College Sports

Living in the past? Why Gamecocks are eager to build their own legacy under Muschamp

Get to know the 2019 Gamecocks

Some USC players sat down with us to discuss what it's like being part of the team. The Gamecocks are doing a training camp before the season begins.
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Some USC players sat down with us to discuss what it's like being part of the team. The Gamecocks are doing a training camp before the season begins.

Melvin Ingram, Bruce Ellington, Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney, Connor Shaw, D.J. Swearinger and Alshon Jeffery. They’re among the former South Carolina players who hover over the Gamecocks each time they practice at their indoor facility.

It’s not the ex-USC stars themselves, but it’s their large images posted to a wall. Spread from one 25-yard line to another, the collection of Steve Spurrier products can serve as a reminder of an era that fans still cling to. A time when the Gamecocks beat Clemson five straight times, finished in the final Top 25 four straight times and won 11 games three straight times.

Highlights from that period often get posted to social media. Like when Twitter account @GamecockSplash continued a countdown to the beginning of the 2019 season by bringing back scenes from USC’s win over Georgia in 2012. It included the caption: “35 days until @GamecockFB ... No. 6 ranked South Carolina beats No. 5 Georgia, 35-7 in 2012. Need to get back to this.”

The little taste of nostalgia was popular, drawing over 100 retweets and nearly 700 likes. But it also triggered a notable response.

“Need to stop living in the past,” tweeted Carolina senior defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.

“We’re just trying to move forward,” Kinlaw later explained. “The culture — it is what it is — we just have to keep moving forward.”

Kinlaw teammates saw the tweet and have provided additional context to the big man’s message.

Will Muschamp has won more games — through none against Clemson — than any South Carolina coach in his first three seasons. On the brink of Year 4 of this post-Spurrier era, it’s time to recognize what’s ahead.

“Growing up here, I got to see those guys (Shaw, Lattimore, Jeffery, etc.) come through and everything,” said senior linebacker T.J. Brunson, a Columbia native. “And I understand where the fans are coming from about it and everything. But just being here the last four years, some things take time. And I definitely feel like these are the coming years where we’ll be back up to hopefully where they’re talking about and stuff.

“But also, you can’t live in the past. You have guys here now who are definitely going to try and make something happen and make some plays. And I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to throw those years out at the current players.”

Spurrier left the Gamecocks during a 2015 season that ended with a 3-9 record. Muschamp’s taken USC back to bowls in the thee years since. He’s on record saying his next team is his best since arriving in Columbia — daunting schedule and all.

“I would never change anything about coming to South Carolina,” said sixth-year senior offensive lineman Donell Stanley, who committed to USC during an 11-2 season and played for Spurrier. “I came here when the team won 11 games and I stayed when we only won three. But the past is the past, nothing we can change. The only thing we can do is put it in a museum.

“But right now, I’m more excited than ever about a football season. I’m just excited about what this team can do, I think we can go far.”

Lattimore, perhaps the most popular player of the Spurrier era, now works on Muschamp’s staff as director of player development.

“Being able to talk to Marcus almost every day,” Brunson said, “just having a guy that close who was on those teams, you can hear what they had on those teams that we may have lacked last year, the year before and things like that.

“But I definitely feel like we’re coming on those years to where those things that happened before should be happening again. When you look at those teams, we have the same type of players, the same caliber of players and it all just comes down to trusting Coach Muschamp and T-Rob (Travaris Robinson) and Coach B-Mac (Bryan McClendon), everyone doing their part and trusting the process and just making plays.”

Senior running back Mon Denson, another Spurrier recruit, said Kinlaw’s tweet gave a jolt to the current Gamecocks, a team picked to finish fourth in the SEC East.

“He has his confidence and that just builds more confidence for us as a team,” Denson said.

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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