The chorus of coaches upset with the NCAA’s latest restrictions on high school coaches continues to grow. Now, add Will Muschamp to the list.
The South Carolina coach described the latest rule, which prevents individuals associated with a prospect from taking roles other than on-field coaching jobs with a program, as “ridiculous” during an interview on Arkansas syndicated radio program “Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly.”
“We’re trying to develop our game, and there’s a lot of people trying to tear our game down,” Muschamp said. “We’re saying now that we can’t hire high school coaches, that we can’t have high school coaches work our camps, we can’t have a high school coach speak at our clinic? I think it’s ridiculous.”
Previously, SEC coaches including Nick Saban and Kirby Smart had also complained about the legislation, which passed the NCAA Division I Council last Friday.
Muschamp brought up the example of his brother, Mike Muschamp, head coach of The Lovett School in Georgia.
“My brother’s a high school coach in Atlanta. He’d love to have an opportunity to coach in college,” Muschamp said. “And now, you’ve limited that. I don’t think that’s right and I don’t think it’s fair.”
He’s also concerned that removing high school coaches from the picture will open the door to a new middle man between player and college.
Muschamp’s concern: agents.
“We’ve been trying to get these street agents out of the game,” Muschamp said. “Now, we’ve just invited them back in the game. Because who’s going to bring these guys (players) to camp?
“Legally, you could pay a (high school) coach to come work your camp. By NCAA rules, you could do that. Now, you can’t.”
He said that with coaches no longer able to participate in camps, and parents often unavailable to take players to camps due to work or other responsibilities, the resulting vacuum could make it easier for agents to gain access to recruits.
Muschamp did, however, welcome the addition of a 10th assistant coach, saying it will help maintain the right player-coach ratio.
Muschamp also emphasized his desire to have players come to South Carolina’s camp before signing with the school, and it sounds like it’s becoming a more hard-and-fast requirement for prospective Gamecocks.
“Twenty-two of our 24 signees worked out in our camps,” Muschamp said. “If you don’t work out in our camp, I’m not going to sign you. That’s over years of experience of making mistakes with guys that didn’t want to come work. That’s just our philosophy here.”
Muschamp said coaches have a new challenge: finding quality players at positions like fullback, tight end and especially linebacker, because of the way those positions have evolved in recent years.
“They’re putting guys [in high schools] at defensive end that are 6-2, 220 pounds and can rush the passer,” Muschamp said. “In the old days, those guys 15 years ago were playing linebacker. So it’s hard to project instincts, how he’s going to fit the two-back power, the one-back power, the counter play. You’re never going to see that on tape.”
Another challenge: Finding defensive linemen with the athleticism to play the position well. Muschamp said many players who line up on the defensive front don’t belong there.
“A lot of those guys who are playing defensive line really are offensive right tackles, in my opinion,” Muschamp said. “But they don’t want to hear that. They want to be defensive line, and eventually, you get them on campus and they start to figure out, ‘Maybe I do need to play on the offensive side of the ball.'”
He feels that tendency is in part because offensive line play is often perceived as boring – at least, he says, for players outside Razorback country.
“A lot of big guys want to play defense,” Muschamp said. “It’s not very glorified to be an offensive lineman, unless you’re at Arkansas.”
Muschamp said the traditional strength of SEC defensive line play – which last year included players like Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett, Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, Tennessee’s Derek Barnett and Missouri’s Charles Harris, all projected to go early in this month’s NFL Draft – has become one of the conference’s distinctive features, and one of its keys to success.
He’s worried about whether the Gamecocks will be ready to keep up come fall.
“We’ve got some unknowns defensively coming out of spring, which is concerning as a coach,” he said. “You’re leaving spring going into fall camp hoping that some guys step up here and there. We’ve got to get deeper up front. We’ve got to get deeper, really, on all three levels and continue to improve our line of scrimmage play.”
Still, looking ahead, Muschamp feels the Gamecocks are moving in the right direction for 2017.
“We’re not where we want to be, but thank goodness we’re not where we were,” Muschamp said.
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