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South Carolina Gamecocks

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Young players to get long looks

For South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, the invitation to play Michigan in the Outback Bowl is an opportunity to start preparing the Gamecocks for the 2018 season with the extra practices allowed.

"I think as much as anything, football is a developmental game," Muschamp said. "You've got to take snaps, and it's hard to do it one-on-one or two-on-two. You've got to be able to go out there and play the game. That will give us that opportunity."

Muschamp said the first few practices there is no set limit but workouts must confirm to the NCAA's limits of four hours per day and 20 hours per week for athletic activities will be concentrated on the younger players on the roster before getting down to specifics for the New Year's Day date with the Wolverines.

"It's critical," he said. "I was at the University of Florida, and we had a guy named Loucheiz Purifoy, who had not started. He had been a huge special teams contributor the entire season, went in, and had a great bowl practice and ended up starting the Gator Bowl for us as a corner, because of the bowl practice he had put together and how he'd gone about his business.

"Obviously, he had played some in the year, but not in a starting role. So it's an opportunity for these guys to take a huge step forward and feel good about themselves going into the offseason and going into spring ball."

Muschamp cited as examples of current players who could benefit from the extra time junior safety Keisean Nixon, a junior college transfer who played 11 games as a backup; wide receivers Otre Smith and Randrecous Davis, and linebackers Sherrod Greene and Damani Staley.

Injured players like running back Rico Dowdle and tight end K.C. Crosby, who both missed the second half of the season, also should benefit as they work their way back into the fold.

The Gamecocks will take an 8-4 record into the game after going 6-7 in 2016 in Muschamp's first season. Michigan also is 8-4, and both the Gamecocks and Wolverines are coming off losses. The Gamecocks lost to No. 1 Clemson 34-10 in their regular-season finale, Michigan 31-20 to Ohio State.

The Wolverines will test South Carolina's run defense with a ground attack that averages just over 186 yards a game and had 371 rushing against Minnesota to start off November.

South Carolina's inconsistent rushing game will be up against a Michigan defense that held six of its opponents to under 100 yards on the ground.

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