South Carolina football: What we learned at SEC Media Days –

HOOVER, Ala. — Put a bow on it, folks. Another round of SEC Media Days is in the books. So what did we learn about South Carolina on Thursday?

As it relates to the 2017 season?

Not much that we didn’t already know, or least have a good idea about. But it certainly was fun to watch and listen to Will Muschamp, Jake Bentley, Hayden Hurst and Deebo Samuel as they made the rounds through The Wynfrey Hotel.

Here’s what we found out:

The SEC still has personality

Or at least it still has coaches who are willing to let it be seen on the main stage in Hoover.

No Les Miles? No Steve Spurrier? No problem for Muschamp, who came out swinging during his opening statement, jabbing reporters and coaches alike.

“I’m really excited about our future. It’s great to be back. Last day. You guys don’t look real good, to be honest with you. You look a little worn out,” he said. “Pat Dooley, what’s up? You remind me of that Josh Turner song, ‘You Look Like I Need a Drink.’ ”

Later, another reporter who covered him at Florida felt that wrath of Muschamp’s roast.

“You don’t have to identify yourself,” Muschamp said. “They could use your voice to torture prisoners of war.

“I was waiting for a year to say that. Go ahead.”

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In another room, Muschamp was asked for a rebuttal when a reporter informed him that Jake Bentley said he wore his suit better — the quarterback and coach were dressed in nearly identical attire.

“No comment,” Muschamp said. “Did you see how big his head is? Have you ever seen ‘The Flintstones’ [character] Gazoo? He’s a Martian.”

South Carolina Gamecocks-Skai Moore-Bryson Allen Williams
Skai Moore (left) and Bryson Allen-Williams (right) were thought to be SEC Media Days candidates for South Carolina. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

Take offense

Though the 2017 South Carolina football team is expected to be led by its offense, that’s not the reason why Muschamp didn’t bring any defensive players with him to SEC Media Days.

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“Unfortunately, there was some class conflicts and test conflicts and some things that we just couldn’t work out,” Muschamp said. “We certainly have some guys that were deserving to be here.

“But, honestly, the last time we brought our defensive guys to Birmingham, it didn’t go real good. We gave up a bunch of points and a bunch of yards. So I didn’t know if they’d want to come, so I didn’t ask them.”

South Carolina speed

Freshman wide receiver Shi Smith is the fastest man at South Carolina, at least on the football team. That’s according to Hurst and Samuel. Bentley wasn’t certain.

“Probably Shi or Rashad [Fenton] are the fastest on the team,” Bentley said.

Taylor Stallworth will be critical to the success of South Carolina’s defense in 2017. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

The heat is on

Three senior defensive linemen carry a lot of responsibility for the Gamecocks this season.

“Taylor Stallworth, Ulric Jones and Dante Sawyer are three seniors,” Muschamp said. “For us to play well, defensively, we need these guys to play well, so we’re putting the pressure on these guys. They’ve got to play well for us to take the next step.”

The second-year coach also is counting on three sophomores to contribute along the defensive front: Kobe Smith, Keir Thomas and D.J. Wonnum.

“They need to take the next step,” Muschamp said. “Year 1 to Year 2 has got be your largest movement as far as your improvement as a player. That’s got to happen for those guys.”


Hurst and Samuel, both of whom are eligible for the NFL draft after this season, are not ready to decide on their respective futures. Or they weren’t ready to share those thoughts on Thursday.

“I haven’t thought about it,” Samuel said.

Hurst admitted that the thought has crossed his mind, but didn’t give a firm answer.

“I try to take it day by day,” Hurst said. “That stuff will happen in April. The season will take care of itself. Hopefully, I’ll be in a good position in April, but the only thing I can do is take it one day at a time.”

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