December 16, 2015 • Volume 37 • Issue 26 • $1.50
Will Muschamp on Gamecock Football: ‘The ceiling is limitless. We’re about winning championships here’ Postmaster: Time sensitive material. Please expedite
Ray Tanner: ‘We got our man’ Publication mailed from Columbia on Monday, Dec. 14
2 • Spurs & Feathers
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Contact Us: 326 Rutland Drive N.W. PO Box 456 Aiken, SC, 29801 To subscribe: Please call 800-559-2311; annual subscription price is $50 Ellen Priest Publisher Aiken Communications, Inc. Tim O’Briant General Manager firstname.lastname@example.org (803) 335-1400 Ext. 500 Brian Hand Executive Editor email@example.com (803) 335-1399 Ext. 506 Ed Girardeau Contributing Editor/ Advertising Account Executive firstname.lastname@example.org (803) 646-9807 Dee Taylor Advertising Director (803) 644-2371 Kathy Boyette Advertising Sales Manager (803) 295-3654 email@example.com Brooks Rogers Advertising Representative (803) 446-4022 firstname.lastname@example.org Reporter Kyle Heck email@example.com Photographers Allen Sharpe and Jenny Dilworth Cover Design Brian Hand (photo by Jenny Dilworth) Postal Information: SPURS & FEATHERS (USPS 12779) (ISSN 7454368X) is published 26 times annually. The frequency is monthly from December to February, bi-weekly in March, monthly in April, bi-weekly in May, bi-weekly in June, monthly in July and August and weekly from September through December 2. One additional issue was ran on Dec. 16. SPURS & FEATHERS also publishes two slick-paper magazine issues — one in April and one in August. The annual subscription price is $50 for non Gamecock Club members. Members of the Gamecock Club receive a discounted subscription as a member benefit. Spurs & Feathers is published by Aiken Communications, Inc., 326 Rutland Drive NW, Aiken, SC, 29801-4010. Periodicals postage paid at Columbia, SC Postmaster: Send changes to SPURS & FEATHERS, PO Box 456, Aiken, SC, 29802.
December 16, 2015
Reminder from Spurs & Feathers Thank you so much for your continued support of Spurs & Feathers. Please remember that this is our last issue of 2015. We will return with our first printed edition per our contract with the Gamecock Club at the end of January. In addition, this year we will also have special digital magazines available on our website in February, March, May and June. We will also have printed newspaper editions in April and July as well as printed magazines in August and December. The Spurs & Feathers’ weekly football newspaper editions return in September. As always, you can visit www.SpursandFeathers.com for daily coverage of all things
Gamecock. You can also follow us on Twitter @SpursFeathers or like us on Facebook. 2016 Spurs & Feathers schedule Jan. 27 newspaper (start of new year) Feb. 24 digital magazine (springs sports lookahead) March 16 digital magazine (postseason basketball lookahead) April 27 newspaper (basketball, spring football wrapup) May 25 digital magazine (springs sports) June 15 digital magazine (springs sports) July 27 newspaper (SEC Media Days)
Aug. 24 magazine (preseason football) Sept. 7 newspaper Sept. 14 newspaper Sept. 21 newspaper Sept. 28 newspaper Oct. 5 newspaper Oct. 12 newspaper Oct. 19 bye week (no newspaper) Oct. 26 newspaper Nov. 2 newspaper Nov. 9 newspaper Nov. 16 newspaper Nov. 23 newspaper Nov. 30 newspaper Dec. 21 magazine (end of year)
Women’s basketball announces three bus trips for 2015-16 south carolina athletics media relations South Carolina Athletics announced plans for three bus trips for fans to follow the women’s basketball team on the road against East Carolina (in Myrtle Beach, S.C.), at Auburn and at Tennessee. Each trip includes a ticket to the game, a t-shirt, a boxed lunch, assorted snacks, soft drinks/water and round-trip transportation. The cost for each trip varies, or fans can purchase all three for $180. Sun., Dec. 20 -- vs. East Carolina -- Myrtle Beach, S.C. $65 per person 9 a.m. departure from Columbia
1 p.m. tipoff 7:30 p.m. return to Columbia Thu., Jan. 21 -- at Auburn $60 per person 12:30 p.m. departure from Columbia 7 p.m. tipoff 3:30 a.m. return to Columbia Mon., Feb. 15 -- at Tennessee $85 per person 1 p.m. departure from Columbia 7 p.m. tipoff 2:30 a.m. return to Columbia All departure and return times are estimates and subject to change Reservations can be made online at GamecocksOnline.com, by calling the Gamecock Club at 803-777-4276 or by visiting the
Gamecock Club office at the Rice Athletics Center (M-F, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.). Reservations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and payment must be made at the time of the reservation request. If mailing, please send to the Gamecock Club (Rice Athletics Center, Attn: Tracy Murphy, 1304 Heyward St., Columbia, SC 29208). Once the buses are All Gamecock basketball filled, trip rescoverage sponsored by ervations will Yesterdays be closed.
Gamecock Club information/ upcoming events Lexington County Annual Board Meeting When: Tuesday, January 12, 2016. Location: Cayce Tennis & Fitness Center 1120 Fort Congaree Trail Cayce, SC 29033 Time: 6 p.m. RSVP very important: firstname.lastname@example.org
University of South Carolina Board of Trustees member Dr. Eddie Floyd presents Florence County Gamecock Club “Member of the Year” award to Reamer King at their 2015 Fall Rally.
Spurs & Feathers • 3
December 16, 2015
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4 • Spurs & Feathers
December 16, 2015
Ray Tanner on hiring of Will Muschamp: ‘We got our man’ by brian hand Executive Editor
Last year around this time, Ray Tanner talked with new Gamecock head football coach Will Muschamp about different things and the conversation struck a chord with South Carolina’s Athletics Director. So much so that when asked why Muschamp was the “right fit” for the South Carolina job at his introductory press conference at Williams-Brice Stadium on Monday, Dec. 7, that particular conversation is what came to Tanner’s mind. “It stuck with me,” Tanner said. “Just the conversation and the tone.” That “right fit” is something that Tanner went into the coaching search for Steve Spurrier’s replacement looking to find and he believes Muschamp fully fits that bill, particularly since for Tanner it was important that he found someone that considered South Carolina a destinationtype job. “If you had been in my meeting with him, that was part of the process,” Tanner said. “This was not the place where you stay for a little while and then you go somewhere else. This is a destination. I talked to him about his family, I talked to him about the coaches that are here now and I talked to him about my career and where we are at the University of South Carolina. It’s a very special place with a tremendous fanbase and he understood and certainly he’s in the same place with us.” Tanner also received many phone calls and texts after the announcement of the hire from some of Muschamp’s former players telling him what a great decision he had made. Those texts and calls further emphasized to Tanner that he made the right decision. “Everyone says good things about him, from presidents down to his studentathletes,” Tanner said. “That’s very important to me.” Tanner like South Carolina fans everywhere is excited about what the future holds with Muschamp at the helm of Gamecock football. “I would say we got our man. We got a Gamecock,” Tanner said. “Buckle up your seat belts and get on board.”
photo by allen sharpe
Spurs & Feathers • 5
December 16, 2015
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December 16, 2015
Force of Will: Why Muschamp is the right fit, at the right time, for South Carolina football
nor Shaw, Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, Bruce Ellington, and others. But during that span, South Carolina never finished higher than 36th nationally in total offense, 31st in scoring Take a man with previous head coaching ex- offense. perience in the SEC. An architect of defenses The Gamecocks’ lowest finish in total dethat never finished lower than 15th nationally in fense during that time? 19th. South Carolina yards allowed. A well-known recruiter whose churned out terrific skill players, but defense signing classes ranked fifth, eighth, 12th, and was still the bulwark of those teams. fourth nationally. At Florida, Muschamp was known for asSounds like a home run hire for South Caro- sembling defenses that played fast and physical. lina, doesn’t it? In two of the last four seasons, the Gamecocks’ That man, 44-year-old Will Muschamp, was worst offensive games came against – you introduced Monday as South Carolina’s 34th guessed it – Florida. The defense he behead football coach at Williams-Brice Stadium. queathed to the Gators finished sixth nationally Yet the last question that athletic director Ray in 2015, and reached the SEC Championship Tanner fielded at Muschamp’s press conference game against Alabama. was about the social-media anxiety his hiring The SEC will always be a “line of scrimhad generated. mage” league. From Auburn to LSU to Flor“We got our man. We got a Gamecock,” ida, Muschamp has shown an ability to build Tanner replied, drawing applause from the defenses that are up to code. Board of Trustees and Gamecock Club He’s also built a reputation as a dogged remembers seated on the right side of the Zone. cruiter and talent evaluator. It was no surprise “Buckle up your seatbelt. Get on board.” that three hours after he stepped off the podium It’s true that Muschamp went at Williams-Brice Stadium, the 28-21 in his four seasons at first photos surfaced of MusFlorida (a tenure that included a champ visiting a prospective Sugar Bowl appearance, which recruit. The Gamecocks’ new at last check, wasn’t given out coach may have said he doesn’t by raffle). Even he acknowlpay attention to star ratings, but edged that he wished his time the numbers are undeniable. in Gainesville had ended differAt Florida, Muschamp strung ently. together four consecutive signBut move past the optics. ing classes that ranked 12th or Focus on the fit, not the flash. higher nationally according to Muschamp addresses the two arRivals.com. South Carolina has eas that can help turn around the only had one of those in the last Gamecocks the fastest: defense decade. and recruiting. “I see myself as a lot like South Carolina’s halcyon Coach Tanner – a blue-collar era, a 33-6 run from 2011 to guy who’s going to outwork 2013 was built on both. Yes, you,” Muschamp said, an ethos Andy Demetra the Gamecocks had all-time that could easily apply to his Contributing great offensive players like Conefforts on the recruiting trail. Writer
photo by jenny dilworth
That inexhaustible energy will help the Gamecocks shrink the talent gap, and fast. Give him the trust that he’ll learn from his experiences in Gainesville, and bring consistency and stability to the offensive side of the ball. Give him the faith that he’ll hire a bright, tenacious group of assistants, full of big ideas and bigger chips on their shoulders. Here, take another blind taste test. Read the following paragraphs about another once-fired, defensive-minded head coach: “You know what I said when I heard they were hiring [fill in the blank]? Maybe you said the same thing. ‘Oh, no.’” That came from a Los Angeles Times column published December 16, 2000. Care to guess the head coach the writer was referring to? Pete Carroll at Southern Cal. It’s easy for Twitter and message boards to
feed fans’ angst and distort their perspective. But here’s a better idea: embrace Will Muschamp with the same energy and passion that he plans on bringing to South Carolina. The Gamecocks just landed an elite recruiter, a proven defensive mind, and a man who has already been tested in the head coaching crucible of the SEC. Gamecock football fans have always thrived on a “prove ‘em wrong” mentality. Will Muschamp, entering his second stint as an SEC head coach, may be the embodiment of that. Talk about a fit. Better yet, just heed the words of the athletic director who hired the Gamecocks’ new head coach. Said Ray Tanner at Monday’s press conference, unofficially kicking off the Will Muschamp era: “Here we go. If you want to be fast and furious, that’s where we’re going.”
Spurs & Feathers • 7
December 16, 2015
Columbia is Hoop City Earlier this year at SEC Media Days in Charlotte, I playfully asked South Carolina women’s basketball senior guard Tiffany Mitchell and sophomore forward A’ja Wilson if Columbia was the center of the basketball universe. They - as they should have - kind of laughed off the notion that Columbia would be seen this way as they were only focused on the task at hand, which is winning basketball games. Still, they fully understood how special it was that South Carolina led the country in women’s basketball attendance last year and continues to do so again this year. All of this was asked in October well before the 2015-16 seasons even commenced for South Carolina men’s and women’s basketball, but with the two programs a combined 16-0 as of Saturday, Dec. 12 (our printing of this edition of S&F), it’s pretty safe to say it right now: Columbia is Hoop City. In fact, South Carolina is the only school in the country All Gamecock basketball right now to have two unde- coverage sponsored by feated programs Yesterdays
as both the men and women are a perfect 8-0 on the season. Both have been playing in front of terrific crowds at the Colonial Life Arena and there is a buzz permeating Columbia and really the Palmetto State about both of the programs. What’s most impressive about the two undefeated starts is that both programs are doing it as a team to say the least. The South Carolina men’s basketball program has five Gamecocks averaging in double figures with reigning SEC Player of the Week Mindaugas Kacinas leading the way at 14.4 points per game. On the women’s side, four Gamecocks are averaging in double figures with three-time SEC Player of the Week A’ja Wilson leading the way at 18.4 points per game. The South Carolina women’s basketball team has rewarded the numerous Gamecocks in attendance at the Colonial Life Arena by winning 37 straight games. The 37-game home winning streak is the second longest home winning streak in the country at this point in time. The South Carolina men’s basketball team is off to its best start overall since the 2003-04 season. All of the above is just a small sampling of all the great things happening with Gamecock men’s and women’s basketball on and off the court, but it’s safe to say at the same time it is also just a sign of bigger things to come.
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8 • Spurs & Feathers
December 16, 2015
National media chimes in on Will Muschamp hire by kyle heck Reporter
Just like with some Gamecock fans, there were a lot of mixed emotions from the national media about South Carolina’s hiring of Will Muschamp as its next head coach. However, the best perspective on a coach always comes from the people who actually worked with him on a daily basis and there were a lot of good things said about Muschamp around the Auburn program, where Muschamp spent a year as the defensive coordinator last season. Before the hiring of Muschamp became official at South Carolina, media around the Auburn program talked about how detrimental it would be if Muschamp left the school. “Practically, Muschamp leaving now would take away the best coach on the staff, whose defense improved throughout the season and gave the Tigers a chance to win in five of the six SEC games they dropped,” wrote Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com. “LSU was the only SEC opponent to score 30 points or more on Auburn in regulation.” Some people look solely at the fact that the Tigers were statistically worse on defense in 2015 than they were a year before. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Auburn didn’t have its best defensive player in Carl Lawson for seven games and Muschamp was forced to play quite a few freshmen. As talented as they were they still had to adjust to the rigors of college football. Once Lawson returned and the players received more experience, the defense started to improve, as Scarbinsky noted. Jay G. Tate, Publisher for Auburn’s Rivals website, pointed out another reason as to why it took the Auburn defense a while to adjust and it had to do with Muschamp having to change the entire culture. According to Tate, Muschamp was surprised by the lack of toughness he saw in the Auburn defense upon arrival. That meant that the new coach had to change the way the Tigers practiced to get them more physical. While the stats didn’t show it, Tate said the mission was accomplished. “Auburn’s defense was below average (again) this season from a statistical perspective,” Tate wrote. “Points allowed per game and yards allowed per game were
photo by jenny dilworth
higher in 2015 than they were in 2014 while takeaways dropped from 27 to 18. By nearly any objective measure, the Tigers didn’t improve under Muschamp. Yet there was a critical difference on the field. Auburn’s defense went after people and made an effort to impose their will on the opponent. Pads always were popping. Crowds ooh’d and aah’d as the Tigers lined up graphic hits in space. Teams that played Auburn, by and large, needed a day off after playing Muschamp’s defense. Does that have value? A mathematician would say no; a football coach could argue a better approach is worth more than statistics.” National media were wary of Muschamp because of his fiery demeanor on the sideline and it had a lot to do with the memory of the Iron Bowl fresh in their minds. During Auburn’s rivalry game against Alabama, Muschamp was assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty for arguing a late hit out of bounds. In his introductory press conference at South Carolina on Monday, Dec. 7, Muschamp said he knows he can’t get out of control like that as head coach of the Gamecocks. There were positive things said about Muschamp on a national level, however. ESPN analyst and former Gator great Jesse Palmer said Muschamp could succeed at South Carolina because of his familiarity with the SEC as well as his recruiting and
defensive prowess. “I don’t know if anybody really denies that Will Muschamp still is one of the better defensive minds in all of college football,” Palmer said. “He’s multiple with the schemes he uses and he’s always been able to recruit NFL talent to that side of the ball.” Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi covered Muschamp extensively at Florida and he loves South Carolina’s hire. “Will Muschamp being hired by South Carolina is actually a good move by the Gamecocks ... I still believe he is a sharp invididual, a good football coach and a top-notch recruiter who will learn from the mistakes he made at Florida,” Bianchi said before later noting, “don’t ever forget, the greatest football coach of our era – Bill Belichick – failed in his first head-coaching gig with the Cleveland Browns.”
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Spurs & Feathers • 9
December 16, 2015
Passion for Gamecock basketball on display at Columbia Tip-Off Club by kyle heck Reporter
a former South Carolina men’s basketball player who played for legendary coach Frank McGuire and was part of the ACC championship-winning It’s a special time to be a South Carolina basteam in 1971. “Naturally people want to see winketball fan right now and the crowd at the Coners and I think this is a pretty good indication of lumbia Tip-Off Club’s first meeting of the year that. It’s only going to get better.” was proof of that. What’s remarkable is that just a few years ago, On Tuesday, Dec. 8, a great crowd showed up the Columbia Tip-Off Club was dormant. Howin the Frank McGuire room at Colonial Life Are- ever, when Martin came in four years ago, he sat na to hear men’s basketball coach Frank Martin down with Powell and told him that he wanted to and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley start it up again. speak. Those in attendance also The Columbia Tip-Off club got a special tour of the locker has been supporting basketball at rooms inside the facility. South Carolina for over 50 years Both Martin’s and Staley’s and after undergoing a transforteams are undefeated right now, mation a few years ago, it’s as making South Carolina the only strong as ever and also offers a school in the nation with undegreat chance for former teamfeated men’s and women’s basketmates to hang out and talk about ball teams. what’s going on with Carolina All Gamecock basketball basketball presently. “The more they build their coverage sponsored by programs, the more excitement “We’re all excited,” said Bill Yesterdays (there’ll be),” said Dennis Powell, Gause, another former men’s
Both Martin and Staley spoke about their teams in depth, but they also talked about the wonderful support they have gotten over the years from both fans and the South Carolina administration. “We’re spoiled,” Martin said simply. Both Martin and Staley are extremely active on social media, engaging with Gamecock Nation every day. Because of their personalities, it’s been easy for Powell and the Columbia Tip-Off Club to get people excited in what they’re doing and they are excited to continue working with the two coaches. “They’re two coaches that really fit in well photo by jenny dilworth with the community,” Powell said. “They’ve Gamecock great Gary Gregor talks with embraced our community and you don’t see that Anya Martin at Columbia Tip-Off event. often. They love living here, they love working here and they know what their jobs are.” basketball player and a board member for the Co- For more information, please email the Columlumbia Tip-Off Club. “There are several former bia Tip-Off Club at columbiatipoffclub@gmail. basketball players in there. We do have a good com. You can call the Columbia Tip-Off Club at time and we enjoy coming back no matter win or 803-767-1407. You can also follow the Columbia lose, we enjoy seeing each other.” Tip-Off Club on Twitter at @ColaTipOffClub.
Martin and Antigua set incredible example for Hispanic youth by brian hand Executive Editor South Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin consistently preaches there are things bigger than a game. He understands that he is judged by wins and losses and embraces that, but even with a perfect 8-0 start for his Gamecocks it was the matchup of the only two Hispanic-American head coaches at the major Division I level in South Carolina’s Frank Martin and South Florida’s Orlando Antigua that stuck out in South Carolina’s eventual 81-63 win on Saturday, Dec. 5. “When Orlando got hired I called him right away because he and I have been friends for a while now,” Martin said during his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 2, before the showdown between the two friends. “I called him not just to congratulate him, but to offer whatever help I could offer. Then we talked. We talked about figuring out a way as
photo by jenny dilworth
we both build our programs to play each other. Maybe 50 years from now there will be more Hispanic-American coaches, maybe there’s six or seven. We need to bring a little bit of light to
that. I know we both take unbelievable responsibility for that flag that we both carry.” That responsibility was more than evident before, during and after the game.
ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez helped to promote the importance of the game by visiting with both Martin and Antigua before the game for a feature that ran twice on SportsCenter on Thursday, Dec. 3, and Saturday, Dec. 5. Martin also appeared on “The Paul Finebaum Show” on Thursday, Dec. 3, to talk about breaking cultural barriers. The efforts of everyone involved were highlighted particularly during the game between South Carolina and USF on the SEC Network on Saturday, Dec. 5, as Antigua and Martin both talked with Gomez together just before tipoff. To top it all off, Martin and Antigua even talked together after the Gamecock win with Gomez. The efforts were extraordinary by all involved during the heat of the basketball season, but for Martin it was all about encouraging Hispanic youngsters to become involved and stay in the game of basketball. “You can’t put winning games above winning people,” Martin said.
10 • Spurs & Feathers
December 16, 2015
photo by jenny dilworth
Muschamp: ‘We’re about winning championships here’ by brian hand Executive Editor
to choose what he considered the “perfect fit” for South Carolina and in Muschamp he sees just that as the 44-year-old checks off all of the New South Carolina head football coach Will qualities that Tanner believed were key. Muschamp is universally viewed as an elite “I wanted the search to be right,” South Carorecruiter. lina’s Athletic Director said of the process in The coaching veteran pointed out during his choosing Muschamp. “And we got it right.” introductory press conference at WilliamsMuschamp takes over the head coaching poBrice Stadium on Monday, Dec. 7, that for sition at South Carolina having at points served those that worry if he can bring that recruiting as a defensive coordinator at LSU, Auburn and prowess to South Carolina it’s all very simple. Texas. “Gamecock Nation if you don’t think I can Muschamp was also tabbed as the head recruit, look at her and look at me,” Muschamp coach in waiting at one point at Texas before said of his wife, Carol. “I can sell ice to an eventually taking the reins as the head coach at eskimo.” Florida. That’s exactly what South Carolina fans Muschamp consistently had Florida among everywhere are hoping for from Ray Tanner’s the best in the country defensively during his choice for the 34th head coach in Gamecock time with the Gators. The 2012 SEC Coach football history. of the Year would depart Gainesville after the Tanner has long pointed out that he wanted 2014 season having compiled a 28-21 record.
Despite having coached at some of the best programs in the history of football, Muschamp believes that South Carolina is at “the top” of all of the places he has been. “The ceiling is limitless,” Muschamp said of what he expects in the future from his program. “We’re about winning championships here. And I stated that and I believe that.” One of the things that particularly stood out to Muschamp in regards to deciding to take over at the University of South Carolina is the success that Steve Spurrier had with the Gamecocks, noting “he’s come in here and certainly he’s raised the level.” Muschamp knows it’s tough to follow a legend like the Head Ball Coach as in his words “there is only one Steve Spurrier,” but he is excited about the opportunity as just seeing Tanner’s passion alone has him thrilled to be the head coach at South Carolina.
“As much as anything you meet with Coach Tanner and you see, here’s a guy that wants the best for the University of South Carolina,” Muschamp said. “Here’s a guy that loves the University of South Carolina and has invested his life in the University of South Carolina. When you see an investment like that it kind of motivates you as a coach in that this guy willing to do what it takes to be successful and I certainly want to be a part of that team.” Officially introduced at the helm of the Gamecock football program, Muschamp now turns his full attention to backing up his words about placing South Carolina among the elite in the SEC and nationally. No timetable is set by Muschamp for filling out his coaching staff right now, but he says it will be a strong one with a clear emphasis - “If they can’t recruit, they can’t coach here,” Muschamp said.
Spurs & Feathers • 11
December 16, 2015
photo by allen sharpe
Hiring of Muschamp very intriguing for Gamecock fans by kyle heck Reporter It’s no secret that Will Muschamp might not have been the name that many South Carolina fans were thinking of when Steve Spurrier first resigned from his post as head coach of the Gamecocks earlier this year. However, on Monday, Dec. 7, Athletics Director Ray Tanner officially introduced Muschamp as the 34th head coach of the University of South Carolina. The new coach has been a defensive coordinator in the SEC for six seasons and was also the head coach at Florida from 2011-14, compiling a 28-21 record before being let go by the Gators following a 6-5 season in 2014. Muschamp said several times during his introductory press conference that he believes he has learned many things from his time at Florida, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. “I was pleased to hear him speak a bit about the offense since he is so well-known for his defenses,” said Derrick Dominick, who listened to all of Muschamp’s introductory press conference on the radio. “While he didn’t go into a ton of detail he certainly alluded to the possibility of running a more upbeat type of offense as opposed to the three yards and a cloud of dust offense he started running at the beginning of his tenure at Florida. With the right personnel you can make any offense work.” Along with defense, Muschamp is also known
as one of the best recruiters in the country. He consistently put together top-5 recruiting classes at Florida and within minutes of the conclusion of his introductory conference on Monday, he was out in the Columbia area recruiting. “Look at Florida this year, that was his recruits and they did quite well,” said Tom Studer, who also added he believed that Florida may have pulled the trigger on Muschamp a little too early. “I think he’ll do a good job with recruiting.” Another thing that Muschamp is well-known for is his fiery personality and demeanor on the sideline during games. While Muschamp himself has said that he needs to tone it down some, there are fans that believe his energy and enthusiasm will be a good thing for Gamecock football. “I love when a coach is on the side yelling and screaming,” current South Carolina student Samantha Flynn said. “As someone who was an athlete, I’ve learned more from the coaches who yelled at me and got in my face than the coaches that just were on the side making under their breath comments. I think they need the energy. After Shawn Elliott got in there, the energy changed and I think that needs to continue to happen.” There’s always questions with every hire, but one thing that seems certain is that Gamecock Nation is ready to see what Muschamp can do on the recruiting trail this offseason before beginning his first season in charge in 2016.
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12 • Spurs & Feathers
December 16, 2015
South Carolina Gamecocks
Recruiting Round-up South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp along with assistants Kurt Roper and Travaris Robinson met with Gamecock quarterback commitment Brandon McIlwain of Newtown, PA and his family Wednesday afternoon in their home in Newtown, PA. It was the first meeting for the new coaches with the prize of USC’s 2016 recruiting class and he had several questions for the trio. Wednesday night McIlwain said he’s satisfied with the answers for now. “I asked them where they see the program going and what their plans are for the program, where they see me fitPhil Kornblut ting into the offensive Contributing scheme and things Writer like that,” McIlwain said. “I was really happy with the answers. They want to run a spread, hurry up offense and run as many plays as they can to get as many chances to score. They love the way I play and the way that I can move and throw the ball to begin with, because accuracy is the most important thing for a quarterback, and the way I can move and use my feet to extend plays is exactly what they are looking for. Also, they were saying how they were really excited for the future of the program. They have a lot of things they can build on and they see a foundation there that they are excited to continue to build on that in the next few years.” McIlwain is no stranger to Muschamp and Roper because he was recruited by Florida and had the Gators in his top two before committing to the Gamecocks nearly a year ago. He said he’d already developed a good relationship with Roper before Wednesday’s visit. “He’s an amazing coach and an amazing teacher of the game,” he said. “He’s extremely smart and understands football, understands the quarterback position very well. He’s someone I feel I can learn from extremely well and he’s going to help me reach my potential and become a lot better at quarterback.” One of the other points of the conversation dealt with the possibility that 2017 quarterback Jake Bentley, the son of new USC running backs coach Bobby Bentley, will join the program as well and the issues that can arise from a father-son situation. McIlwain said to him, it’s not an issue at all. “He is a year behind me and I’m confident that when I get there
By Phil Kornblut
I’m going to prove myself and I’m not going to have to worry about that. That’s not something I’m worried about because I know that the way that I can compete and the way that I can play, that’s not going to be a big worry. It’s the coaches’ job to bring in the best players at every position in every class. If that happens to be him, than that’s him, but it’s not something that I’m worried about because I love competition and I’ll keep trying to compete with the kid, but I’m confident in what I can do and I’m confident in my abilities.” McIlwain and his family were in Columbia this past weekend for the official visit and he said after that he will know if he’s going to enroll early and eliminate the option of the pro baseball draft for the next three years. It would also mean no other official visits for him. McIlwain said if he doesn’t enroll early the other official visits are possible. He said he’s also remained in touch with his former USC recruiter GA Mangus, and if he does not enroll early at USC, McIlwain said a look at the school where Mangus lands is possible. “He’s a guy that’s recruited me and I had a great relationship with him, but nothing like that can really be said until we see where he does end up,” McIlwain said. “It could be a school that I like and I’ll give it a look because I have so much respect for Coach Mangus and I loved everything about the way he recruited me. I’ll definitely at least give it a look, but South Carolina is where I’m committed and that’s kind of how it is right now.” McIlwain added that he doesn’t have a feel for where Mangus might end up. Bentley, by the way, currently favors Stanford. He also has offers from Georgia, Miami, Wake Forest and Vanderbilt. Of course, it can be presumed USC has or will offer at some point. This season Bentley passed for 2834 yards, 28 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. DE Jordan Smith of Lithonia, GA decommitted from USC Monday announcing his decision on Twitter. Smith cited the departure of his recruiter Lorenzo Ward from the staff as a major reason. “After talking it over with my family and coaches, I have decided to de-commit from South Carolina,” Smith wrote. “Losing Coach Spurrier was tough, but losing Coach Ward is tougher. I have narrowed my decision to Tennessee and Florida.” Smith committed to the Gamecocks in late July after attending camp. He said then USC felt like home and he would be a good fit on their defense. He picked the Gamecocks then over Geor-
gia, Florida and Tennessee. He took an official visit to Tennessee last weekend. DB JJ Givens of Mechanicsville, VA also decommitted this week, but unlike Smith, Givens plans to continue considering the Gamecocks. Givens posted his announcement on Twitter. “First and foremost, with a heavy heart, I would like to thank the University of South Carolina for offering me an opportunity to further my education and play football at the collegiate level. However, I will announce that I have de-committed from the school. I will, however, still be visiting and they will be a top school until the end.” Givens has not yet had the chance to talk with new Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp but is expecting him to come in the end of this week. And he said he is planning to visit USC unofficially this weekend. He has not yet set an official visit date. He visited unofficially for the Clemson game. As a defensive player, Givens was excited about Muschamp taking over the program. “He brings great tenacity to the game,” he said. “Great defensive minded coach. I’m still kind of in shock they kind of got rid of all the staff the way that they did but life moves on.” Givens said he’s going to play it by ear regarding his other official visits. Arizona State was in to see him a couple of weeks ago. He is looking at Arizona State, Ole Miss and Maryland for other official visits. And he said North Carolina is getting back in the mix with him as well. Richland Northeast LB TJ Brunson earned the honor of Muschamp’s first recruiting stop as the Gamecocks’ coach. “It was cool, the first person he comes to see after the press conference, it was me,” Brunson said. “It’s pretty cool to have a coach like him to come visit you and give you a scholarship and say he wants to coach you. I’d met him one time before. He’s a great coach and has a vision and a plan. That’s important.” It’s also important to Brunson that Muschamp is a defensive guru and will be selective in the players he will recruit for that side of the ball. “He said I had something a lot of people don’t have and that’s in short space being able to make a short burst and being able to be explosive through the hips,” Brunson said. “He said I will fit well in his scheme, the 4-3, but really they’ll be doing a lot of 3-4 stuff too, so he said I can two gap and one gap, which is a good thing.” Brunson said he will take an unofficial visit to USC Friday and then report for the Shrine Bowl in Spartanburg Saturday. His official visit
is set for January 16th. He’s coming off an official visit to Louisville where he has been committed since July. “I’m talking to my family about everything,” he said. “It’s been about the same for a little bit. They’ve both been two schools I’ve looked at seriously.” He added that the two are even at this point though his commitment is still in place and he said he’s not really looking at anyone else at this point though he was offered by Purdue this week. Conway coach Chuck Jordan said Muschamp’s in home visit with WR Bryan Edwards Monday “went well. He (Muschamp) has been around the block,” Jordan said. Muschamp has known Edwards for several years having offered him in the 9th grade. Edwards will take his official visit to USC this weekend and his coach said he believes he is leaning one way between USC and Clemson, but wouldn’t disclose which way. WR Samuel Denmark of Hanahan was offered Tuesday by Muschamp during a meeting at his school. Denmark has been committed to Virginia Tech since the summer, but is willing to give Muschamp and company a listen. “It was surprising because it’s so late in the process and because I’m already committed and everything,” Denmark said of the offer. “I’ll hear what they have to say. They’re trying to get me up there this weekend before I go to the Shrine Bowl. I’ll talk to my parents about it and see how their schedule is.” Denmark said he and Muschamp met for about 40 minutes and the two seemed to hit it off, but his commitment position with the Hokies hasn’t changed. “He said he liked what he saw on my film,” Denmark said. “He’s a good guy. I’m still 100% with Tech since I’ve been with them the longest.” New Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente visited Denmark and his family last week. “I like him,” he said. USC visited with DB Troy Pride of Greer earlier this week. He has had an offer from the Gamecocks. “It was nice, he’s a great guy,” Pride said of Will Muschamp. He said he did not know if he will visit this weekend. Muschamp and his new defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson brought their Auburn recruiting notes with them. Monday the Gamecock coaches contacted DB Jamarcus King (6-1 180) of Coffeyville JC, KS and offered him. King, a native of Eight Mile, AL will now take his official visit to USC this weekend. “I feel like I can fit in,” said King, who is being recruited as
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a cornerback. “He (Muschamp) and T-Rob (Robinson) have been together for a long time and I feel like they can get something going. Coach Robinson is a great coach, great personality and he’s a super personality.” King has also taken official visits to Auburn, Baylor and Arkansas. He’s not sure he’ll take a fifth visit, but if he does it likely will be to Miami. King is a mid-year graduate with three years to play two. He does not have a favorite. He said if he doesn’t take the fifth visit he’ll make his decision soon after the USC visit. Arkansas was in on Tuesday and he said Muschamp and Robinson are planning to make an in home visit with his family this week. King earned allconference honors this season after totaling 37 tackles with 6 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions and 10 passes defended. RB CJ Freeman of Greensboro, NC took his official visit to USC this past weekend. He is a Gamecock commitment and is coming off a visit to Louisville. He also has taken official visits to Wisconsin and Georgia Southern. He is holding to his commitment at this point, to some degree, but he wants to see how things go this weekend on his visit. “The visit was great,” Freeman said. “I liked the coaches, the atmosphere and the campus was one of the nicest I’ve seen so far. I’m still committed to South Carolina, but with a new coach and possibly staff changes, I won’t know how I will feel till I visit them Saturday. I would say I’m a soft commit.”
He was also highly impressed with the Badgers after his visit there. Fort Dorchester OL John Simpson was visited at school last week by USC recruiter Shawn Elliott and he talked on the phone this week with Muschamp. Elliott has always been one of Simpson’s favorite recruiters and coaches and if he remains with the Gamecocks, and it appears he will, that would be a bonus for them as it pertains to him. “I feel like it would mean a lot because I like his coaching style and I like the things that he does and the way he carries himself when it comes down to coaching.” Simpson also met last week with his recruiters from Tennessee, LSU and Florida. Simpson hasn’t scheduled any official visits yet, but said Clemson and Florida each will get one. He’s not sure on the others. He said all of his top seven…Clemson, USC, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama and LSU are still in it with him, but Clemson, Florida and LSU stand out the most right now. He does not have a single favorite. Simpson said he will take his recruiting into January. He doesn’t want to go all the way to Signing Day, but said he would if he needs to. OL Jordan Johnson of Jacksonville, FL decommitted from Georgia Tech recently and one of the schools that immediately moved to the top of his list was USC. The Gamecocks were in strong contention for him until he committed to Tech last summer. Now that he’s looking around again,
Johnson said USC will get another close look. “I’m open to anybody who wants to talk to me,” Johnson said. “I plan to take an official visit to South Carolina. USC is the only one I have on my list, but I want to see who comes at me. South Carolina has always been one of my favorites.” Johnson said he’s still considering Georgia Tech. He’s also heard from Georgia Southern and Colorado. He’s not naming a favorite at this point. WR Nate Johnson (5-11 175) of Thompson’s Station, TN recently was offered by USC and he’s strongly interested in the Gamecocks. “It’s an out of state SEC offer and South Carolina is big time,” Johnson said. “I’m very interested and especially want to take my official visit. They watched my film and liked how I played and they offered because my skill set is good enough to play for them right now,” Johnson continued. “That’s great route running, great hands and I also track the ball well.” This season he has 72 catches for 1633 yards and 23 touchdowns. Johnson once was committed to Purdue. He’s also talking to Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Miami and Tennessee. The Vols have not yet offered. He has set official visits to Miami for January 16th, Vanderbilt January 23rd and Northwestern January 30th. Former USC commitment DB PJ Blue of Montgomery, AL, who is now committed to Louisville, said the Gamecocks’ hiring of
Will Muschamp doesn’t change his position. He remains committed to the Cardinals. USC OL commitment Will Putnam on the hiring of Will Muschamp: “The new hire is interesting. I need to get back down there and meet with him and his staff.” And he remains committed. “It would take some crazy things to happen for me to decommit.” USC commitment OL Lloyd Cushenberry has set an official visit to Mississippi State for January 22nd. He’s expecting USC to visit this week. DE Sadarius Hutcherson of Huntingdon, TN has added a January 29th official visit to Memphis to his list. He will visit USC January 16th and Arizona State the following weekend. DB Isaiah Stallings of Fayetteville, NC committed Monday night to NC State. He also had offers from USC, Clemson and others. The Shrine Bowl selection visited USC during the season. USC target DL Naquan Jones of Evanston, IL recommitted to Michigan State. Tennessee offered USC commitment 2017 TE Will Register of Chapin.
pep rally also helped the club raise even more money to give back to the University. Despite the aforementioned rough season, For years before Lori Beard moved south those in attendance still had a good time and and became a part of the Colleton County knew that the Gamecocks weren’t going to Gamecock Club, the club in the city of Walter- throw in the towel, which they didn’t. South boro always had a pep rally prior to the South Carolina fought hard against the top-ranked Carolina-Clemson rivalry game. team in the country before falling by a final Now the President of the Colleton County score of 37-32. Gamecock Club, Beard is carrying on that “It was just as fun and exciting as it always tradition. On Nov. 23, Colleton County held has been because everybody had faith and a pep rally in advance of the big game at the knew that our Gamecocks were going to show Walterboro Elks Lodge. There were raffles, up,” Beard said. food, drinks and music. In addition, Cocky In addition, Beard said that she had a few made the trip down to take pictures and get the people come up to her and request more inforcrowd pumped up. mation about joining the Gamecock Club. “We had a great turnout,” Beard said. “With a “It’s just a good opportunity for the Gamelittle bit of a rough season that we had, I was a cocks to be present in our community and little bit worried, but we had a terrific turnout.” everybody knows that we have our party every The Colleton County Gamecock Club holds a year,” Beard said. “It’s just a real nice event.” golf tournament every year and that’s how they As for now, the Colleton County Gamecock pay for the annual pep rally. The raffle at the Club is preparing for the holiday season and
the annual meetings next year to elect new officers. Gamecock Club Executive Director Patrick McFarland was in Walterboro for the pep rally and is looking forward to the Colleton County Gamecock Club continuing to do great things
in the future. “It was a tremendous event,” McFarland said. “It is always fun to attend an event that is family friendly and full of little Gamecocks. We can’t thank Colleton County enough for all they do for the Gamecocks.”
Basketball News: 6-7 Chuba Ohams of Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut has USC, Providence, DePaul and Rutgers on his list at this point.
Annual pep rally a great success for Colleton County Gamecock Club By Kyle Heck Reporter
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photo by jenny dilworth
Former players excited about Muschamp hire by kyle heck Reporter
compiling a 28-21 record with the Gators from 2011-14. Muschamp’s best season at Florida came in 2012, when the Gators went New South Carolina head coach Will 11-2 and finished the year ranked in the Muschamp is well-known throughout the top-10. country in various coaching circles. He’s Muschamp was eventually let go after the widely regarded as one of the best defensive 2014 season, but he took Florida to three coaches in the country as well as a topbowl games in his four years in Gainesville. notch recruiter. While his time there is viewed as a disapOn Monday, Dec. 7, Muschamp was ofpointment by many, that doesn’t mean that ficially introduced as the 34th head coach he will always be an unsuccessful head of the University of South Carolina. Many coach. former players were in attendance at his “I don’t think you throw away what he introductory press conference and they all did at Florida, you just have to know it’s had good things to say about the Rome, there, know it happened, but at the same Georgia native. time don’t hold that against him,” former “I’m very excited. I think he was a great South Carolina quarterback Tommy Suggs fit for us,” Board of Trustees member and said. “The guy deserves another chance. I former Gamecock Chuck Allen said. “I applaud Ray Tanner and the board for havthink he’s one heck of a football coach. He ing the confidence to say, ‘look, we’re going was my favorite from the very beginning.” against the norm, we’re going to give the Muschamp was the defensive coordinator guy another chance.’ I like that.” at Auburn last season before taking over the Before taking over at Florida, Muschamp reins at South Carolina. Before that, he was was the head coach in waiting at Texas unthe head coach at Florida for four seasons, der Mack Brown. That gives an idea of how
respected he is in the coaching community and still is. Muschamp had the opportunity to go to a lot of places, but he chose the University of South Carolina. “I’m fired up just knowing what he can bring with the emotion and the passion,” another former Gamecock quarterback, Ryan Brewer, said. “I’m a huge Shawn Elliott fan and I think he’s kind of got the same thing. He’s a younger guy and can bring the passion to a program that needs it right now.” Muschamp is well known for his fiery personality on the sidelines during games and has always been like that. That passion is something that former players like as well because it shows that he cares about what is happening with his team. “Being a defensive guy, the passion and attention to detail (is great) and the reason a lot of times you see those outbursts is because he wants perfection,” former Gamecock defensive lineman Langston Moore said. “Obviously his record dictates that because whether it’s at Texas or Florida, he
continues to put up the stats. Even though he says he’s not a stat guy, it speaks for itself. A lot of times you don’t have to brag about that. It’s not a one shot deal with him, it’s who he is and I think right now with where we’re at with the program, it’s going to be very refreshing.” In his six seasons as an SEC defensive coordinator, Muschamp’s units ranked among the nation’s top-10 in total defense and scoring defense five times. While some people weren’t happy with the hire because of what happened at Florida, many think that Muschamp is the right hire at South Carolina at the right time. “Frankly, he’s tough and he’s gritty,” Allen said. “He’s also very capable in other respects as you just saw him demonstrate in his press conference. I think he’s what we need at this time. We grew under Steve Spurrier, we grew and got better and the expectations got better and I think this is a great transition. Also the fact that he’s motivated to be here. He really, really wanted to be the coach here.”
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Gamecock Club on Spurrier donation: ‘He’s always going to be a Gamecock’
by brian hand Executive Editor
It was not a surprise to Gamecock Club Executive Director Patrick McFarland. Steve Spurrier has always gone above and beyond for the Gamecock Club. Spurrier’s latest donation to the Gamecock Club came when he decided that instead of taking his final payment from the school he would instead give that more than $70,000 back to helping support the student-athletes representing the University of South Carolina. “He’s always been a great friend of the Gamecock Club from personal appearances to helping us out with reminder calls and renewal calls,” McFarland said. “For him to give one more contribution to the Gamecock Club, I think it just shows that he’s always going to be a Gamecock.” The athletics department at South Carolina could not run without the generous support of Gamecock Club donors and during his time at South Carolina, Spurrier was a big proponent of making sure he did all he could to show donors and fans just how much he appreciated their efforts. In fact, it was noted prior to the start of the 2014 season that Steve and Jerri Spurrier had contributed well over $1 million to the University. At the annual South Carolina media day on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, Spurrier broke down how the donations had worked out in reaching the $1 million mark. “The way it happened when I got here in ‘05, part of my contract was a luxury suite and I told (then Athletic Director) Mike McGee my wife doesn’t need a luxury suite, she likes sitting out there in the stands with the other wives, so go ahead and use that and sell it and sell it to one of our other boosters and what have you,” Spurrier said at the time. “So they figured out that averaged around $50-55,000 thousand a year for that luxury suite. So they added that and (Gamecock legend) Sterling Sharpe and I won a bunch of money in the Chick-Fil-A golf tournament, so they said that was about $250,000 grand over the years. And then (current South Carolina Director of Golf) Puggy Blackmon we did that wine deal and that brought in about $150,000 to the athletic department and I actually wrote a check to the track program my first year here. But anyway, they added it all up and said it came to that and basically I just wanted the Gamecocks to know that ‘hey, this is my school now.’” This now well over $1 million donated by the Spurriers was in addition to the efforts he undertook to make sure South Carolina had more $1 million donors in general. At the time of his stepping away from the program there were around 20 $1 millon donors (including planned gifts). “We found some boosters, some big-time donors that gave over a million bucks,” Spurrier told Spurs & Feathers in the summer of 2014. “When I got there we had one person to give over a million bucks in the history of the school. Our facilities are really good … you got to have
photo by allen sharpe
the facilities to keep up. Within the last eight, nine years at South Carolina ours are up there amongst the best now. That’s been a big reason for our success.” Spurrier also completely understood during his time in charge of the Gamecocks that whether donors were giving millions or were giving $55 at the Roost level of the Gamecock Club every little bit counted towards sustaining success.
“All our fans are doing it very well,” Spurrier concluded. “I talk about our donors a lot, but they’re in position to do that. I’ve learned fundraising is based simply on what you have and we’re not asking anybody to go broke giving to our school. We’re just asking those that have a little extra to give back to your school.” To learn more about the Gamecock Club, please visit www.thegamecockclub.com.
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December 16, 2015
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photo by brian hand
Tanner on King family: ‘We’re honored that they care so much’ by brian hand Executive Editor
The University of South Carolina does not take a backseat to anyone when it comes to athletic facilities. The University is daily working to upgrade facilities for its current and future studentathletes because they know to compete in the SEC and nationally it is incredibly important. Recently a project was completed that upgraded the practice facilities for the South Carolina football program.
South Carolina now has a top-of-the-line indoor facility and two first-class practice fields just outside of the indoor facility to utilize. As always, the endeavor could not have been completed without the generous donations of donors with the Heyward and Reamer King families giving a large donation for one of the two new practice fields dubbed the King Family Practice Field. A special ribbon cutting was held on Saturday, Nov. 28, with Heyward and his wife, Susie, and Reamer and his wife, Betty Gail, all in attendance.
A two-sport student-athlete in track and field and football at South Carolina, Heyward King was happy that the King family could help out Gamecock athletics once again. “It’s really exciting,” Heyward King said at the ribbon cutting. “We are glad to help out every way we can. We’ve not had a good season this year, but we’re going to be alright.” South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner is thankful that the King family has continued to support the Gamecocks in this way. “It’s very special when our donors step up in a big way to give our student-athletes the
opportunity to have some of the finest facilities in the country,” Tanner said. “The King Family has done that with their contribution here to our new practice field adjacent to the indoor facility. It’s as good a practice facility as anybody in the country and we’re so grateful and we’re honored that they care so much about our program.” The naming rights for the second of the two practice fields is still available. For more information, please contact Associate Athletics Director for Development Steve Eigenbrot at 803-777-8116 or SEIGENBR@ mailbox.sc.edu.
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Gamecock Club Board of Directors enthusiastic about Muschamp hire by brian hand Executive Editor Gamecock Club members are obviously some of the most passionate South Carolina fans. Many of the Gamecock Club Board of Directors were in attendance at Will Muschamp’s introductory press conference as South Carolina head football coach at Williams-Brice Stadium on Monday, Dec. 7, and seeing the passion Muschamp has is one of the reasons they are so excited about the hire. “We’re excited with the passion and the recruiting that he’s going to bring to the University,” Charlotte Gamecock Club chapter president James Wolf said. “He’s got a chip on his shoulder and I think we do as well as Gamecocks to show the rest of the country that we belong here.” Richard Loper of the Greenwood County Gamecock Club agrees with Wolf.
“He brings a lot of energy with him,” Loper said. “He’s got some history with some championship programs and he knows what it will take to make a championship program here. He’s a great recruiter and the kids should be excited to come play for him.” Frank Davis of the Edgefield County Gamecock Club is excited about the new era of Gamecock football. “Coach Muschamp is an experienced coach, he’s a tenacious recruiter and I think that’s what we need,” Davis said before later adding, “I trust Ray Tanner in that he’s got the right man that he thinks is going to lead our program and I’m happy with that.” Alison Mundy Burns of the Greenwood County Gamecock Club thinks the future is extremely bright for Gamecock football. “I’m very excited,” Mundy Burns said. “I think the past is in the past and it’s time to move forward and get excited to be a Gamecock again.”
photo by jenny dilworth
South Carolina coaching family welcomes Muschamp family, we are excited for the future!” South Carolina women’s basketball head coach Dawn Staley tweeted to her newest colleague, South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner “welcoming our newest gamecock head coach. always talks about the family atmosphere within Come see us soon coach at the CLA for a hearty the athletics department and in picking Will Mus- Gamecock Nation ovation!” champ for the head football coaching job, he feels South Carolina men’s golf head coach Bill like he found an individual that will fit well within McDonald articulated on Twitter to Coach Musthat family. champ, “welcome to the Gamecock family, coach. In fact, Muschamp agrees, relaying during his in- You and your family will love Columbia and troductory press conference, “there’s a great blend USC.” here. Anytime I meet with a student-athlete, I talk The above tweets are just a small sampling of the in terms of a great blend academically, athletically, tweets made by the Gamecock head coaches who socially, and spiritually for what you’re looking for are thrilled to have Muschamp in the fold. All of in a school, and I see that in South Carolina.” them in some way either retweeted a social media If social media and in talking with other South post or more welcoming Muschamp to South Carolina head coaches is any indication it’s obviCarolina. ous that Muschamp will fit in quite nicely with the To further emphasize how much the head coachGamecock family. es consider it a great move to bring in Muschamp Just minutes after Muschamp made his first just minutes after her second-ranked Gamecocks tweet as the head coach of the Gamecocks that knocked off No. 14/13 Duke at the Colonial Life read “Gamecock Nation, it starts NOW!!!,” South Arena on Sunday, Dec. 6, Staley was asked how Carolina men’s basketball head coach Frank she thinks Muschamp will do with Gamecock Martin tweeted back to Muschamp, “welcome football. onboard. Now let’s roll!” Her response? South Carolina head volleyball coach Scott “I think he’s going to win us a national champiSwanson tweeted, “welcome to the Gamecock onship,” Staley said.
by brian hand Executive Editor
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Ray Tanner found the perfect match to lead the Gamecocks In life, I am a big believer in finding the right match. Whether it is sports, jobs or relationships finding something or someone that has close to the same game plan or personality that I do is something that I believe determines success or failure. There is maybe nothing that adheres to that rule more than sports and college football. For quarterbacks, finding the right system to showcase their talent is imperative if they are to play in the NFL. The same can be said for wide receivers, running backs or any other positions. Often though, it is not thought of that a head coach’s philosophy on how to run a team should match the university but at times that can be an issue if the coach and university are not one and the same. With the hiring of Will Muschamp by Ray Tanner on December 7, I think the Gamecocks found their perfect match in the 34th head coach of the Gamecocks. There are people that will tell you that Muschamp “failed” at Florida. How you want to define failure is entirely your decision, however, to me, having an overall winning record, going to a bowl game in three out of four seasons and cleaning up a program that was deemed “broken” by the previous coach is not failing. What hurt Muschamp at Florida was certainly that he did not win enough for the liking of the Gator fans, but when he did win, it was how he won. Florida wants high flying offense, they want big offensive plays that keep the scoreboard operator busy. Muschamp is a proven defensive mastermind and that was not the type of team that he was in charge of. Instead, Muschamp is going to be at his best when his defense dominates games and his offense is a power team that exerts their will on teams. That is not the Florida way of football, but it is the South Carolina way of football. When Lou Holtz was hired at South Carolina, it was a perfect marriage. The Gamecocks were reaching the rock bottom of the college football landscape and needed the charm, witty humor and quick fixing that Holtz brought. The coaching legend was able to establish some credibility for a program that had become a laughing stock. Bill Gunter After Holtz Contributing showed that Writer winning in Co-
photo by allen sharpe
lumbia was possible, Steve Spurrier was the perfect hire to show that you could win big and compete in the SEC. Once again, it was a perfect match. Spurrier was looking to get back into the SEC and the Gamecocks had all the makings of a program ready to take the next step. Now comes another perfect match in the hiring of Muschamp. During his press conference, Muschamp referred to the program being a “blue collar” type program and I agree with that completely. That is what South Carolina football is in my opinion. The fan base and players are blue collar workers that do not need the flash and glitz but instead pride themselves on out working their competition. In recent years, the Gamecocks had gotten away from that, however, when Holtz
and Spurrier had things rolling it was due to hard workers like Phil Petty, Brian Scott, Sheldon Brown, Antoine Nesmith, Eric Norwood, D.J. Swearinger, Connor Shaw and many more players that were not considered highly recruited coming out of high school. These were guys that were blue collar players, they showed up and worked hard and were the foundations for solid teams. Those guys were then matched with stars like Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney, Melvin Ingram and Cliff Matthews that helped take the program to highs not seen. The Gamecock program is about defense and that is what Muschamp is, the best teams that fans remember were the “fire ant” defense or the stout units under
Holtz or with Ellis Johnson during the Spurrier era. Over the next several months you are likely to see several national media outlets trying to convince you this was not a good hire. Only time will tell whether that is true or not, but what I can tell you is that this is a good fit for both Muschamp and the Gamecocks. Muschamp will hit the recruiting road to improve talent on the Gamecocks squad and make them a more physical, aggressive team that embodies what South Carolina football stands for. It is of my personal opinion that just like with good marriages, Ray Tanner found the right man to lead the Gamecocks forward and that will be reflected much sooner than later.
December 16, 2015
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Dodie Anderson steps up to make sure Gamecocks have ‘fun’ by brian hand Executive Editor To the team Here are your helmets in garnet, go out there and have FUN! - Dodie Love my Gamecocks Forever to Thee Dodie Anderson wrote the above words on the back of an envelope with a check that was given to South Carolina Director of Athletics Development Jack Wilson recently. Inside the envelope was a check to cover the expenses for the cost of the garnet helmets for South Carolina’s Palmetto Bowl showdown with Clemson. The latest incredibly generous gesture by Anderson for South Carolina athletics materialized when she heard that South Carolina interim head coach Shawn Elliott wanted his team to have “fun” to the media in his weekly press conference on Nov. 3. “As a coach, you read players,” Elliott said at the time about trying to bring “fun” back to the program. “You look in their eyes. You see how they walk into meeting rooms – is their head down? Yeah, I felt we had not had fun. Even in our wins, we had not had a whole lot of fun.” Anderson was intrigued by what exactly Elliott meant by this “fun.” “They wanted to have fun, so we went to the source in the team and asked ‘what is this fun you speak of?’” Anderson told Spurs & Feathers. “And they said, they wanted to be in all-garnet for the Clemson game and they didn’t have helmets. So my advisors and I sat here in my kitchen and I said ‘that sounds like fun, let’s do it.’ Of course it meant a rush order and it meant the equipment managers must have had to work their butts off to get them fitted and everything, but they looked good.” The all-garnet look by the Gamecocks received rave reviews, but nevertheless in the game itself despite a valiant effort, South Carolina still just missed in upsetting No. 1 Clemson in a 37-32 loss. Anderson like all Gamecocks everywhere was disappointed in the loss, but at the same time proud of their fight in what had been a tough season. “I don’t know if the helmets made any difference, but they played a great game and Gamecock Nation is very pleased and proud of their heart and effort in every way,” Anderson said.
photo by jenny dilworth
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December 16, 2015
Will Muschamp is the right answer for the Gamecocks A long season has finally come to a close. The final week may have been the longest one. That would be the week after the final game with Clemson. It started Sunday with texts, emails, and phone calls from folks wanting to know who the next head coach would be and why didn’t we know already? The impatience was staggering at times. It seemed that we just could not hire a new coach fast enough. A week passed and we had our man: Will Muschamp will guide the Gamecocks in football. The fact that it was not met with an abundance of jubilation was pretty much expected. Everybody seemed to have a different favorite for the position, but in the end, aside from maybe Mark Richt who was hired by Miami, as far as resumes, all else paled in comparison to Muschamp. That’s not to disparage the other candidates, as they certainly have good resumes, but name one that has Ed Girardeau more head coachContributing ing experience, Editor and overall coaching experience, particularly in the SEC. Without getting into too many names, the comparison with Kirby Smart is interesting. Smart and Muschamp were teammates at Georgia and both were defensive backs. Both have been successful defensive coordinators in the SEC.
Smart has never been a head coach, while Muschamp was head coach at Florida for four years. Though Muschamp didn’t burn the woods down while with the Gators, he did have a winning record and in 2012 went 11-2, 7-1 in the SEC and played in the Sugar Bowl. South Carolina’s best record ever: 11-2, 6-2 in the SEC. Smart may go on and be the best coach ever in the history of Georgia (which would be saying something and will take a long time), but being a successful coordinator does not equal success by any means as being a head coach is a different job. I’ll take the guy with some head coaching experience and who has had success and struggled. Muschamp will at least have a good idea as to what he is getting into. It’s interesting to look back at the backgrounds of other head coaches at USC. We may have been a bit spoiled by the excitement of the last two hires. It was hard to find anyone who wasn’t excited when Coach Spurrier agreed to be the new man in charge of the Gamecocks in 2005. There were a few naysayers as to age and being out of the game for a little while, but the vast majority were thrilled. In 1999, South Carolina was equally excited by the idea of a coach with the background of Lou Holtz coming in. The Gamecocks had gone 1-10 in 1998 and were dismal. Holtz brought an excitement that had not been around the football program in years. Previous to that, Brad Scott was an offensive coordinator at Florida State with no head coaching experience. His tenure certainly did not turn out to be great, though he did win the first bowl game in South Carolina’s history.
that he would bring that kind of success to South Carolina and he did win the only ACC championship in our history in 1969. The point is there is not always a lot of excitement around the hiring of a new coach. There is risk involved. No one knows just how successful any of these guys would ultimately be (or not be). Steve Spurrier was as close to a sure thing when he came to Columbia, but even he brought some doubt. Situations like the Head Ball Coach only happen once in a while. Did anybody really photo by allen sharpe think that Urban Meyer, or Nick Saban, much less Les Miles were going to come to be the new Before that was Sparky Woods. Woods was the head coach? That’s just not being realistic. head coach at Appalachian State and had success Talk has settled down and the general feeling on that level but it never translated in Columbia is that Coach Muschamp will be a great recruiter into many wins. and hire a great staff. Still, I’ve met a few who Going back to the early 80’s, Joe Morrison was insist that this was a mistake. the head coach at New Mexico. I don’t rememMy question to them: whom exactly did you ber there being a whole lot of excitement when expect for USC to hire? I’ve yet to get a good Coach Morrison was hired. The best thing he answer or at least a better answer than Coach had going for him was that he was a star in the Muschamp. That’s because there is not a better NFL with the Giants. In 1984 the Gamecocks answer. went 10-2 under Morrison and rose to #2 in the In fact, former Gamecock great Jeff Grantz put nation. it well to me recently, noting “former players are In the seventies, Jim Carlen was hired out of going to support a passionate and energetic guy Texas Tech. He had also been head coach at West (like) a walk on at Georgia that became a captain. (That) is a pretty good pedigree. Forget about Virginia. He had some success at Texas Tech Florida because this a new and better place.” and finished 11-1 and 11th in the nation the year Coach Muschamp has hit the ground running before he came to South Carolina. Still there and is hard at recruiting the future Gamecocks. was not a tidal wave of excitement with his hiring by any means, but he did have some success I would not bet against him having a great new and recruited George Rogers, the 1980 Heisman class. So the 2015 football season is officially over. Trophy winner. There’s a lot to look forward to in 2016. ExpectaThe one who did cause a good deal of excitement was Paul Dietzel. He came from Army, but tions should not be too high, but I have a good feeling that football will improve quickly and the had previously been at LSU where he had won sky is the limit. Enjoy the ride! a National Championship in 1958. Hope was
Muschamp intangibles should excite Gamecock fans by brian hand Executive Editor
And it was not just because of what he could bring to the defensive staff, but it’s also because of what he brings as a recruiting guru. Earlier this year we made the trip to Auburn, Muschamp is known as one of the strongest Alabama to cover the South Carolina-Auburn recruiters in the country. In fact, during Musmen’s basketball game on Saturday, Jan. 17, champ’s time at Florida he put together classes 2015. that were ranked as high as second nationally In the weeks leading up to the game there had by recruiting pundits. To reach such high rankbeen wide speculation that Will Muschamp ings it takes extreme passion and dedication. would join the South Carolina football coachLast year, Muschamp obviously decided to ing staff and Gamecock fans everywhere were not join what would eventually be Steve Spurexcited for the possibility as he is a known rier’s final staff at South Carolina. But South defensive genius having served as a defensive Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner always coordinator at LSU, Auburn and Texas. knew he could be what the Gamecocks were Muschamp was also tabbed as the head looking for once Spurrier stepped away. coach in waiting at one point at Texas before In fact, Tanner said he would be looking photo by allen sharpe eventually taking the reins as the head coach to find the best fit when deciding on the next at Florida. compiled a 28-21 record. Gamecocks’ head coach. The now 44-year-old consistently had Florida Nevertheless, once Florida decided to part “I am not going to limit myself to assistant among the best in the country defensively dur- ways with Muschamp multiple programs like coaches, head coaches, NFL coaches, long ing his time with the Gators. Muschamp would South Carolina quickly decided that they might time college coaches or anything,” Tanner said depart Gainesville after the 2014 season having want them on their staff for the 2015 season. before officially making the Muschamp hire.
“It is important that we find the best person with passion and dedication to perform at a high level in a very competitive conference in the Southeastern Conference. Certainly integrity. My roots are heavy. I love Columbia and the University of South Carolina. I want somebody to be like that. I want somebody that fits that role. While somebody’s resume may be better, I think it is important that we hire someone with the roots that fit about who we are.” That aforementioned day from last January is noted because Auburn made sure to bring Muschamp out to introduce to the Tiger fans at the basketball game as they knew how much it meant for their recruiting and their football program. It’s now almost the beginning of the next year and Muschamp is a Gamecock and all of the reasons that people coveted him before are the reasons that Tanner thinks he is the right man for the job now. It’s going to be an exciting 2016 and beyond.
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