When South Carolina’s Will Muschamp tells his juniors to go to the NFL

The advice South Carolina’s Will Muschamp gives his players in pre-NFL draft process

South Carolina Gamecocks football coach Will Muschamp explains the advice he gives players, such as Skai Moore and Hayden Hurst, from his NFL experience as they prepare for the draft
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South Carolina Gamecocks football coach Will Muschamp explains the advice he gives players, such as Skai Moore and Hayden Hurst, from his NFL experience as they prepare for the draft

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp likely doesn’t want to lose talent to the NFL.

He wants to send talent there, no doubt, but it would be hard to imagine he’d prefer having a 2019 Gamecocks squad without the likes of Jake Bentley, Javon Kinlaw or Bryan Edwards. But as a coach at more than a few powerhouse programs, he’s seen plenty move on to the next level.

And he has a simple rule for when he directly encourages his players to leave his teams when they don’t have to.

“My philosophy is this: if you’re going to be a first rounder, go,” Muschamp said on his weekly call-in show. “At the end of the day, nothing can replace what that could mean for you and your family to have that opportunity. If you’re going to be a first-round pick, I’m going to pack your bags. You’re going to need to go.”

His team currently has the trio of Bentley, Kinlaw and Edwards in spots to go, plus center Donell Stanley possibly.

Stanley has been at Carolina five years, but got a sixth season of eligibility. Bentley got some first-round buzz in the offseason, and struggled in the first half of 2018 before rallying.

Kinlaw has been solid, but not dominant, while Edwards has been mostly steady and provides a big-bodied jump ball target who could intrigue evaluators at the next level.

Bentley said he hasn’t submitted evaluation paperwork, and Muschamp said he won’t talk to his players until after Saturday’s regular season finale against Akron.

The NFL has changed its evaluation system, simply returning a grade of first rounder, second rounder or return to school. Muschamp seems to be a fan, as it dovetails with his outlook.

“If you’re’ in a situation where you might be projected, as we talk to several general managers and we say, you’re a third- or fourth-round pick, everybody is projecting you in that round, you can really come back and improve your status as a player,” Muschamp said. “And obviously the money is so different when you drop out of the first round, it’s scary.”

Last season, the contract for the No. 30 pick in the draft was $9.867 million. For the 60th pick, it was less than half that. The coaches put that reality in front of families, talk about it and the potential to finish a degree.

But Muschamp also acknowledged there were and always are circumstances that can change things.

He’s had players who simply explained they didn’t like being in school, and in those situations, he understood. There are also players who recognize one reality of the structure of the draft and the NFL.

“I’ll never forget, a great story, Jerraud Powers, a young man that played for me at Auburn University,” Muschamp said. “Was 5-foot-9. Not a good player, a great player. Played 10 years in the National Football League.

“I was actually at Texas. He had one more year … to complete his third year, graduated. He called me when I was at Texas, said, ‘I’m coming out for the draft.’ I said, ‘You know my philosophy, you’re not going to be a first-round pick, so I think you need to return and play another year and then declare.’ He said, ‘My issue is, I’m 5-9. You know what I’m going to be next year?’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ ‘I’m going to be 5-9. I graduated from school. I’ve done everything my mom has asked me to do, and I’m ready to go.’ ”