This time last spring, South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was busy trying to assemble his football staff and get adjusted to being the coach of the Gamecocks.
It was an incredibly busy time, and it came on top of Muschamp having to coach a team he was unfamiliar with during spring practice.
One year later, the head coach is in a much more comfortable position entering his second year. Muschamp has gone through an entire season as head coach and is now preparing to enter another round of spring practices with a team that he's seen in action for the most part.
"I was still learning everyone's name last year," Muschamp said. "From a coaching staff standpoint, there's a lot of continuity and a shared vision of what we want. I think our players understand the expectations (and) they understand the standard."
Spring practice this season begins on Saturday, Feb. 25, and there are a couple of major things that Muschamp wants his team to focus on.
"A couple things I really challenged our guys about is continuing to improve our mental and physical toughness," Muschamp said. "We didn't handle adversity very well at times. We have to learn to play through those situations. I think the experience with a lot of young guys is going to help us with that."
The Gamecocks did not play very well on the road last season and struggled at times being physical on the lines of scrimmage and in the secondary. That is something that Muschamp was not pleased with as he has stated numerous times that he wants opposing teams to know it'll be a long day whenever they play the Gamecocks.
With the majority of the team returning this season in addition to the recruiting class South Carolina added, the competition level will continue to rise. That is a luxury the Gamecocks have not had in the last couple of years because the depth has been thin.
"Competition is my best motivator," Muschamp said. "The guys know they have to go out and perform every single day, and that promotes consistency in your performance when you know you have to do it every single day. A guy can't relax (or) have an off day. That helps your organization."
This spring should be an interesting one for the Gamecocks. There is a lot of talent and it will be worth watching how those young players respond after having a year to adjust to college football.
Now that the honeymoon period is over, Muschamp and his coaching staff can have more time this spring to implement the things they believe will help this team succeed when the fall rolls around.
"This is a coaching staff that has won multiple championships," Muschamp said. "We know what good looks like and what it feels like. Our players, in my opinion, have done a good job of buying into that and understanding that culture."
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Allen Sharpe**