Will Muschamp is big on taking things one game at a time. Every week is a reason, as he says often.
But there are some games that are just more important than others and require a little extra preparation. Like the Oct. 12 game at Georgia. And Saturday’s season finale against rival Clemson.
“We spend a lot of time on our perennial opponents that we play each year,” he said. “We spend time in the offseason, we spend time in the summer, we spend time in training camp as far as preparation of things that we know we're going to carry into the game in all three phases … to introduce something that might be a little different that we need to look at, that we think we might carry into a game like Clemson.”
The Gamecocks also have had the added bonus of an extra week to prepare during a bye week following the 30-6 loss to Texas A&M. That allowed players like running backs Tavien Feaster, Mon Denson and A.J. Turner and wide receivers Shi and OrTre Smith to recover from injuries.
And the Gamecocks have a lot of problems to fix after losing three straight games to Tennessee, Appalachian State and Texas A&M. Since beating Georgia in Athens, they have lost four of their last five games to fall to 4-7 going into their rivalry game.
“The bye week helps,” linebacker Ernest Jones said. “It allows you to fix some things and get another week of preparation for them and get a really good game plan in, which I feel like we have. I’m excited to go out this Saturday and put the game plan to the test.”
Having lost four of five games this season and five straight to Clemson, South Carolina plans to make some changes this week, especially offensively. They could go with a different combination on the offensive line, with freshman Jakai Moore, who has impressed the coaching staff, starting at right tackle and Dylan Wonnum moving to left tackle. That would allow Sadarius Hutcherson to move back to guard, where he played the past two years.
Though they may be without leading receiver Bryan Edwards, who is questionable after minor knee surgery, they should benefit from the return of Feaster, who leads the Gamecocks in rushing despite missing the last two games.
Muschamp and his staff will also dive deep into video from last year’s game against Clemson, when the Gamecocks scored 35 points and rolled up 600 yards of total offense against one of the best defenses in the nation. Though they lost 56-35, it was South Carolina’s best offensive performance of the season.
With freshman Ryan Hilinski replacing senior quarterback Jake Bentley, they haven’t come close to that kind of production against an FBS opponent this season. They have particularly struggled in the last two games, averaging barely 300 yards per game and combining to score only 21 points against App State and Texas A&M.
“Well, obviously in our last two performances we haven't done enough to be successful, so there'll be obviously some changes,” Muschamp said. “I think from a personnel standpoint, from a schematic standpoint, when you have a little extra time you are able to look at some different things, and … I think you always go back and watch that tape. Not necessarily from what you did, but how you were [defended].
“You're always going back to see a coordinator and how he's done things against you before. … I think those are things that you always go back and study your opponent, not necessarily of what you've done, but maybe what you've seen, because that's what you're trying to prepare our players for, what are you going to see on game day? And then how are we going to block these runs and how are we going to protect here and route concepts and such.”
Center Donell Stanley, a sixth-year senior, believes the offense will overcome its struggles of the past few weeks.
“The week before should never determine what the next week’s performance should be like,” he said. “We just have to go out and execute and see what happens. They are going to have a good game plan and their players are going to be ready, but so are we.”