Muschamp hopes methodical approach leads to upset


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Muschamp says he has respect for what Swinney is doing at Clemson
Muschamp says he has respect for what Swinney is doing at Clemson

Will Muschamp has been at South Carolina for less than a year, but he’s heard about Clemson since day one.

The Tigers own a two-game winning streak over the Gamecocks and, but Muschamp’s message to his team has been simple.

They don’t have to be spectacular, just solid to upset No. 4 Clemson.

“Well, we addressed it today. Again, you don’t know until you get there. I talked to our guys just about our preparation, our focus in terms of winning downs, winning possessions,” Muschamp said earlier this week during his weekly press conference. “That’s going to help you win the game, a methodical approach in how we approach every game and making sure our guys understand it’s not going to take a flawless effort. It’s not going to take anything spectacular. We just need to go play well. We need to go play hard. We need to go play fast. We need to play physical. We need to go play with great effort. We need to play smart. We need to keep our composure in a rivalry game – all of things that you always constantly address with your guys in this type of game. That’s something we addressed this morning, and we’ll continue to address throughout the week.”

While Muschamp has only been the head coach of the Gamecocks for a short time, he was already aware of the rivalry.

“This is always a game you pay attention to being in the Southeast,” Muschamp said. “It’s one of the great rivalries in the Southeast. I didn’t really have a side of it either way, but you always enjoy Thanksgiving games and the rivalries involving all the different schools.”

And the South Carolina fans have made their feelings for Clemson known since the beginning.

“I don’t know if the other spots will help you at all, other than being here your first day and walking by people talking about beating Clemson,” he said. “You hear that very quickly, and you understand the importance of the game. We’ve talked about winning our state all the time - whether it’s recruiting or on the field, whatever we need to do. The competition between the two schools is very healthy.”

If the Gamecocks are to upset Clemson, Muschamp said priority number one is limiting Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

“I don’t know if you’re going to stop a guy like him. You have to limit him, and that’s exactly the word we’ve used,” he said. “Where he gives you the most issues is the off-rhythm plays and his creativity. It’s very hard to finish on him in the pocket because he’s a bigger target who is a hard guy to get down. He’s a strong guy, and he also runs extremely well. All of the things you want in your quarterback he possesses. Number one is his leadership ability and his ability to positively affect the guys around him.

“I think the biggest thing is he’s going to create some plays with his legs. That’s going to happen in the game,” Muschamp said. “You’ve got to limit those as much as you can. You’ve got to change it up coverage-wise. You’ve got to stay in coverage. You’re going to have to cover a guy twice in one down at times during the game, because he’s going to be able to extend plays. You’re covering really good skill guys, so that’s part of it. Just execute the defense – we don’t need to do anything superhuman. We just need to play. That’s where you get in a game like this and guys try to do too much. He tries to do a little too much and that’s when you make a mistake and it gives them a big play. That’s what we can’t allow to happen. Again, at the end of the day we understand that they’ve got some good players and they’re going to make some plays. We need to make ours.”

Offensively, South Carolina will need to slow down Clemson’s front seven – including Dexter Lawrence, Carlos Watkins and Christian Wilkins.

“Defensively, Brent Venables does a really nice job. They’re very multiple up front. They can give you a lot of issues in the run and pass games as far as protection,” he said. “They’ve got some really good football players in (Ben) Boulware and Kendall Joseph, 34. He’s really caught my eye watching the tape as a guy who’s playing extremely well for them in my opinion. They’re very talented on the back end. Dexter Lawrence up front is a true freshman playing well. Christian Wilkins is a very good player. They’re talented across the board in the front seven.
“Athletically you see the front seven, and they have an attacking style under Brent Venables. It’s a very vertical penetration, and our guys have to be very gap sound as far as those things are concerned. He lets his front guys play, and you look at the top defensive coaches across the board they cut those guys loose.”

Other Notes

Offensive scouting report

“Clemson is a very good football team, very deserving of their rank, wherever they are in the rankings. They’ve got a bunch of good players. They have a great staff. They do a really good job offensively. Tony Elliott does a fantastic job. They’re averaging 40-something points and 500 yards a game. They’re extremely talented.

“Deshaun Watson is a fantastic football player. I can’t add any adjectives to his name as far as what he’s accomplished and what he’s done. He can hurt you in a lot of ways. He’s very smart. He understands their scheme and system and does an outstanding job. He’s a really good football player.

“There are a lot of talented guys around him: Mike Williams, Artavis Scott, Ray-Ray (McCloud) and Deon Cain and Hunter Renfrow. They’re really talented guys that are very explosive offensively. Wayne Gallman is the guy I really like as far as tough hard-nosed runner. (He’s) a tough, one-cut runner who gets the ball north and south. He runs behind his pads and runs through contact and competes. Jordan Leggett, the tight end, is a matchup issue you’ve always got to account for. But (they’re) very explosive offensively.”

On freshman defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence

“They do what they do. He is an explosive guy. He’s got really good lower-body flexibility. He can change direction. He is unusually strong for 17-, 18-years old, however (old) he is. He’s a really good football player. I recruited him at Auburn last year. I watched him work out. He has all of the physical attributes, and obviously, seeing him transfer very well as a freshman, he has the mental attributes you need to be successful as a football player. He’s a very good football player.”

On his relationship with Dabo Swinney

“I first met him when I was at Auburn and we played Clemson in the Peach Bowl. I have a lot of respect for Dabo. He’s done a good job, and they have some really good players and staff. Schematically, they give you a lot of issues, and their guys play well and have won a bunch of games. I’ve got a lot of respect for the job he does.”

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