By Jeff Owens/Photo by Allen Sharpe
HOOVER, Ala. — Expectations around the state of South Carolina are high for Gamecock football in Will Muschamp's second season in Columbia.
Opposing coaches and players in the SEC are also expecting to see a much-improved team from South Carolina.
The Gamecocks finished 6-7 in Muschamp's first season, winning four of its final six games before losing a shootout to South Florida in the Birmingham Bowl.
One of those six wins was a 31-21 victory over Missouri at Williams-Brice Stadium. Missouri head coach Barry Odom was impressed with Muschamp's first South Carolina team and expects the Gamecocks to be even better in 2017. The Gamecocks and Tigers play their SEC opener in Columbia, Mo. the second week of the season.
"Will is a really good coach and I respect him a great deal. He will have their team ready to play," Odom said. "Week 2 with South Carolina is a huge game for both sides. It's our first conference game in the division and they have got playmakers."
Odom was particularly impressed with quarterback Jake Bentley, who threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri in just his third career start.
"I was so impressed with how their quarterback played down the stretch last year," Odom said. "They have three receivers that really went out and got every jump ball they threw up last year, and then they have got some tailbacks that are really, really impressive."
Odom also expects the Gamecocks to be better on defense under Muschamp, a former defensive coordinator.
"Defensively, with his football team, they will play real good defense. We will have our work cut out for us," Odom said.
Bentley, who will be in Hoover with Muschamp for SEC Media Day Thursday, attended the Manning Passing Academy this summer. While there, he met young Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson, who was also impressed with the Gamecock signal-caller.
"I did have a few talks with Jake," Johnson said. "He's a great quarterback as well. He can throw the heck out of the ball. I think he'll do some really good things for his team this year."
Muschamp is scheduled to begin meeting with the media at 10:05 ET Thursday. Bentley, WR Deebo Samuel and TE Hayden Hurst will also be in Hoover for Media Day.