Muschamp shows confidence in Gamecocks' schedule


From staff reports

HOOVER, Ala. - Will Muschamp isn't any more worried about the University of South Carolina's football schedule this season than the ones he faced in his first three years as Gamecock head coach.

"Hell, the schedule is hard every year," Muschamp said on Wednesday during his turn at SEC Media Days. "This schedule gives us a chance to take a step forward as a program. We'll be in the limelight every Saturday."

Of course, Muschamp's insinuation is the program can move in a positive direction with a victory or two against some college football behemoths. USC plays defending national champion Clemson, defending runner-up Alabama, defending Southeastern Conference Eastern Division champion Georgia as well as two teams expected to be ranked in the top 10 - Texas A&M and Florida.

"We'll be playing it with the best team I've had since I've been here," he said.

Carolina is coming off a 7-6 season that ended with a resounding thud in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. After finishing the season seemingly on a roll on offense, South Carolina was shut out by Virginia 28-0.

While he thought the Gamecocks made progress offensively last year under first-year offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon, Muschamp said there are specific areas where improvement is needed.

"We have to cut down on our turnovers, and we have to increase our production in the red zone," said Muschamp, whose 22 wins at USC are more than any of the other previous head coaches' victories in their first three seasons.

He pointed out that USC reached the red zone 56 times last season and came away with no points on 13 occasions. Carolina also committed 21 turnovers.

"We've got to do a better job of making decisions with the ball," Muschamp said. "We've also got to do a better job of catching the ball. We had 20 drops, and some of them came in game-changing moments."

Carolina has Jake Bentley returning at quarterback, who threw for 3,171 yards and 27 touchdowns last year.

"I'm excited about Jake going into his senior year," Muschamp said of the player he thrust into the starting lineup as a true freshman midway through Muschamp's first year as head coach. "He's played extremely well for us at times, and I'm expecting him to have a big year."

USC has seven starters back on both sides of the football. Muschamp thinks his team made the most improvement in spring practice shoring up the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football.

"Other than having a quarterback, I think it's the most important thing," Muschamp said of depth on the lines of scrimmage. "And not just depth, but quality depth."

One of those Muschamp mentioned to provide depth on the defensive front was former Lakewood High School standout Tyreek Johnson. Johnson missed all of last season after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament early in fall practice last year.