Who is the best punter in the land? According to the Ray Guy Award, there are now 10 players left in the running for that title in the 2019 season.
This year’s semi-finalists for the Ray Guy Award are Oscar Bradburn (Virginia Tech), Joseph Charlton (South Carolina), Max Duffy (Kentucky), Tyson Dyer (New Mexico), Sterling Hofrichter (Syracuse), Adam Korsak (Rutgers), Dane Roy (Houston), Tommy Townsend (Florida), Michael Turk (Arizona State), Owen White (Navy).
Somehow, last year’s winner, Texas A&M’s Braden Mann, didn’t make the cut. Mann is third in the nation in punting average (48.21 yards per punt). Not exactly sure how that happened, but there will be a new Ray Guy Award winner this season as a result of this slip form the award’s committee.
It’s that time of the year when athletic directors new and old are faced with addressing the future of football coaches if things aren’t exactly going too well with the program. South Carolina’s Will Muschamp has the Gamecocks sitting at 4-6 with just a few games remaining as they fight for bowl eligibility, and that has raised some questions about whether or not Muschamp will be looking for work in 2020 or if he can stay comfortable in Columbia.
According to a statement from South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner, Muschamp has nothing to worry about regarding his job status with the program.
“Today, I want to make it clear that Will Muschamp is our football coach and will be our coach going forward,” Tanner stated via a released statement on Friday. “President Caslen and I are fully supportive of his leadership and his development of student-athletes on and off the field. Coach Muschamp and our staff are dedicated to the success of Gamecock football. They have built a program where our team plays for each other and for our University, and they deserve our support. While we wish the outcome of some of our games would have been different, we are excited about the future of our program.”
Under Muschamp, who was fired before the 2016 season, South Carolina is a cumulative 26-23 that includes a 1-2 bowl record. South Carolina is in jeopardy of missing the bowl season for just the second time since going 6-6 in 2007 under Steve Spurrier.
While the on-field product may leave something to be desired, it is fair to suggest the program exceeded its norms at the height of Spurrier’s days and that has set the bar high for Muschamp. Three consecutive bowl trips and two winning seasons in three years is far from the end of the world for most programs. That doesn’t mean Muschamp is without his flaws, which is part of the reason he ultimately was let go at Florida prior to his arrival at South Carolina. But there is another reason South Carolina would be wise to stick with Muschamp in 2020.
As usual, it’s all about the money.
Muschamp would be owed $19,437,500 in a buyout if he were to be fired without cause. According to the USA Today coaching salary database, that is the buyout figure for Muschamp as of Dec. 1, 2019. Muschamp is currently under contract at South Carolina until 2024. It is the 14th largest buyout in the nation according to the figures in the same database.
South Carolina lost, at home, to Appalachian State on Saturday, which is bad no matter the context. But it’s especially bad in the context of South Carolina’s current season, where it dropped the Gamecocks to 4-6 on the year with games against Texas A&M and Clemson ahead, thereby making a 4-8 finish more likely than not.
Even if the Gamecocks miraculously win out, though, South Carolina has lost six or more games in three of four seasons under head coach Will Muschamp.
Still, despite all that, don’t expect Muschamp to join Willie Taggart and Chad Morris on the unemployment line.
According to reports Monday from FootballScoop and the ABC affiliate in Columbia, Muschamp is expected back for a fifth season in 2020. (Full disclosure: I also work for FootballScoop.)
If South Carolina does lose to the Aggies and Tigers, Muschamp will stand at 26-25 overall and 15-17 in SEC play through his first four seasons. While they may not be thrilled treading water like that, they’re not displeased enough to swallow $19 million to buy him out plus the associated costs of dismissing its existing coaching staff to hire a new one.
When it comes to the Power Five Carolinas, Appalachian State reigns supreme.
Back in Week 4, App State jumped out to a 27-17 halftime lead on North Carolina in Chapel Hill and then held on for a 34-31 win in the first-ever meeting between the two Tar Heel state programs. That win was part of a 7-0 start to the season that had the Mountaineers sitting at No. 20 in the Associated Press Top 25; a three-point loss to Georgia Southern in Week 10 burst the Sun Belt school’s unbeaten bubble.
Next up for an App State squad looking to bounce back from that first 2019 loss was South Carolina, with the Mountaineers and Gamecocks squaring off in Week 11 in the programs’ first meeting since 1977. At the end of the first quarter in Columbia, it was 6-3 ‘Cocks; after flipping that first-half script and taking a 20-9 lead deep into the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers held on to take a 20-15 win back home to Boone.
The win marks App State’s second over South Carolina and first since 1975. That was part of a stretch in which the schools played in six straight years from 1972-77; they hadn’t played since, and Week 11 of 2019 provided an example of why.
At 8-1 overall, and with a second Power Five win on its résumé, Appalachian State has put themselves back into, at least, the periphery of the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six discussion.
For South Carolina, the loss drops them to 4-6 on the season and, with games against Texas A&M and Clemson left, almost certainly assures that they won’t be bowling in 2019. It will also almost certainly assure that the seat underneath Will Muschamp, who is now 26-23 in his fourth season with the program, will crank up a few more degrees.
Needing to win two of its last three games to become bowl-eligible, South Carolina will be down its running-game workhorse for the first of that trio of contests.
Ahead of this Saturday’s game against Appalachian State, Tavien Feaster has been dealing with a groin injury that had left his status for Week 11 up in the air. The key word there is “had” as, during his radio show Thursday night, head coach Will Muschamp confirmed that the running back will be sidelined for the non-conference matchup.
Feaster, a transfer from Clemson, leads the Gamecocks with 625 yards rushing and five touchdowns on the ground.
There is some good news for USC’s running game as Rico Dowdle, who has missed the past three games with a sprained knee, appears likely to be a go Saturday as he practiced throughout the week with no issues. Despite missing nearly one-quarter of the season, Dowdle is still second on the team with 457 yards and four touchdowns.