Be honest, you chuckled a little bit when South Carolina hired Will Muschamp. I know I did.
I mean, come on, this was the guy who took a national championship-caliber Florida program right after Urban Meyer, but needed just three seasons to go 4-8 and miss a bowl game. He still remains one of the most controversial figures among Florida fans.
Muschamp was hired at South Carolina after just a one-year hiatus being a defensive coordinator at Auburn, and not even a particularly good one. Hiring Muschamp at South Carolina, to follow college football Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier no less, felt like settling.
But just one year into his tenure, Muschamp is already starting to change the narrative. The Gamecocks won only three games last year and came into this season with limited talent. Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, the team’s best offensive player, left for the draft. Linebacker Skai Moore, the team’s top defensive player, was ruled out for the season with an injury.
However, that’s what has made this coaching performance so impressive. In the immediate months after joining South Carolina, Muschamp signed talented freshmen such as QB Jake Bentley, RB Rico Dowdle and WR Bryan Edwards. In all, seven true freshmen have started this season for the Gamecocks.
Muschamp was asked to develop numerous young players and perform at the same time. When it comes to the SEC, especially a program like South Carolina with raucous fans, patience isn’t expected. That’s what makes the turnaround so impressive.
South Carolina’s offense still is a work in progress, but it has improved significantly since Bentley took over. The Gamecocks have doubled their scoring output from 14 to 28 points per game and improved from 304.5 yards to 398.4 yards per game. The defense also has improved to No. 42 in the S&P+ defensive rankings under Muschamp. That’s coaching and player development.
Despite being picked by many to finish last in the SEC East, South Carolina beat Vanderbilt and Missouri. The program-changing win was over No. 18 Tennessee, which was the first since Butch Jones arrived in Knoxville. After taking care of business against East Carolina, UMass and Western Carolina, South Carolina is back to postseason play.
Now granted, it will take more than just one nice season beating the bottom of the SEC East to get back in the good graces of the college football world. However, changing the narrative is the first step.
Muschamp has at least proven that he deserved this second chance. By all the major indicators of coaching, Muschamp is better than ever. Combining his ability to identify and recruit top talent and grow as a coach, South Carolina fans have to be thrilled with the direction of the program. And now, Muschamp can sell fans on a bowl game.