Gamecocks hope new leadership helps program reach new heights

WIS News 10 Sports on Digital - 2/25/20

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp welcomes new leadership into the program.

The Gamecocks added four new position coaches over the offseason. Entering the fold in time for spring practice is offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, linebackers coach Rod Wilson, and tight ends coach Joe Cox.

"Always look at staff changes as an opportunity to grow," Muschamp said. "An opportunity to improve and get better."

On offense, Bobo intends to have the quarterback take more snaps from under center. With that being said, Muschamp's priority will be to adapt to the player personnel to put the best 11 on the field.

"There will be, obviously, some run and pass concepts that we feel very comfortable with that will remain the same," added Muschamp. "We're still trying to play with different tempos at the line of scrimmage. That's the one thing I noticed when Mike went to Colorado State is adapting what we do to the personnel. And that's what we got to identify for him and his comfort level. What are we going to be? We don't know those answers right now."

Returning starting quarterback Ryan Hilinski will look to make strides at the position under Bobo's tutelage. Experience competing collegiately also aides in Hilinski's development process as he begins his sophomore campaign with the Gamecocks.

"The more snaps and reps you take, the game continues to slow down," Muschamp said. "There will be some new things he will be going through as far as we'll be up under center more. Offensively, different things from a verbiage standpoint, communication standpoint that he'll have to adapt to, as will all the quarterbacks."

For any Gamecocks fans wondering, Hilinski will fully participate in spring practices, which begin Wednesday. He's healthy following offseason arthroscopic surgery to repair a small tear of the lateral meniscus in his left knee.

Whether he will keep the starter's role has yet to be determined. Muschamp laid out the top criteria for any quarterback to win the job.

"Lead our football team," said Muschamp. "Be productive. Be accurate with the football. Take care of the football. Who is going to move our offense? Help us be a productive offense and win games."

After what Muschamp called "a disappointing fall," the Gamecocks seek to become a more explosive offense. Explosive plays are defined as a run of 10-plus yards and a pass play of 20-plus yards. It's one of five critical areas South Carolina seeks improvement. The other four include turnover margin, field position, red zone touchdown efficiency, and winning the fourth quarter. Opponents outscored the Gamecocks by 146 points in the final frame during the 2019 season.

"Those are things we've looked at," added Muschamp. "Installing an offense and going through that process, and then making the changes to adapt to our players moving forward in the 2020 season.”

Muschamp does not anticipate abandoning the run-pass option implemented into the offense, but every concept offensively that was in place is subject to change under Bobo's direction.

"I think we will see where we go," said Muschamp. "Be successful in the run game. You don't need to rely on RPOs as much. Generally, that goes back to the guy running the ball. How special is he? We will see how that develops."

What Muschamp likes what he sees so far in the developmental process starts with the new strength and conditioning program. Leading that area is Paul Jackson. He was tabbed the Gamecocks' director of strength and conditioning in mid-December.

"We've made improvements in a very short time," Muschamp added. “Now I'm excited to get them on the field and carry over on the field. The explosiveness, the change of direction, some of the speed stuff that's been good."

South Carolina enters spring practice with only 19 seniors and graduate transfers listed on the roster. Muschamp called it a young and talented group. One that he wants to embrace the changes within the program on the coaching staff.

At a team meeting Tuesday morning, Muschamp talked to the players about that. He asked how many in the room want to play in the NFL. As expected, everyone raised their hand. Position coaching changes are common at the next level.

"So, you need to be adaptable in what you do in life," Muschamp said. "And that's true in your job. And your boss changes and, all of a sudden, somebody else comes in and wants to do things a different way. Then, you either adapt or leave. You can learn new things from everybody. Are some coaches better teachers? Are some better on the field? Are some better at friendships and development? We're all different -- a way for a young man to get out of his comfort zone and grow, in my opinion."

South Carolina's Spring Game is April 4, at 1 p.m. inside Williams-Brice Stadium.


WR Randrecous Davis (stress fracture)

LB Spencer Eason-Riddle (ACL, out entire spring)

TE Nick Muse (ACL, out entire spring)

OL Dylan Wonnum (Hip)

DL J.J. Enagbare (Hip)

DL Tyreek Johnson (Knee injury)

LB Mohamed Kaba (ACL, out entire spring)

QB Collin Hill (ACL, out entire spring)

*All expected to be ready for the summer workout program

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