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Will Muschamp National Signing Day Conference Transcript

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Will Muschamp National Signing Day Conference Transcript

Feb. 06, 2020

Gamecocks Add Ger-Cari Caldwell, Gilber Edmond, Alex Huntley and ZaQuandre White



- Great day. We signed four really good players today. Ya know, excited about and continuing to improve our roster and continue to create the quality that we're going to need to have in our league. There's no doubt helped ourself today. I'll start out with ZaQuandre White from Cape Coral, Florida. Originally played at North Fort Myers for Ernest Graham. A guy that I know extremely well and have a lot of respect for. He thinks a lot of ZaQuandre as a running back. Originally qualified, signed with Florida State out of high and went through the coaching change when Coach Fisher was there and transferred, I mean, went to Coach Taggard. And just, kind of, sometimes when you have those transitions you lose some really good football players. And I actually talked to Jimbo about ZaQuandre, really liked his athleticism and him as a young man, and feels like he has a tremendous upside. So we're really excited to have him. Went out to Iowa Western and did a really nice job out there. His parents Zach and Dorothy were great in this process. But, a guy that's got the type of measureables you want and we're really excited to add another, you know, a size-speed athlete to our football team. It certainly is going to help us here. Ger-Cari Caldwell from Northwestern High School right here in South Carolina Rock Hill just had a unbelievable senior season. Page Wofford who was the offensive coordinator at Danial went to Northwestern and installed an offense. And they threw the ball an awful lot and they do a really nice job throwing it, and Ger-Cari ended up, I think, with 51 catches. And it, kind of, kept coming on to the screen for us in fall. We got more and more excited about him and then you meet him, and you see the type of young man and what he stands for. His mom, Demetrice is a fantastic woman and we just had a really good, hit it off when we met. Came down on the official visit, came unofficially and then came back for an official visit. And really excited to add in another guy from the Rock Hill area to our football team, obviously the hot bed in South Carlina of football. Alex Huntley from Hammond School. I've got a, you know, unique relationship obviously with Alex. Saw him as freshman at lacrosse at 280 pounds running up and down the field, obviously with my son Jackson being at Hammond. But, just a big athlete. Very flexible in his lower body, very powerful in his lower body. But I saw him continue to grow and mature there at Hammond. Which, Erik Kimrey, the head coach there does a fantastic job. So, just to watch this guy grow through the process, Lisa and Harold have been awesome. Been raised right and really excited about him, and joining in our program. The guy is a student body president at Hammond. He didn't enter Hammond until the ninth grade. It says a lot about the positive impact he can have on other people and what he'll do in our locker room, but I'm really excited about him. And Gilber Edmond from Westwood High School in Fort Pierce, Florida. He kind of came on our radar really late, about two and a half, three weeks ago. I wanted to add another Linebacker to our class. He's about 6'3 about 205 but can really play in space, can really run. Jeff George is his head coach. And talking to him, the type of young man we want on our football team. We went down and saw him the last couple of weeks there in January, and really felt good about him. And we're able to know that we were going to have a spot available and we wanted to extend that. So, that puts us at 24 initials, we obviously still have one left. But, really excited about adding these four guys to our class. Again, I like what our numbers are positionally, it's starting to distribute through our team, on our roster. Our mid-year guys are doing really well. To see those guys, the four offensive linemen, fit as far as athletically and playing with power. Luke Doty's been outstanding. MarShawn Lloyd, another guy, we're seeing a guy that's really competing on a high level, which is exciting to see. Mike Wyman's done some nice things for us. O'Donnell Fortune and Dominick Hill both showed up. Done a nice job for us. I'm really pleased with the progress with Coach Jackson and what they've done to this point of the off-season program. We've monitored it as coaches and we'll certainly start taking more of a role next week as coaches. And we'll get, really, about six days before we start spring on February 26 with our football team as far as working a little bit with them hands on. Which we're allowed to do by NCAA rules in the off season. So, excited about today and obviously us moving forward. And I'll open it for any questions.

- [Reporter] Will, any reason to be concerned if somebody might've verbally committed and not sent in his letter yet?

- No, we're going to be fine.

- [Reporter] And what are some reasons somebody might wait to send in their letter?

- I don't know. You got to ask them.

- [Reporter] Can you give us a little more about what, sort of, the process with Gilber, kind of was? How that came together, the timing of it?

- Well we're constantly evaluating and our recruiting office does an outstanding job continuing to evaluate guys. And Ger-Cari Caldwell here, we start hearing something obviously. It's in our state, so you hear a little bit more. The relationships you have with high school coaches in the area obviously with Page. And them continuing to, "Well this guys is really playing well. I think you need to take a harder look at him." So, we're always evaluating. Maybe we have committed that aren't playing as well and we want to call them up and say, "What's the deal here? Why aren't you playing a little bit better?" So, just 'cause you commit or, you know, it's a great example for a lot of guys who, maybe, don't have a lot going into their senior year, which these guys didn't. But they played extremely well and you'll get recognized, people will find you. As much social media and different interactions you can have on film now. So, to find those guys and start recruiting 'em and get to know 'em a little bit better, and feel more comfortable about bringing them to Columbia, to the University of South Carolina, and bringing them into our locker room. And our staff felt very good in both situations about both players.

- [Reporter] Coach, I know I saw you earlier today at Hammond seeing your son.

- Yeah.

- [Reporter] Yeah, and committing to Georgia. What was that like for you today, to be next to your son and putting on the Bulldog hat just knowing how proud you are of him finally making this call--

- I didn't like the hat. I didn't like the hat at all. But, nah. You know, Jackson... We had a discussion probably five or six years ago, you know, and that's young. He said, "Dad, I want to play Division I college football." And I said, "Well it's gon' be really hard. You're going to have really work hard. Take advantage of the opportunities you have, but you got to really put in the time." And at that time he really started, kind of, going into eighth/ninth grade, really put in the time. We weren't even here at that time. Really started working toward wanting to be a Division I quarterback. So, obviously had some offers from Division I programs. The BC offer was with Coach Addazio whose now at Colorado State. Went out to Colorado State and it was beautiful, and the staff was outstanding, the facilitates were phenomenal. It's an outstanding school, it's a beautiful scene. We got caught up in the moment a little bit and committed. I wish we had waited a day and he got home and realized that was a long way away from home and we have a very close-knit family. So, he called me and my wife Carol on Monday on a conference call and said, "I think I've made a huge mistake. I don't know if I can go this far away from home." Ya know, I said, "That's the way you feel, you need to call these coaches immediately." So, it wasn't a flip like the article said. I mean, this was, made a mistake and we owned it, and we called the coaches immediately and let them know exactly what was going on in the process. Georgia's been recruiting Jackson since summer. He went over there to summer camp. He had a really good camp, and they were very impressed with him. They felt like in a walk-on situation they'd love to have him on their roster. Ya know, Coach Smart's known Jackson since he was born. So, obviously there's a relationship there. So, I felt like it was a good fit for him. It's what he wanted to do. He also in that conversation that we had a long time ago is, "Dad, I don't want to be where you are. Whether it's at Texas, if it's South Carolina, if it's at Florida, or wherever it is, Auburn, I want to blaze my own path, and be my own man." And I totally respect that. That's a unique position because it's a quarterback position and it's not a receiver, it's not a DB where you've got an opportunity to maybe get on special teams, to maybe play, to maybe get on the bus to be on the kickoff team or the punt. Well that's not happening at that position. And then he made a statement for a very young man at that time. I believe he was in eighth grade when he said that, "If I go where you are, the reason why I'm playing is because of you, and the reason why I'm not playing is because of you, and I don't want to get into that." And you know what? He's right. So, I'm proud of him and the opportunity that he's going to get and look forward to competing against him.

- [Reporter] Is there any similar trait among this group of guys you've mentioned earlier in December that you've held through--

- Yeah.

- [Reporter] In what was a tough time for you?

- Well the addition obviously with Gilber and Ger-Cari, they were new. And the guys were excited to be able to add to our roster but, ya know, Alex Huntley and ZaQuandre were with us the whole time as far as, throughout the entire season, throughout the entire process, and never wavered in my opinion as far as being Gamecocks.

- [Reporter] In terms of, I don't know how many guys you can speak of in terms of local guys that are signed with the program. But does that mean something to you being able to keep some of the guys in Columbia, whether the preferred walk-on or a scholarship guy to stay home and play for their hometown team?

- Absolutely, I think it's convenient for the family, first of all. Speaking from experience. It's convenient to have them have the opportunity to stay here, it's the cool thing to do, to go to Columbia, to go the the University of South Carolina, to see the success that a lot of these guys that have stayed in state. Whether they were local or not but have stayed instate. I tell instate recruits this story all of time. Jadeveon Clowney, he has a vape shop here in Columbia, not in Seattle, not in Houston, and not in Rock Hill where he's from. Stephon Gilmore has a business here in town, not in New England, not in Rock Hill, but in Columbia. So, those are things to me that, as a student athlete here at the University of South Carolina, you can take huge advantage of. And football's going to end. We all have an expiration date. That's going to happen. And 99% of us, it ends before you want it to. Somebody's telling you it's over. So, again, I think it's take advantage of the opportunities that you have set in front of you, and I think a lot of our instate guys understand that.

- [Reporter] Well, some of the other new guys to the program, Collin Hill and Adam Prentice, how have you seen them come along?

- Good.

- [Reporter] And I guess with Collin coming off the knee injury.

- Well Collin's still rehabbing the knee, and they think he's ahead of where he should be right now as far as his strength is concerned, as far as his quad is concerned. And that's the biggest thing is the strength levels. And they think he's ahead of where he's supposed to be. He's working extremely hard to rehab the knee. Adam has been extremely impressive. He's going to be a really good football player for us. We've got outstanding leadership ability. All the intangible qualities you're looking for is exactly how Coach Bobo explained him before he got here.

- [Reporter] And as far as the quarterback situation going into spring. How will that dynamic, sort of, play out for you guys as you juggle Collin with what he can do and mixing them in with--

- Well, I don't think Collin's going to take any snaps during the spring based on what I've been told. He will not be fully cleared until June, possibly May. I think, I'm just trying to get my months right. I think it's right at five and a half to six months, May maybe. So, he won't take any snaps in the spring.

- [Reporter] Will, with ZaQuandre, how important was it that he get some experience into the running back crew considering you lost three seniors?

- Kevin and Deshaun are the only two guys that played on Saturday afternoon in our league. To have an older guy come in that has been on that stage and understanding that part of it, I think, is important. But, those guys, all those five will have opportunities to take a huge part of our football team.

- [Reporter] Is Gilber a guy you project at the buck position or would he maybe fit somewhere else?

- No, I'm going to look at him inside. I think his space play and the way he runs in space and plays in space, he's only about 205 pounds right now, 208 maybe. So, he's a guy that does have pass-rush ability from his high school tape, but to see his space play was what excited me, to be able to see a guy play in space, play off the ball. We, really, right now only have seven scholarship linebackers. We only signed Mohamed Kaba at the position. I felt like I wanted to take another inside guy. We are projecting a little bit with him. You see the attributes of length and speed, and that's what you like on tape. He will stick his face in the fan, which is good. So, those are some attributes we like.

- [Reporter] I know you like to watch some big guys play basketball. What do you think of Huntley playing lacrosse?

- I think it's great. I think that, the first time I noticed him, obviously he had a good freshman year. And then to see a 280 pounder run up and down the field like they do. He's an attack, so he's always on the, I don't know if you know anything about lacrosse. I know a lot. In the last couple of years I've learned. But, he's got great stick skills. He's got great hand-eye coordination. He's a very difficult guy especially as big as he is and the girth he has to match up with some of the defenders, as far as that's concerned. So, but his athleticism, ya know, as I watching and I was like, I can't find 280 pounders that can run like this, that are the type of person he is.

- [Reporter] When recruiting a prospect, how do you deal with a situation where a parent or parents are totally dominant in the equation and steer practically everything? How do you walk that fine line between trying to get cozy with the player, but deal with a situation like that?

- I always recruit everybody. At the end of the day you want to recruit everybody and make everybody feel wanted and needed here at the University of South Carolina. We try to strictly promote our program as far as the academic side of it, which is as good as anybody in the Southeastern conference, the football side of it. Which we didn't have a good year this year but we're not far off from where we need to be as far as those things are concerned and our roster is concerned. The social side of Columbia, which I think is outstanding. And then, ya know, our staff, that, I think, can grow and develop a young man on and off the field as good as anybody in the country, and they can positively impact their life. And, so you recruit everybody in the family in those situations, in all situations.

- [Reporter] Coach, when speaking with Boogie today he talked about the close-knit nature of this 2020 recruiting class. How have you seen that come together and how significant can that be in playing a role in helping develop, not just the 2020 class, but the entire program when you see a group like that come together before they even step foot onto campus?

- Well, I think it really leads to leadership and guys that are willing to lead, and positively affect other guys. They have a text thread amongst the entire group and they're constantly talking about the things they need to be doing to be successful, and that says a awful lot about that. But that generally leads to good recruiting classes too 'cause you've got the right type of leadership, and obviously the quality of the player you need to have to win in this league.

- [Reporter] When was the last time you had a three running back recruiting class? How long ago had that been? And when you have that kind of situation are you looking for different sets of skill sets or just three guys who can play?

- I wouldn't know when the last time is. I don't know that I've been a part of a team that had three senior running backs. It felt like you needed to replenish the roster with that many guys. But, obviously you'd like to have some guys that give you some different skill sets, but the bottom line is production and guys that can be productive players. In our league you're gon' take hits. You can't throw a 175 pound back out there and think he's going to survive for 12 games. It's not going to happen. And you got to have multiple guys in our league. No matter how durable a player may be, you're going to need more than one or two guys in our league to make it through the season that we play, and the schedule we have. And I think that, you know, also the longevity in terms of you really look at the NFL now and the lack of first round running backs that are being taken. The longevity of backs is less and less. And so, to take less tread off of a player that has aspirations of playing on the next level, I think it's important as well.

- [Reporter] Will you've never been shy about playing freshman or first year guys if they've proved that they can be in. Of this class, I mean, does that have the tendency to, that a good chunk of these guys can play right away?

- Absolutely. I mean, there's guys that just from our mid-year guys that you're sitting there from a maturity standpoint. 'Cause I always say this that, ya know, obviously if we've signed a player we think he has the ability to help us. What is the opportunity at his position? And then, I think, that maturity goes back into a lot of playing as a young player. They're away from home for the first time. It's the first time in front of 80,000 people. They got to be able to learn the playbook and be disciplined enough to maybe spend some extra time to learn the playbook, to watch the film. They got to be coachable but a lot of that to me goes back to maturity. Obviously they're guys 'cause a huge part of our evaluation is intelligence. Ya know, they need to be able to be smart, and learn, and understand that, which I think all these guys are. So, but I think maturity has a lot to do with that, opportunity has a lot to do with it, and obviously skill level. But, you know, it's not a bad word to be redshirted. Two out of the last, I think, four Heisman Trophy winners were redshirted. And that doesn't mean they were bad players, it's just maybe the opportunity did not meet where they were at the time. And maybe they made huge improvements, but I think it was Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel were both redshirted, and they ended up being pretty good.

- [Reporter] Wanted to double check. In terms of your guys' numbers, two of the August guys from last year count for this class and--

- We're at 24.

- [Reporter] You're at 24. And are Collin and Adam both on scholarship or--

- Collin.

- [Reporter] Coach, when you talk about the quarterback room, it's a young group, and you have an experienced guy like Collin coming in. How important will he be in terms of just helping managing the young minds? I know Ryan has experience but when you add a couple guys that are that young--

- Sure.

- [Reporter] Just how pivotal of a role will he play in terms of helping develop and manage those minds?

- Well, I think that as much as anything there's going to be some new terminology that Collin's familiar with and maybe Ryan, and Luke, and Jay are not at this point, they will be. And those guys are working extra on their own every single day to come up here and learn. So when we do start with the coaches that they've got a pretty good grasp of what we're trying to do. And that's the one thing in that group. We've got an outstanding group as far as work ethic is concerned, and intelligence is concerned, and maturity is concerned. So, those guys will be ready to go and certainly having Collin's experience do nothing but help. But Mike's also got a lot of experience in coaching young quarterbacks. And, so he understands what a guy can handle, what he can't handle, what we feel like we can do, and what we feel like we can't do. And, I think that his experience certainly will help us with that.

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