This time last year South Carolina was coming off a three win season and getting ready to head home after finals.
This year, bowl practice and Birmingham awaits. The Gamecocks (6-6) are heading to the Birmingham Bowl to play South Florida (10-2) Dec. 29.
It’s not only important for the opportunity to play in a postseason but for a young team like South Carolina, the added practices can be incredibly valuable.
The Gamecocks start bowl practice Dec. 15, five days after the last university final.
“We’ll have four or five just base fundamental practices where we just need to get back to the basics,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “We’ll have some time as a staff, quality control work to study ourselves a little bit and see where we need to improve on.”
The first practices will be fundamentals driven with the last four or five focusing on the game plan against the Bulls. The team will leave for Christmas and reconvene in Birmingham Dec. 26.
Muschamp said the first few practices will be “fastball on fastball” with the first string offense and defense competing against each other with little scout team work. Muschamp called the added practice “huge,” because it lets players get added reps before the start of next season.
“Football is a developmental game. You have to develop,” he said. “You can’t get better playing defensive tackle. You need take on a 700-pound double team, which we’re going to do a lot the next couple practices we have.”
The Gamecocks have an incredibly young team. Of the team’s 2016 rushing yards, 1,441 were gained by either freshman or redshirt freshmen. South Carolina passed for 2,381 yards, 1,630 of which were done by freshmen.
Freshmen or redshirt freshmen also caught 842 of those 2,381 yards.
The added bowl practices could help mold and develop the young players, especially freshmen quarterbacks Jake Bentley and Brandon McIlwain, both of which will get reps in practice.
Developing players could also be critical for Muschamp’s success-now philosophy. The coaches had a football banquet and a recruiting event this past weekend, but Muschamp hopes that the team can delay that next year.
“I’ve got a win-now mentality,” he said. “That’s just the way I try to approach things. I told (Administrative Assistant) Kim (Fields) don’t schedule the banquet on the next Saturday next year, we plan on being in Atlanta.”