It is officially college football season, as Sept. 3 marked the first kickoff of the 2020 college football season. While the Gamecocks do not begin their season until Sept. 26 against the Tennessee Volunteers, training camp is in full swing.
The team had its second scrimmage of camp on Sept. 5, and head coach Will Muschamp said the team is“on the verge of some really good things.”
He went on to say that one of the biggest challenges so far has been the heat and said the team will have to "get mentally tougher” to be season ready.
On the offensive side of the ball, Muschamp said the team "took care of the football” particularly well, citing only one fumble on 160 scrimmage snaps. This is an encouraging sign coming off of the 2019 season, where the Gamecocks struggled at times to hold onto the football.
The passing game is a bit of a mystery at this point, as the team is still in an open-quarterback competition between returning starter sophomore Ryan Hilinski and graduate transfer Collin Hill. Hill transferred over with his former head coach and now offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and has impressed early on.
Muschamp said the coaching staff has a “great battle going on" and will give it another week before officially naming a starter for week one. He also made the point that all of the position battles are going to be open until next week before determining who will see the field in the season opener.
Regardless of who ends up under center, senior wide receiver, Shi Smith, will be a key target for the quarterback to utilize throughout the season. He is the only returning target to record more than one touchdown last season. He was also able to accumulate 489 receiving yards on 43 receptions.
With the departure of Gamecock legend Bryan Edwards, Smith is now set to step in as the lead receiver for the team, and Muschamp said he believes Smith will have success if he “[continues] to utilize and trust his speed.”
Muschamp also spoke very highly of true freshman wide receiver Rico Powers, saying that he has a real shot at quality minutes this upcoming season with a strong end to camp.
Defensively, Muschamp said the Gamecocks “tackled extremely well.” He highlighted the team's impressively-low missed tackles in both scrimmages, which totaled 12 in the first scrimmage and eight in the second.
Muschamp spoke very highly of the team's ability to tackle in the open field and limit "explosive plays." However, he said he would like to see improvement in forcing turnovers.
Muschamp also spoke on how the coronavirus pandemic has changed their practice style, saying the team is doing “more crossover work” than ever before with its players. By this he means that more players will be receiving first and second-team reps in case of a positive diagnosis to a key player.
Muschamp said this year more than ever "we gotta have guys ready to go." With the unpredictable nature of the season, it is extremely likely that a good amount of players will have opportunities to contribute on the field that they otherwise might not have had.
Regardless of which Gamecocks actually see the field on Saturdays, Muschamp said he saw “a lot of really good competition” and feels confident with his team moving forward into the season.
The South Carolina Gamecocks kick off their season against the Tennessee Volunteers at home on Sept. 26, with the kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m.