It is no secret that South Carolina football is a top priority for Gamecock students and fans, regardless of the team's record. With a 7-6 final record and a 28-0 Belk Bowl loss in 2018, the Gamecocks failed to meet preseason expectations after a 9-4 season in 2017.
The Daily Gamecock interviewed University of South Carolina alumni Ted Hyman and Clarke Lindsay, University of South Carolina students Patrick DeMarre, fourth-year broadcast journalism student and fourth-year sport and entertainment management student Noah Diveley and Francis Marion University alumna and Gamecock fan Hope Nye about what went wrong this past football season, and what needs to change as the Gamecocks continue to march towards competing for SEC and national championships.
Q: What was the most frustrating part of the 2018 football season?
TH: "As a whole, I don't think the season, until the Florida game, was a disappointment. Obviously, it's really disappointing losing to Kentucky five years in a row. I mean that's like one of the biggest hangups in our football program, but it was Kentucky's best season ever ... The Florida game was where all the stuff we've heard about Muschamp when he was hired reared its ugly head. We had a huge lead, up by 17, and then just sat on the football for less than a quarter and a half ... And then obviously the end of the season with the Belk Bowl was just really disappointing. I mean there were some highs ... It wasn't a major disappointment, but we just didn't take the strides that I think a lot of fans were hoping we would."
CL: "Just the overall inconsistencies. I love Bentley. I love Jake. I think he's a great quarterback. I think he's a great leader. But he comes out against Clemson, right, and from an offensive perspective he played lights out. 500 and whatever yards and five touchdowns. And then UVA ... That was like the story of the season for me ... It was definitely tough to watch, that's for sure."
PD: "There was some wins that we could have had that were kind of frustrating. The defense was pretty hit or miss, but ultimately I think if you ask anybody it was just the injuries. We had a lot of good players go down that hurt our team."
Q: What should have been different about the past season?
CL: "I'd love to have seen some guys who wanted to play. Not that they didn't want to play, but it seemed like they were lacking tenacity at some point in time. We had Florida — I think we were up 17 in the third quarter against Florida ... and then we don't step on their throats. I think we were kinda missing that a little bit with that team. I'd like to see that from the coaching staff."
ND: "I'd say give Bryan McClendon, our offensive coordinator, more free range to call the plays that he wants. I trust [Will] Muschamp as a head coach, but his hindrance has always been that people don't think he's a good coach on offense. He's a defensive mind, and I think that if he gave McClendon more freedom to call the plays that he wanted, and let him play out the offense instead of Muschamp trying to control the narrative. I'm not saying it'll be better, but it would be a welcome change, because that Florida situation can't happen again."
Q: Going into next season, the Gamecocks have a difficult schedule with top-ranked teams such as Alabama, Georgia and Clemson. With that in mind, what type of results would be considered a success for the 2019 football season?
PD: "Every single year that Muschamp's been here, we've gotten to a bowl game. That's the standard. If you don't get to a bowl game, that's without a doubt it's a failure of a season. And I think they have enough games on their schedule that they could and should win to where that is still very possible. I think if a couple of 50/50 games go our way that maybe we could be an eight win team. I actually feel good that maybe we can beat one out of either Alabama, Clemson or Georgia. And if we get one of those, included with eight wins, I'll be happy."
HN: "I would consider anywhere between seven wins to nine wins. Ever since [Steve] Spurrier left, I just feel like expectations are not as high right now ... Nine wins would be amazing. Seven wins I would take with that schedule. It goes back to not just having the talent, but also the want and the passion to win the game."
ND: "I'd say eight wins, but honestly if we go something like 6-6 and beat Clemson, I don't think anyone is gonna be complaining ... Muschamp hasn't, since he's been here, had a marquee win. He hasn't ... won a game that we weren't supposed to against a good team. With this schedule we have a whole lot of opportunities. If we could take Georgia, Alabama [or] Clemson, one or two of those, I think fans will be happy regardless of the record."
Q: What improvements need to happen in the future for the football program?
HN: I can see, or what I'm hearing and what I'm reading, that the coaches are making a lot of changes. They brought in different types of recruits it looks like, that's really going to help with that ... They seem to really be spending more time on it — you know, making some changes. I just think attitude wise, I think a lot of it is attitude. You've got to want, and go in there with attitude ... You've got to have that same mindset every year.
TH: "I think it's important to look at the guys that Muschamp's bringing in. I think our recruiting class is the sixth in the country right now for next season. He's getting his guys in and the depth of talent is definitely increasing. What I'm not going to be patient with, and what fans aren't, is if we come out on the field and don't look prepared and can't handle the moment."
This is part one of a three part interview series about the South Carolina athletic teams during the past academic year. Parts two and three will cover men's basketball and baseball, respectively.