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Will Muschamp knows offense is the key to success at South Carolina

HOOVER, Ala. -- Will Muschamp isn't running from his past. He knows things didn't work out at Florida, and he's looking to his past to avoid derailing his future.

The bottom line is that during his four years in Gainesville, his offenses weren't good enough to extend his time in the Sunshine State. And if he's going to make a new name for himself at South Carolina, Muschamp has to make the offense even more of a priority.

"I'm taking full responsibility of [the offensive issues at Florida] and making it better in this situation," Muschamp said.

The luxury Muschamp has now is that he's yet to coach a down of football for the Gamecocks, and he has four full years to learn from in order to write a better chapter in Columbia. While some people have wondered if Muschamp just couldn't get out of his own way with Florida's offense, he admits that the Gators' mindset played a major part in the offensive struggles. Strategy can only take you so far if there's a lack of belief in your ability to get things done.

“When you lose confidence [in] your players of what you’re trying to do, I think it’s hard," Muschamp said. "Our third year created a lot of skepticism about what we were doing. Then you have a couple situations where you don’t play well and it creates that doubt. That was hard to overcome.”

The stats haven't shown up in Columbia yet, but Muschamp insists his approach will be better. And it has to be. South Carolina returns a very young, unproven offense and he just can't duplicate the issues he had at Florida -- not with 34 of his 42 scholarship offensive players being freshmen and sophomores.

For South Carolina to rediscover the wins and fire Steve Spurrier brought to the program, Muschamp can't have an offense that ranked no higher than 96th nationally in total offense and no better than 56th in scoring during a four-year span. The predictable nature of Florida's offense under Muschamp -- which at times was injury driven -- can't creep into the Gamecocks' plan.

But Muschamp is more confident heading into this fall. While the Gamecocks were atrocious on offense last year (ranking in the bottom half of the SEC in all major statistical categories), Muschamp sees hope in the talent coming back that maybe others haven't seen.

He likes the unproven ability of receiver Deebo Samuel, who has the physical tools but must stay healthy. He sees valuable bodies along the offensive line. He might not know who his quarterback is, but he'll enter camp with four guys competing. One of them -- freshman Brandon McIlwain -- could be a savior. One of them -- sophomore Lorenzo Nunez -- will play some receiver. There aren't many collegiate wins to pass around with this bunch, but Muschamp has the depth he lacked in Gainesville.

If Muschamp can get a handle on his quarterback position -- something that eluded him for most of his four years at Florida -- he feels really good about Samuel being a legit go-to option in this offense. Which, again, is something Muschamp never truly had at Florida.

“I think he has some elite ability," Muschamp said of Samuel. "When he's been healthy, he's very productive and a guy we need to keep healthy. For us to be successful offensively, he needs to play well.”

Muschamp also has faith in his offensive coordinator. The Kurt Roper experiment in Florida wasn't the success Muschamp needed, but the Gators did enjoy their most productive offensive season during Muschamp's time while under Roper's watch. While Florida only ranked 96th nationally in total offense (367.6 ypg) and 56th in scoring (30.3), Muschamp said he was pleased with the play calling and the style of offense Roper wanted to run, which will be similar to what South Carolina ran under Spurrier in recent years. Many scoffed at the reconnection, but Muschamp admired Roper's composure during a rough 2014 season.

“I think in a year of transition, under the circumstances, we were in our last year in understanding what was at stake, which he understood what he was getting into," Muschamp said of Roper.

And Muschamp knows what he's getting into. There are a lot of pitfalls for this team to stumble through, but he's looking to the offense to be a guiding light, even if everyone is questioning that unit.

"Within those unknowns, I do feel we have some talented players," he said. "I really do. I have been in this league for a long time, and I think there's some very talented guys in there.”