Aug. 1, 2016
I am excited to get started. I can’t wait to get on the field tomorrow and quit talking to you guys, no offense (laughs). I’m actually ready to coach a little ball, what you get hired to do.
I thought we had a pretty good summer. Jeff Dillman and his staff do an outstanding job. The guys seem to be in pretty good shape and really good spirits. We started about 15 minutes early with our team meeting today. `Coach Fink’ wasn’t there, so we started without him, then Chance Miller, our compliance guy, he wasn’t there either, so the team started early. They were early. Our administrators weren’t early, but (the team was) on time (laughs).
We’ve got a lot of youth and inexperience on this team, as I’ve said in multiple situations before, especially on offense. But the work ethic and the buy-in of our guys, I’ve been really pleased with — how they’ve responded to this staff and responded to the things we’re trying to do. We’re really pleased with that.
The goal September 1st is to be fresh, fast and physical. We’re going to need to be that way. We’re going to need to have a physical camp; with that being said, we need to stay healthy, and there’s a fine line there as a coach as far as are you having enough contact, are you ready for the opener to be fresh, be fast and be physical, but still have enough guys healthy to be able to do that? That’s something we need to be able to manage in camp, because we’re paper thin in some areas, as we know.
As far as the injury update — Skai Moore and Michael Scarnecchia are out for the year. I think that we’ve detailed those situations. Kyle Markway I think will be cleared in two weeks. We put a screw in his foot in the spring, and we felt like about mid-August, he would be ready to go, and he’s right on time, and he looks good. Kevin Crosby had some chest issues, but he’s going to be fine. He’s cleared for Friday. He’ll miss the first couple of days, and he’ll be ready to go. We’re just going to monitor some situations there.
Some limited guys – Stephon Taylor had labrum surgery in March, so you may not see him totally active in some contact, but he has been cleared for contact. We’re just going to have to monitor him a little bit. Evan Hinson had a meniscus tear this summer. Again, he’s cleared; he’s going to be practicing. We may limit some reps on him; he’s on a little bit of a pitch count as far as snaps and such. Alan Knott is still coming off the hand injury there, so he’ll be a little bit limited at practice as well, so he won’t be as active as maybe some other guys.
The first four practices will be split squad, meaning our older guys will go in the morning, at 8 o’clock. Everybody will be there, but they will practice the first hour-and-a-half or so of practice. Our young guys will be able to watch practice, be able to see the tempo of practice, the verbiage, the communication, and all of the things that a young player in the transition from high school to college, or college to pro… the thing you struggle most with is the tempo of practice and how fast the game moves. It’s a more complicated game. It’s a faster game. Those guys, for the most part, those younger guys, will be able to watch that. It’s the same script. It’s the same practice, when they start practicing. Midway through, we’ll have the entire team out there practicing special teams, and then the older guys will be done when we get finished with that, and the younger guys will practice the rest. We’ll do that for four days. It enables you to have a little bit more of a slower tempo for a young player, to teach him better and he can learn better. You can install better because you’re not in the middle of a practice trying to explain something to a young player when you know the older player already has an idea of what we’re trying to do. So I think it’s a much better teaching opportunity, and we’re going to rely on a bunch of younger guys to play. So we’re going to do it for four days. I’ve usually only done it for the first two, but I’ve decided to do it four days going into this camp, because of the youth and the guys that we’re going to need to play for us.
Still no update on Akeem Cooperwood. I’m not sure when that will be resolved. He’s still working through a class issue there.
I also want to announce the hiring of Rev. Charles Jackson, Jr., for a character counselor, a life coach, a spiritual development department of our football program. We’re really pleased to have him on board. He’s from Columbia and was a student-athlete at South Carolina State. He’s been in the shoes of what our guys go through. That’s kind of the position I wanted to hire Marcus Lattimore for. It took a little longer than I thought it would, but it’s not about finding a guy; it’s about finding the right guy. We’ve found the right guy. In my multiple meetings with him, and his vision of affecting young people in a positive way, I’m really, really excited about him. He pastors Brookland Baptist Church and New Laurel Street Missionary Baptist Church as well, so we’re really excited about him.
On whether he has a set date to have a starting quarterback
Not really. At the end of the day, whether we play one, two or three, we’re going to do what we need to do to be successful. Lorenzo (Nunez) will still be in that conversation. He’s taking more reps at receiver going into camp, but we still need to have a role for him at quarterback for some of the run-game thing we need to be able to create, depending on who our starter is. I don’t have a set date in mind. Our guys understand that everything is being evaluated.
On the importance of having someone who knows the community in the role filled by Rev. Charles Jackson, Jr
I think so. Again, the guy is from the state of South Carolina, and I have talked about taking care of our state first. We’ll start with our community, and that’s something that’s important to Carol and I, from our platform, being the head coach of the University of South Carolina, is to positively affect our community number one, and kids number two. Certainly, that’s the vision Rev. Jackson and his father have as well.
On whether they are thinking about last year’s record
No, we’ve moved on. It’s a new football team this year. As a competitor, when you don’t get the results you want, you have to go back. If you continue to do the same things, you’ll get the same results. We needed to change some things. Our players have really bought into what we’re trying to do. I’ve been really pleased with it. Our guys understand (what our record was). It’s more about motivating each other, taking care of each other as part of a new football team here at South Carolina.
On the amount of hitting his team will do in fall camp
I think physicality… you can’t talk about it. A lot of coaches talk about being physical. We’re going to be about it. You’re going to see our practice; they’re going to be physical practices. Now, we don’t go to the ground. A lot of these new practice suggestions, we’ve been doing for a long, long time. We’ll probably only have two scrimmages where we take people to the ground in fall camp. You can still have great physicality at practice and not take anybody to the ground. Part of my talk tonight with the team is about how we practice. You’ve got to take care of each other. You can still compete and have great physicality at practice, and be a great physical edge for our football team, and not get anybody hurt. Normally, when guys get hurt, it’s because they’re on the ground. So being able to practice the right way is important, and our guys will understand that, and I thought that in the spring they did a really good job.
On the importance of defensive line depth
When big guy runs out of gas, he’s done. We never want a big guy to play more than six or eight snaps in a row. Unfortunately with tempo these days, you can’t always sub to get guys out of the game. You’ve always got to have a good plan to have a healthy rotation, especially early in the year as hot as it gets. You can never have enough. One of the most exerting things as a player is pass rush. When a guy pass-rushes over and over again, he really gets spent. You never really have enough guys up front.
On his offensive scheme and whether it’s a long-term
I always think, whether offense or defense, is do what your players can do. One of the worst things you can do is say this is our scheme, and it may not fit what your players can do … It’s not about what you know as a coach, your scheme and what you think your players can do, it’s about what can they do. That’s something in camp, especially with some younger players on both sides of the ball, we’re going to have to make some decisions early about what exactly we can do. It’s something we’ve really challenged the staff about finding what is best for our players. It’s not about our scheme. It’s about how we do it as much as what we do.
On Terry Googer and his chances to make an impact at wide receiver
Whether it’s Terry or someone else at the position, we need that. We only have one guy who has play-making ability who has displayed that on gameday. I’m not saying they can’t do it; we haven’t seen anybody other than Deebo do it on game day. He needs to stay healthy. Having Terry step up, Jamari, Bryan Edwards, or whoever it is at that position, we need more help, that’s for sure.
On Brandon McIlwain’s progress since he arrived on campus
At that position, there’s a lot that goes into it. Being the quarterback at South Carolina and a guy that’s come in playing baseball and football – we had our workouts at 6 AM, then he’d go to Chad (Holbrook) in the afternoon and still maintain above 3.0 GPA. That’s a lot going on in a young man’s life. He made the transition very smooth. A lot of times that transition goes back to maturity. Playing as a freshman, whether you come midyear and no matter what position you’re playing, a lot of it goes back to being mature and handling being away from home for the first time, handling a new situation, a new staff, a new coach, a new verbiage, all of the things that go into it. I feel like he’s handled those things extremely well. I thought he progressed from practice 1 to practice 15 extremely well. I thought he went out in front of 40,000 in our stadium and handled the moment extremely well. By all reports, he’s had a very good summer. I’m looking forward to getting on the field with him.