ATLANTA — South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp warned his first Gamecocks team to not get suckered into taking the cheese.
“Everybody is patting you on the back, telling you how good you are,” he told the team in 2016, after a home win over Tennessee. “But understand, this football team coming in here is certainly capable. Their last SEC win was against us, so we needed to understand that and don’t take the cheese.”
The team responded with a 31-21 win over Missouri. This summer, offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon might want to dust off the mouse traps and utilize the tactic for his wide receiver room
Led by senior Deebo Samuel, junior Bryan Edwards and sophomores OrTre and Shi Smith, South Carolina’s wide receiver unit is thought to be among the best in the country. McClendon, who’s entering his third season as the Gamecocks wide receivers coach, doesn’t want the group to buy into the offseason hype they’re expected to receive over the next few months.
“We talk to them about it a bunch,” McClendon told reporters on Thursday. “And as much as I love you guys, I just don’t look at it. Obviously, that’s a different time and age, because a lot of guys look at it, but the one thing that you have to make sure that they understand is that’s not reality, in the sense of you’ve got to go out there and earn what you get, at the end of the day, so nobody is going to go out there and play you a certain way because they read something about you.
“You are what you do and that’s what’s on film. If you can’t get off the press on film, you’re not going to get off the press very well. … It’s understanding that the reality comes and you are what you repeatedly do. That’s what we preach.”
Returning to strength
South Carolina’s wide receivers weren’t at full-strength at any point during spring practice. Far from it, actually.
Leg injuries limited Samuel throughout the 15 practices. Edwards (shoulder) missed time, so did Randrecous Davis (groin), Chad Terrell (knee) and Chavis Dawkins (undisclosed). The Smiths and freshman Darius Rush were the only scholarship wide receivers believed to go from start to finish without injury.
“The good thing is it gave a lot of guys meaningful reps that wouldn’t have gotten those reps if [other] guys were healthy,” McClendon said. “Shi had to go play outside and that’s huge. Now he can go be the next guy up at any position or compete for a job outside. I think it helped a lot of guys having to spread their wings a little bit and get their feet thrown to the fire.”
McClendon, of course, hopes to have a full arsenal when practice resumes later this summer.
“It will be good to have them all back,” he said. “It was kind of the position we were in this past year with guys going down and guys having to step in and play before they were ready to. The good thing about this, it was only practice and you could go in and be with them every step of the way.”