Welcome to the first installment of Cookin’ Up the Competition! This week and for the next 10, I’ll be sitting down with a writer from the opponent of the week’s SB Nation blog and asking them a flavorful mix of questions.
This week’s contributor is James from Garnet and Black Attack. He’s a seemingly competent guy and was kind enough to ask the same from me this week, so if you would like to read my Q&A with him on their site, you can check it out here. (P.S. I didn’t say too many nice things about Dan Mullen)
Without further ado, let’s get this thing moving:
1) South Carolina was one of the many schools aboard the Coaching Carousel this offseason. Were you pleased with how the coaching search went?
“Let's just say the way it was looking for a couple days towards the end, it could've ended a lot worse. Tom Herman screwed us, but whatever. You can't lose to The Citadel and not expect repercussions. I think most fans got caught up in the sexiness of Herman and what he was and is doing at Houston, and felt a slight disappointment when our AD, Ray Tanner, couldn't reel in his first option. But, as time passes and Will Muschamp stays undefeated, the picture becomes a little clearer and him becoming a Gamecock makes all the more sense. We would've hired him after 2014 had Spurrier hung it up then, so I think it all kinda has worked out in the end.
*Side note: This was the first coaching search of my adult life where I had a vested emotional interest, and let's be real, they are not fun.”
2) I grew up in Jacksonville, FL, so I'm extremely familiar with Florida football and got to see Will Muschamp's career there unfold from a very close range. As a fan of SEC East team, what kind of taste did his time there leave in your mouth? Were you excited to see him named as the new HC?
“As far as him being named head coach, it wasn't so much excitement as a hopeful uncertainty. But, I think he quickly proved he was the man for the job, hitting the recruiting trail from day one and surrounding himself with a mostly young, entirely hungry and eager coaching staff. He was prepared for his second chance, and he proved that the moment he was named head coach.
As for his days at Florida, I felt bad for how it ended. In a perfect world Muschamp takes the Gamecock head coaching position as his first, learns the ropes of the trade, then heads off somewhere with greater expectations such as Florida. There's no doubt he learned a great deal from his time as a Gator, and I'm excited to see that experience pay off in Columbia. “
3) Last week almost had as bitter of an ending for the Gamecocks as it did for State. What were your halftime thoughts after being in a 10-0 hole to Vanderbilt?
“South Carolina had about three straight possessions on offense starting at or near mid-field to end the half. They won field position in the second quarter, but were still unable to put anything on the scoreboard. You could tell during those drives, that while Brandon McIlwain had the athleticism and will one day be the undisputed starting quarterback, he hasn't mastered enough of the playbook just yet, and the coaches weren't ready to let him free.
So going into to the break I was a little disheartened knowing that we would likely need senior Perry Orth to win us the game, but I also knew Vanderbilt wasn't the most potent offensive team running off of the Carolina Panthers 1994 offensive playbook.”
4) Who are some players that I should be concerned about every time they touch the ball for South Carolina? What about defensive players?
“Before last week, I would've told you Deebo Samuel. After the Vandy game I wanna say running back A.J. Turner and receiver Bryan Edwards. Both players proved they have the playmaking threat to serve as viable options for whichever QB is in the game.
As for the defense, I was pleasantly surprised by their performance in the opener and look to the linebackers as our strength. Bryson Allen-Williams, Jonathan Walton and T.J. Holloman are name you'll likely to hear often in Saturday's game. I also liked how the D-line looked, led by Marquavius Lewis.”
5) With a new coach following in the footsteps of the great HBC, what were your expectations coming into this season with a new regime?
“Needless to say, the Spurrier era didn't end the way the magical four-year run from 2010-2013 told us how it was going to. In hindsight, he probably should’ve gone out ‘on top’ after the bowl win over Miami in 2014, but he didn't, and I think he legitimately believed the team would be much improved in 2015. He was wrong, obviously and things hit what we fans hope was rock bottom.
As for this season, a bowl trip would be considered success, but I think the fan base will be pleased if they just seem a team play without immense passion and effort every week and show steady improvement. So far so good as it looks like everyone is buying into what Muschamp and his staff are selling.”
Prediction time. Who leaves Davis Wade Stadium victorious Saturday night?
“As you know, I think the spread is dead wrong. That said, I still think Mississippi St. to be the favorites, and should win the game, given that it's at home and everyone there including the cowbells will be pissed off. It'll be a tough environment for the young, inexperienced Gamecocks to handle; they'll have to rely on a near perfect game from Perry Orth and another stout defensive performance.
I think MSU has more to lose than the South Carolina to win given last week, so I'm gonna say Bulldogs 24 - South Carolina 21.”
Bonus question: How excited are you to listen to some 30,000 cowbells on Saturday night? They sound delightful in person, I can only imagine how beautiful they’ll be on television.
“I've always enjoyed the cowbell tradition and am honestly kind of jealous I can't drunkenly rattle one all night during my favorite team's games. That said, I'm not looking forward to them Saturday night. Not in the slightest bit.”
Thanks again, James! Don’t forget to check out Garnet and Black Attack’s game week coverage on their site!