TAMPA, FL - The University of South Carolina football team arrived at the Westin Harbour Island Hotel in Tampa, Fla. around 2 pm on Tuesday afternoon. The Westin will serve as the team hotel all week, as the Gamecocks (8-4) prepare to face the Michigan Wolverines (8-4) in the 2018 Outback Bowl on Monday, January 1.
Head coach Will Muschamp addressed the media upon the team's arrival:
"It was good to get a little down time, but we're ready to get things started back with our walk-thru today, then our normal week of practice starting tomorrow," said Coach Muschamp. "I thought we handled the week in Columbia really well. We got seven practices in there, and I was really pleased with the progress we made."
Coach Muschamp confirmed that Bryan McClendon would call the plays from the press box. McClendon will serve as the offensive coordinator in the Outback Bowl following the dismissal of Kurt Roper. "It's the first time (McClendon) has called a game, so obviously it will be different," noted Coach Muschamp. "It's a calmer environment (in the box). You're able to see things a lot better from an adjustment standpoint, but we've got people assigned on every snap on where their eyes need to be as far as making sure we're getting the correct information about different looks."
Quarterback Jake Bentley will be working for the first time with his father, Bobby, serving as the quarterbacks coach. "I think Jake's looked really good (during the practices in Columbia), but I don't feel like he's not looked well all year," said the Gamecocks' second-year coach. "He's a sophomore in college, the second year as a starter. I think he did some pretty good things this year."
The Gamecocks installed their gameplan for the Wolverines while in Columbia and will fine tune that over the next several days in Tampa. "We've got really one extra day of practice for a normal game week, which we will utilize tomorrow with a lot of good-on-good work. We've already got the gameplan in. Now we've got to go back through it again."
Coach Muschamp has a lot of respect for his opponents out of the Big Ten. "You start with their front seven defensively. They're extremely talented, very well-coached. It's a little different matchup for us for our defense versus their offense, with a lot of two-back looks that they give and the hard play-actions they get off that. We've got our work cut out for us, but I like our approach. The guys were focused when we practiced and we handled ourselves extremely well. We need to have another good week down here to get prepared for the game."
Coach Muschamp commented on the importance of a win in the Outback Bowl. "It would be huge. Number one, this would only be the seventh time in school history we've won nine or more games. That says a lot for our football team. The accomplishments that we've had in a very short term says an awful lot. But I've got great respect and our program has got great respect for the University of Michigan. It would mean a lot moving forward. It always helps you in the off season coming off a win, the positive feeling you have going into the off season."
Coach Muschamp feels that the team enters the bowl week with the right mindset. "I think our guys have been great. We had a great week in Columbia. We had a very tough, physical week, and that's what it needed to be. I've been extremely pleased with our approach."