HOOVER, Ala. — Around this time last year, then-Auburn coordinator Will Muschamp was at the beach, relaxing and perhaps content to miss his first SEC Media Days since 2011.
On Thursday, the new South Carolina coach returned from his hiatus and was asked to reflect upon what he learned during his four years presiding over Florida football, which ended with a 28-21 overall record.
Muschamp of course began by highlighting a number of positives — stout defense, strong special teams and improvements in the classroom and off the field — before conceding the most obvious flaw from his time in Gainesville.
“We need to play better on offense,” Muschamp said. “So you go back and (look at) the schemes and how we practice. It wasn’t the players, we had guys get drafted. I’ve evaluated all of those things and made some slight adjustments in how we prepare and what we need to do to improve and get better.”
Whether “slight adjustments” is what Gamecocks fans want to hear is up for debate. None of Muschamp’s Florida offenses ever ranked higher than eighth-best in the SEC, in terms of points scored per game. Arguably his best offensive year (2014) came under Kurt Roper, the man who will continue to be his offensive coordinator in Columbia, S.C., but that unit still finished with the second-fewest total yards in the conference.
There’s also the matter of scheme. Muschamp claims that he wants his South Carolina offense to fit “what your players can do.” But at two different points during his interview, the coach expressed both comfort in his coaches’ scheme and concern about how quickly it can be implemented.
“I do feel much more comfortable in this situation schematically. We’re very similar to what we’ve been before at South Carolina under Coach Spurrier. I think there are a lot of similarities for our players that’ll (make it) a much smoother transition this time around.”
“We may not be schematically in our first year where we want to be on either side of the ball. We got to be able to win, we got to be able to win now, and we got to be able to do what our players can do.”
So, how does Muschamp actually feel about the offense South Carolina will field in 2016? A true freshman looks like the front-runner to be starting quarterback. Redshirt sophomore Deebo Samuel and true freshman Bryan Edwards are slotted in as starting receivers. The offensive line was a real sore spot last season.
Gone are receiver Pharoh Cooper (fourth-round NFL draft pick), tackle Brandon Shell (fifth-round pick) and tight Jerrell Adams (sixth-round pick) from an offense that finished 11th in the SEC in yards per game.
Muschamp already knows how short of a leash SEC coaches receive. He knows the impatience of fans just as well. He knows the rebuilding effort cannot afford to take long.
“I don’t like the word patient at the end of the day,” he said at the end of his session. “That’s not something we’re gunning for. We’re not worried about a two, three, four-year plan. We’re worried about winning now. Just do what we got to do to win now. Find a way to win the day.”