with a diploma University of South Carolina, and some of them are going to be walking out with multiple diplomas. Six guys right are currently right now in graduate school. Danny Fennell finishes grad school in December, and he's going to leave with two degrees. His undergrad was in global supply chain, which I was a speech communication major at the University of Georgia, number two on the list was global supply chain, and if I had done that, I may not have ever met any of you guys. But his graduate degree, I'm totally joking, his graduate degree is in the International Business School which is the number one ranked international business school in the world, so that says a lot about him. He did an internship this summer with Contract Construction with Greg Hughes who built this building. Went to Japan, to do work overseas, and just a tremendous future. Matt Oliveira and J.T. Ibe, they will both finish grad school in May. Five of the guys that will walk for the game have opportunities to come back. Obviously Jake Bentley, who's meant so much to this program, extremely disappointed for him and his injury. His senior year and been taken away from him and it hurt for him and his family, and he's done so much for University of South Carolina and our football program, and has an opportunity to come back here to South Carolina for another year. Bailey Hart who is in graduate school as well, Jaylan Foster who will graduate in May, and then Sadarius Hutcherson who will graduate in December, and Kyle Markway who's already in graduate school, and in spring semester will be moving into the business school. So those five guys have not made any decisions. We will have those discussions in December when the regular season is over and move forward, but certainly wanted them to have their opportunity to walk if they decide not to come back. So 10 guys from our first class, Jake Bentley, T.J. Brunson, Chavis Dawkins, Rico Dowdle, Bryan Edwards, Sadarius Hutcherson, Javon Kinlaw, Kiel Pollard, Kobe Smith, and Dennis Wonnum have all been integral parts of our program in these four years and have done a fantastic job of great example of how we need to do things the right way. Seven guys were already here with Coach Spurrier's staff and I really want to recognize those guys 'cause going through a coaching change is really difficult. You know, you lose your head coach, you lose your coordinator, possibly position coach, so many changes in the organization happen, and Michael Almond, Joseph Charlton is the best punter in the country, Mon Denson who's been a very valuable member of our team as a running back and a special teams guy, Danny Fennell I've already kind of mentioned, Kyle Markway, who's having, first couple of years had some injury issues in the last two years has played outstanding football for us, Donnell Stanley who's been the bedrock of our offensive line the last couple of years, and A.J. Turner, who has had a very frustrating senior year, and really three guys and I kind of spoke on Jake a little bit and how frustrated we are for him, his injury in the first ball game, being a four year starter here at the University of South Carolina, Kiel Pollard, a guy that's goin' into his senior year, worked so hard to get to that point and gets medically disqualified because of the neck issue that we saw in training camp, it just breaks your heart for a young man like that, and then A.J. Turner who's done so much for us from a running back perspective, so unselfish, last year goes to corner plays corner for us, huge special teams contributor, has done everything we've asked, had the injury there in camp and then to struggle with the hamstring throughout the fall. So those guys' senior years certainly individually have not gone the way they should have, but, I've said before, life's not fair, and we got to handle it and adjust and move on, and those three guys have handled things certainly the right way. Three graduate transfers who have been great. Tavien Feaster's come in here and done an outstanding job on and off the field, Matt Oliveira and J.T. Ibe, both who I spoke about already will have their graduate degrees in May, so really proud of those guys. I'd also like to recognize Spencer Eason-Riddle, which I think you all already did. The All State Good Works Team, one of 22 student-athletes in the country, for their community service, their service to their community and Spencer is a guy that's come in here, walked on, earned a scholarship, his undergrad degree was in Public Health, and he's now in Health Administration and will finish his graduate degree in 2021, but really proud of him, and he's got another year and he'll play with us again next year, and really proud of him and his contributions to South Carolina.
But App State's got an outstanding team. 19 of 22 starters are juniors and seniors, and most of them have been redshirted, so they have an older very experienced team that's won a lot of football games, lot of respect for Coach Drinkwitz and his staff that he's hired. Obviously Coach Satterfield did a great job there and moved onto Louisville but coach Drinkwitz and his staff have done a fantastic job of just picking up where they left off and continue to roll there. Offensively, Zac Thomas was a Sun Belt Player of the Year last year is an outstanding quarterback, can make all the throws, he has legs, he can extend plays, but he's a guy that's very efficient in running their offense and Eliah calls the plays and does a really good job. They got a stable of backs in Evans, Williams, Harrington and Anderson. All are very capable. All have top end speed, finish speed down the field. They've got a talented core of receivers in Hennigan, Williams, Sutton, and Virgil, who's a 10.2 100 meter, runs on their track team. Very good in multiple at the tight end position and probably the most athletic offensive line, they're not the biggest offensive line but what they ask them to do in the running game they were lookin' for more athleticism than they are girth and power. Defensively Ted Roof is their defensive coordinator. They remain an odd structure which is what they have done before and what they had recruited to, but Demetrius Taylor's a fantastic player up front, very disruptive. An outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither's a very active guy, and on the back end Josh Thomas is a guy that really shows up. But I think they got eight or so starters back on defense off a very experienced good team and special teams, Erik Link is their special teams coordinator and a guy that I'm very familiar with and got a lot of respect for. So, got a good football team. Injury wise Rico, Brad Johnson, Damani Staley, Dylan Wonnum, Shi Smith, and Keir Thomas all practiced today and should be ready to go for Saturday. Tavien Feaster and A.J. Turner were a little, would be questionable right now, and then Jaylen Nichols is out, Nick Muse and Josh Vann are obviously out for the game and I'll open it up for any of your questions.
- [Reporter] Will, with Tavien, is it something you guys have to get him scanned for? Do you have to keep an eye on that going forward?
- No, he just took a strained groin, and we're just kind of working through that right now, and didn't do a whole lot today. We'll see what he can do tomorrow.
- [Reporter] Will, is there a special bond between a head coach and the first recruiting class, especially when you come into a situation where the program is coming off a bad year, there's a coaching change and a lot of uncertainty?
- Sure, I think that these guys will always remain special to me. The staff that have been here, and appreciate their contributions and you see, that's why I purposely read through some of the things they've done off the field to show what they meant to this program. For this first time in school history, last fall's semester our cumulative GPA as a football program was above a 3.0, and then in spring semester, we did it again. So a lot of very positive things. Again, I'm disappointed from a team standpoint. We haven't exactly had the year we wanted to have, or we anticipated to have. It's been very inconsistent, that's on me, but very proud of their accomplishments here at South Carolina.
- [Reporter] Will, going off from that, being able to recognize these seniors before the game on Saturday. What do you tell some of these younger guys, because I'm sure as it gets closer, they start to realize, all right, I'm going to be a junior next year if I'm a sophomore, and do you have a message for those guys?
- I do, and I tell 'em every year, but unfortunately, some of 'em don't listen. And I tell 'em all, we sit in our team meeting, the seniors sit in the front and the freshman sit in the back, and they work their way down by year, and I'm looking at the top today saying you have no idea how quickly it's going to happen, and how quickly it's going to turn for you. We had a senior meeting this morning and some of 'em said you tried to tell me and I'm starting to realize that I got two left at Williams-Brice. And it's tough, you got to cherish every opportunity, cherish every moment, and we've got great examples of guys that have taken full advantage of the opportunities you have here at South Carolina for our young players.
- [Reporter] In terms of scheduling, how much say did you have in kind of making this contract with App State and if so, what was the appeal of bringing them down here to play?
- I think this was done before we got here, but we talk a lot with Chance Miller and Charles Waddell and Coach Tanner on all scheduling, and we're attracted to playing the best teams we can play, and they certainly have a good football team. This I think, Colyn, what was done before I got here, I'm not positive on that, but I think it was.
- [Reporter] Yeah, Will, going off of that, App State's kind of the exception, obviously, I read today they rank sixth in total wins since 2015.
- [Reporter] But are you a fan of the games against the group of fives or the FCS, or would you rather try to get a power five team in here?
- No, I'm a fan of the opportunity whether it's Appalachian State, which I agree with you is the total exception, but having the opportunity to play anybody you want to play in that situation and that's kind of where we're set up right now and I don't have a problem with the model we have at this point.
- [Reporter] With Tavien possibly out and the way Fenwick played last week, how much do you expect Fenwick to play this week, and what's the pecking order at running back now?
- Well we're working through that right now. Mon's got a little bit of a strained neck, he practiced today, he took every rep that he would've normally have taken. Rico's back and looked good today, and obviously Deshaun did some nice things Saturday, and then Kevin Harris. So we got four guys we have confidence in.
- [Reporter] What kind of stands out with Zac Thomas as sort of a talent in a guy you have to prepare for?
- Well I think that number one, he's got a lot of game experience. I think he's very talented as far as he anticipates throws very well. The ball's in the air a lot of times before the receiver's coming out of a break, and that to me is hard to teach as far as anticipation is concerned with a quarterback position. But he can make all the throws, he's got good arm strength to throw the ball down the field, he can zip it, he also can put touch on it, he's got a very good feel in the running game, and they do run him at times, as far as some different things that are design runs for the quarterback, but he's also able to make off rhythm plays in the pocket, so he creates a lot if issues for you defensively. To be able to constrict the pocket correctly, to not get displaced on a third and six, third and nine, all of a sudden he's scrambling you, he had a couple of huge scrambles against North Carolina early in the year, one for about 40 yards that was a killer on third down. So, you know, to be able to make off rhythm plays at that position always poses a threat, but you've also can't sit there and sit in zone with eyes on the quarterback knowing that he'll complete a lot of passes in zone coverage 'cause he's a very effective quarterback throwing the football. So he does both equally well.
- [Reporter] Would you have anticipated Aaron Sterling would be your sack leader, at this point in the year?
- I wouldn't have not anticipated it. Certainly I feel like we've got some other guys that maybe coming into the year that had a little more attention as far as that's concerned. Aaron's done a really good job in our rabbits package of rushing inside. You would not look at his body and think that he'd be a very effective guy inside, but we worked that in training camp and we felt like that he was a very good option for us to get our, he was one of our four best rushers and he had developed himself and worked his traits to be a really good inside rusher. So he's worked extremely hard to go against sometimes much bigger players and be able to be an effective rusher inside.
- [Reporter] What does he do effectively?
- Number one, his feet never stop, and that's critical, especially if you get stoned early in the down, to continue your feet movement. His long arm is outstanding to get people off of him 'cause he is not necessarily the tallest guy, but he does have long arms and he's able to get guys off of him. And generally, he's a better athlete against most of the guys he's rushing on inside, and he realizes that, but he does a really good job of reading a vertical, or horizontal set and how to attack the blocker from there in the pass rush. And he's also got some guys gettin' some other attention, so he's created some one-on-ones.
- [Reporter] On the topic of defensive line with three guys with four or more sacks, I think it's the only team in the SEC that has that, what has been the overall key to the defensive line's success this season?
- Being really unselfish and understanding that based on how we want to call a game, understanding you may not be the feature part of the game, but do your job and be willing to eat two blocks, and you may end up being the free guy at the end of the day, and I think that this has been a very unselfish group as far as those things are concerned 'cause sometimes in order to eat the double team which Javon's had to do and never complained and created one-on-one for somebody else and he understands that and anybody that knows ball watching the film understands that. So those are all things that I've really been pleased with how unselfish the group has been to understand those things.
- [Reporter] With Nick out, Will, who's runnin' that other startin' tight end spot?
- Well KeShawn Toney's been taking a lot of reps, and Tray Kenion's done a nice job. You know, Tray got injured in camp and then had the ankle and missed probably about a month, maybe three weeks, and for any young player to miss that much practice time, it's really hard to catch up. It's just really hard. So right now teaching him more of just the game plan of this is what we're going to do, necessarily goin' back of when we're in camp teach more concepts of what we do offensively. So we're just trying to catch him up as much as possible and he can still play in three more games I believe it is, I don't have my sheet in front of me.
- [Reporter] Do you guys still plan on utilizing the two tight end settle out?
- Yeah, we're not changing.
- [Reporter] A common theme from players today was that App State does a lot of pre-snap motion offensively, as a coach, how do you coach that to tell players what to key in on maybe enough to know where the ball may be going?
- Sure, I think that, you know Colyn, in every defense in all 11 players, there's a pre-snap key. So as an on the line player, your eyes are going to be either on the guy you're lined up on or an adjacent player. From a linebacker standpoint, generally our keys are in the back field, whether it be the offset back, whether it be what we would call the sniffer, the offset tight end depending on the run game it could be the back. Generally we'll have as a corner, your general keys are either the guy you're aligned on or somebody adjacent inside, whether it be a tight end, or a number two receiver. And then depending on coverage, your safeties are going to be aligned on either a tight end a number two receiver, a nub side key in through the uncovered guard on a back side if you're a spun down safety in some form of sky force. I mean those are all different keys. So every defense has a different key, and then when motion occurs, sometimes that key could change based on who is motioning and that's where they try and get you a little confused, but they do a really nice job of creating a lot of window dressing, as far as motions and things are concerned. But then also mixing that with tempos, so you can't not get aligned, get your cleats in the dirt, get your eyes in the right spot, all of a sudden the ball's being snapped and they're runnin', they're goin' fast, as opposed to they also mix the tempos with a motion, a motion then a reset, a motion then the snap, so you've got to just be alert in what you're tryin' to do and have your eyes in the right spots, but I think that eye control's critical for us on Saturday.
- [Reporter] As a coach, just what is like to see Kyle Markway reach this point, after everything he went through in your first two years when you were on campus?
- Lot of injuries went to Missouri, our second game, our second season, and was injured in the game in front of his family, they were there for that. So, a guy that just continues to persevere and fight and understand that 10% of life is what happens to you and 90% what you do about it, handlin' it the right way, stayin' positive, just continuin' to come into work everyday with a hardhat mentality to achieve what he wanted to achieve. And he's worked himself in, he's a really good football player, and he's been very productive for us his junior year and senior year and he has another opportunity to come back for another year.
- Well there's no question, to have somebody that you have a comfort level with that you depend that they're going to make a play for you, that you can throw a hitch, you can throw a screen, you can throw somethin' that's a quick game that you don't have to make a huge decision on, and a guy can crease it make a 30 yard completion, which gives you a lot of confidence, which gives our entire football team confidence, and our offense confidence. So there's no question to have a guy like Bryan out there that is dependable as he's been for us this year, that's a huge aid to Ryan.
- [Reporter] App State's obviously got some guys who you all evaluated when they were recruits and all that, do you talk about that with your players, when you say hey you're going to be going against guys who probably maybe feel like they should be here instead of you, or does that even come up?
- No, we don't, we just evaluate what we see on tape. As far as, you know, we try and be very honest with our guys about our match ups and where we are and those sort of things.
- [Reporter] And Ernest Jones says former teammate Trey Cobb, one of their inside linebackers, what have you seen from him on film?
- Good football player, runs extremely well, has got some very similar attributes as Ernest's called, I believe he makes all their calls defensively, but is a good football player.
- [Reporter] Conversations with some of the guys with eligibility left, what are those conversations like when you do sit down with them, what's been your advice to guys who are maybe making a decision?
- Well I think, you know, Colyn, in probably Kyle and Sadarius Hutcherson's situation is both guys have finished school, both guys have aspirations to play on the next level. What input do we have from the NFL for where their evaluation would be if they were to be drafted, where would they be drafted, and to kind of give them as much information as we can from that standpoint. It's not what I think, it's not what one of our assistant coaches think, it's not what their parents think, it's not what some agent thinks. It's what the NFL thinks, and it's what each, there's 32 teams, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And so, where do they see them fitting on their draft board is basically the question would be, and then if they were to return their senior year, or their last year or their sixth year, whatever the case may be, what do they need to do to improve that draft status? And those are all questions that we try to give them as much information and understand that we're going to support their decision 100% no matter what, we're going to give 'em the information, it's their decision, it's not my decision, and whatever they decide, we're going to support it. One of the great stories ever is a guy named Jerraud Powers who played for me in Auburn, one of my favorite players of all time. And I was at Texas, he was still finishin' at Auburn but he had graduated which he promised his mom he's going to graduate from school, and he had graduated, he had another year of eligibility left, and his big knock, he was 5-9. He called me, I was the defense coordinator Texas I said well if you're not going to be a first round pick I'm going to tell you to go back to school, and he said well yeah you also said if I can improve on some things and come back to school that I need to, he goes the biggest issue I've got I'm 5-9, you know what I'm goin' be next year? I'm goin' be 5-9, and that's when he got a point. So he played for 12 years in the National Football League, and retired on his call, nobody else's. So to give you an example that sometimes it's just time to move on for some guys and I totally get that. But our job is to give them the correct and right information from the National Football League of what is their draft status and where do they project to be drafted 'cause you can hear all the mock drafts and all that, well most of those are probably very incorrect at this point.
- [Reporter] Will what makes --
- Coach, yeah, go ahead. I was going to bring you a hat and whistle today. And I agree with what you said last week. I didn't want you to think I was cuttin' you off, I do agree with you that we need to run him more in those situations, but we're not going to, you're not goin' in the wishbone with him, I can tell you that.
- [Reporter] What makes Thomas Brown such a good teacher and what sort of future do you foresee in coaching for him?
- He has a huge future, and a very demanding guy in a very positive way. Thomas coaches like he played. He's a blue collar guy, that has taken a lot of ability that he had and turned it into even a better player than he was because of his mentality and his approach and his blue collar mentality. He's very bright, he's very intelligent, he's been in a coordinator role before and he has a tremendous future in this profession.
- [Reporter] Was there mutual enthusiasm in him coming here, or did one of you guys want that transaction to happen more than the other?
- I think it was pretty mutual. We talked one day, and he was here within 48 hours and he had brought his entire family, his wife, Jessica and his two boys were here within 48 hours and they'd moved in a house, so I guess we were both pretty motivated at the time. But when you're out of work, you get motivated pretty quickly, but he and Bryan McClendon obviously were very close before and had worked together before and I'd actually recruited Tucker High School where Thomas played. We signed a young man named Neiko Thorpe at Auburn, who was a year ahead of Thomas from Tucker and I knew Thomas comin' along and then I left to go to Texas the next year. But he was an outstanding player at Tucker, and then an outstanding player at Georgia having competed against him.
- [Reporter] Will Bryan stay in the box this week?
- [Reporter] What did you see, what did he see really, I guess is the main question that you can't on the field.
- You just see the game better upstairs and sometimes you may miss some things on the field. You got a lot on your plate as far as callin' plays and making adjustments within series. There's a lot that goes into that and I think that just being able to make sure that we got the communication on the field which we did, and Dan did a very good job with Ryan and Dakereon both on the field and I think that worked better as well. So I think there was two sides that were better for us the quarterback position at the receiver position and play calling three.