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Aug. 9, 2009

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Opening Statement

“I was just thinking walking up here, of all the years I’ve been a head coach, it’s always a sunny day on picture day-media day. Everywhere, it never rains for some reason. We had a nice beautiful day and the humidity wasn’t what it used to be.

“We’re looking forward to this coming season. I’m intrigued about how many freshmen will play this year. That doesn’t mean (the veterans) are bad players, that just means we have a lot of outstanding young guys that hopefully will play a lot of years for us. Offensively, Jarvis Giles and Kenny Miles have been impressive running the ball. Justice Cunningham, the tight end, looks good, as does TJ Johnson over at guard. Our two receivers that have been impressive are DeMario Bennett and Alshon Jeffery. A couple of quarterbacks are coming around in Reid McCollum and Aramis Hillary. We have a long way to go, but hopefully we can get them there.

“On defense, Stephen Gilmore, DeVonte Holloman and D.J. Swearinger have really impressed our coaches. At defensive end, Taylor and outside linebacker Jeffrey from Columbia has really looked good. A couple of other linebackers in Bowen and Sutton are fast guys that can play. I mention these guys because I don’t know that I’ve ever had this many freshmen that are right there competing for playing time.

Eric Norwood, Clifton Geathers, Cliff Matthews, Travian Robertson and Nathan Pepper have all been solid steady guys. We’re going to have a heck of a defense. Offensively some new guys that hopefully will help are the two junior college linemen. They have a lot of learning to do, but coach thinks these guys can block. Obviously for us to have a big year, Stephen Garcia has to play well. He’s been so-so. I wouldn’t say he’s been super in practice so we have some work to do. In a way that’s probably good. You don’t want to think you’re too good right now. I can assure you our offensive team doesn’t think we’re good right now. We have some time and I think the attitude on the team is very good. We’re looking forward to playing N.C. State and Georgia and opening at home with Florida Atlantic. N.C. State is obviously the one we’re pointing at because that’s the next game.”

On the freshmen learning curve

“It is learning but if they have ability and talent and can be coached, that’s the big thing. We tell our guys all the time, in coaching you coach, coach, coach, coach and coach some more before you start criticizing. Very seldom will you hear me criticizing freshmen because they need to be coached. These guys have been very coachable and are trying to do it the right way. At the quarterback position (playing early) is very difficult to do, but at other positions players can play as freshmen.”

On tight end productivity

“Wesley Saunders is doing fine. Justice Cunningham has got a chance to play a lot. He in all likelihood will not be redshirted. Mike Triglia, a redshirt freshman, has done things well also. We think Cunningham can block, catch and run. He’s very talented. He and Wesley and of course Cliff Mathews can come and play some.”

On Stephen Garcia’s performance vs. Iowa

“I didn’t get him ready to play or he didn’t get ready to play or whatever because he was lost throughout much of the game. For whatever reason, hopefully he’s learned a lot. We’ll find out when we start playing the games. I wish some of the mistakes he’s made he won’t make anymore, but he’s got to wake up. He’s got a way to go. We’re coaching the heck out of him.

“We think he can throw a lot better than he’s throwing. We think his footwork and fundamentals will get better. He hasn’t thrown the ball extremely well, but he has a chance to. We think he has the ability to improve.”

On play calling duties

“I’ll be responsible for the play calling. Who fires them in there first? We haven’t set in stone who will do that yet. I’ll be ultimately responsible like I’m ultimately responsible for everything. We have three of us that call plays – G.A. Mangus, Steve Jr. and I. Calling plays was not our problem (last year). Whoever fires them in there, we’ll all agree this is our gameplan and this is what we think we can do. Eric Wolford is our run game coordinator so he’ll be actively involved. Hopefully we get them in there quickly and there’s no confusion. The big thing now is we still have to learn what the plays are.

“Jay Graham and Jeep Hunter are very sharp and excellent coaches. I’ve been very impressed with them.”

On the offensive line

“You have to believe we’ll improve because we weren’t very good last year. I’m not saying it was coaching, we just got beat up a little and guys didn’t block very well. Hopefully we’ll be better. We believe it, but I don’t know until we play the games. We have a lot of players – 16 or 17 offensive linemen running around out there – so we have a lot of bodies. We just need some ball players out there. We have competition, that’s for sure. A lot of linemen the last few years played by default because nobody challenged. I think we have three centers going at it this year. Lemuel Jeanpierre, Garrett Anderson and Seaver Brown.”

On having one person as punter and placekicker

“If he’s the best, we can do it. I meant to mention Spencer Lanning earlier. He’s certainly improved his extra point field goals. I asked him the other night, `What’s your longest distance field goal.’ He said, `Coach I can do 50,’ so we moved it back and he hit 50. He’s by far our best punter.”

On the Cliffs at defensive end

“Geathers is now about 6-7, 292 pounds he told me. He looks completely different from when he got here three years ago. He really looks like a big time defensive end. He’s playing hard and playing tough. Cliff Mathews, he and Eric Norwood are our most active guys. They’re all over the place. With Coach Johnson and Coach Ward, our schemes are a little different. We’ve got not only Norwood all over the place but also Matthews all over the place. They’ve been tough (for the offense) to make some yards on now. Travian Robertson on the inside has been a force too. He’s probably the strongest on the team. He lifts weights and muscles come on him.”

On if this is his best staff at South Carolina

“I hope so. We all get along well and respect each other. We have coaches that demand a lot and hopefully are good teachers. I always say you judge assistant coaches by how their players play, how they recruit and how they relate to everyone. I think those coaches have done well.

“We certainly hope to win a conference championship around here the next three or four years. If our quarterback play and our offensive line play come around, we may be pretty decent this year. We don’t have too many preseason all-conference guys other than Eric Norwood. We’re sort of an unknown team right now, which is fine. Hopefully after a few weeks we can make some noise.”

On Akeem Auguste

Akeem Auguste is going to try to practice this week. He was held out all of last week with an abdominal pull. He said he’s OK. He told me last night he can play with it. That will be a concern with some of the DB’s getting hurt, but so far we’ve been healthy over there.”

On Rodney Paulk

“Rodney is doing very well at linebacker. He’s stronger and one of the best guys in the weight room during summer conditioning. He may have the pound for pound strongest player award. He’s ready to play.”

On awarding scholarships to walk-ons

“We have awarded two and may award two or three more – Lanning and Turner, our snapper and punter. We may have two or three more, depending on how many we have available. We’re still hoping Leon Mackey will still show up. Ben Axon right now may not be admitted and he’s looking at other schools. As coaches, we understand why he wasn’t admitted. That happens sometimes.”