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Feb. 22, 2017

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Opening Statement
“I am excited about spring ball starting Saturday. We’ve had a pretty solid offseason. We are finishing our third week of the guys working out, and I’ve been pretty pleased with the progress we’ve made which is expected in your second year. You’re a little more understanding of what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to head.

A couple things I’ve really challenged our guys about are to continue to improve our mental and physical toughness. We didn’t handle some things on the road and we didn’t handle adversity well at times. We need to learn to play through those situations. The experience from a lot of young guys is going to help us with that. That’s something we’ve tried to create ââ’¬” as much adversity as we could throughout the offseason program.

We’ll continue to do so moving into spring ball. In physical toughness, stats can be very misleading at times depending on how you want to spin it. We struggled to run the ball offensively and we struggled to stop the run defensively. A lot of that goes back to toughness. It goes back to the core values of our program, and we want to be a physically tough football team. We weren’t. We were a soft organization and it was disappointing. Physical is a state of mind, and we have to continue to buy into that and understand that it’s not about both lines of scrimmage. That’s where it starts, but it’s about all 11 on the field.

We have to be a tougher football team moving forward. We really addressed our guys about accountability. The championship teams that I have been involved with had great accountability as a unit. They held guys accountable and it was about not letting your teammate down. We have to continue to push forward and get that kind of leadership. We have some guys that have the ability to certainly positively affect the guys around them.

We set a high standard here of what we want to achieve, and you have to embrace it. You have to embrace the adversity and the work you have and the grind. Our guys in my opinion are starting to understand that, but we have a ways to go.”

On the status of the current Gamecocks who are injured
“We really only had one postseason surgery. Bryan Edwards had a sports hernia, he’s fine. Bryan could probably practice Saturday. Bryan hasn’t really completely healthy since he’s been here. He had a meniscus coming out of Conway, and he battled through that last spring. He had hamstring issues in the fall, and the sports hernia came up late in the season. He played in pain the entire season really. We need to get him healthy. He’ll miss the first four and we’ll get him back healthy ââ’¬” that’s the most important thing tight now.

OrTre Smith had the ankle at Wando which he injured during his senior season there. Same thing with him ââ’¬” I’m going to let him go through individual (workouts) with that sort of thing. We’re going to hold him on the 11 vs. 11 stuff until after spring break.

Christian Pellage has a strained calf. I don’t know if he’ll practice Saturday.

Randrecous Davis has a strained (abdominal); it’ll probably be Monday for him ââ’¬” I don’t know if he’ll practice Saturday.

C.J. Freeman obviously with the knee is out.

Morgan Vest had meniscus surgery and he’ll probably miss the first half of spring.”

On Brandon McIlwain and Evan Hinson’s participation with football this spring
“Brandon McIlwain is in all of our meetings. He’s staying with baseball full time, but he has been in all of our meetings and a part of our offseason program. His class schedule has allowed him to be here in the mornings and meet with us and go through those sorts of things.

Evan Hinson is staying with basketball at this time. Frank (Martin) and I talked the other night and he’s doing a nice job over there. Maybe he has a possibility to play. With both those young men we told them they’d have the opportunity to play full time and that’s what we’ll do at this time.”

On Carolina’s offense line
Offensively, we need to find out the best five, six, seven or eight and who those guys are. Obviously the left tackle has a void there with Mason (Zandi) graduating. We’ll start the spring with Malik Young and Sadarius Hutcherson play left tackle. As far as the other tackle positions, Zack Bailey and Blake Camper are two guys that we feel like can sit at the right tackle position and play productive football for us. D.J. Park is a guy who can always bump outside and play which he has before. Inside, D.J. Park can play both spots, but Corey Helms, Alan Knott, Donell Stanley is back healthy which is good. Trey Derouen, Christian Pellage ââ’¬” all of those guys. Chandler Farrell will back up at center for us, and there’s Pika (Leota) and Will Putnam. So we have good depth on the offensive line this spring in order to rep and improve our physicality.”

On the Gamecocks’ quarterbacks
“Having Jake (Bentley) back in his second year is great. He’s a guy that has really attacked the offseason in the right way ââ’¬” as far as his meetings are concerned and he has got a better grasp of what we are offensively. Moving forward, Michael Scarnecchia will be back healthy. We’ll get him back, and he’ll get a bunch of reps. Bailey Hart and Danny Gordon are two guys that will get some reps of well at the quarterback position.”

On the tight ends
“It’s great to have Hayden (Hurst) back after such a record-breaking season at tight end as for as receptions are concerned. We’re really excited to see him back, but I think we have really good depth with quality players at that position. K.C. Crosby, Jacob August and Kyle Markway is back healthy. Kiel Pollard is someone who has had a fantastic offseason ââ’¬” I have been really proud of how he’s continued to evolve.”

On the running back unit
“At the running back position, we have a lot of competition. Ty’Son Williams is a guy we are excited about. Obviously, he sat out this past year. We think he has a huge upside. Rico (Dowdle) and A.J. (Turner) had a good year, and Mon Denson is back healthy. We’re excited about that.”

On the Gamecock receivers
“We feel good about the depth at the receiver position even though OrTre (Smith) and Bryan (Edwards) will miss the first part of spring. We have good quality players. Guys need to continue to develop.”

On the defensive line
“Defensively, Taylor (Stallworth) and Ulric (Jones) are going to be two senior inside players. We really need these next three guys, Stephon Taylor, Kobe Smith and Aaron Thompson, to really step up. They’ve been through a redshirt season, and these guys need to take a step forward for us defensively. A part of our success is going to be how those three guys continue to come along. Keir Thomas can swing and play both inside and outside. Dante Sawyer will play in, but he’s also I guy we need to rush inside and get more speed on the field. Shameik Blackshear has had a good offseason along with Dexter Wideman and Griffin Gentry. Dennis Wonnum and Danny Fennell will play the buck. Dennis has had a good offseason ââ’¬” he’s up to 250 so I’m excited about where he is.”

On the linebackers
“It’s great to get Skai Moore back. He’s had a really good offseason. He had a little bit of a turf toe today, but he’ll be fine for Saturday. He’s been cleared for everything so we’re ready to get him back on the field. He adds obviously a playmaking ability with experience and speed. We get a lot faster when he’s on the field. Bryson (Allen-Williams) is a guy that needs to rush more for us to get more speed on the field in situations. I think he’s had a really good offseason. T.J. Brunson has changed his body and continued to do some really good things for us. He needs to continue to take the next step.”

On the secondary
“Jamarcus King, Chris Lammons, Rashad Fenton are all corners who are back and who have played a lot. Kaleb Chalmers is a young man that is on campus right now. He can play both corner and safety in the nickel position. D.J. Smith, Steven Montac, Antoine Wilder are back. Jaylin Dickerson is someone I am really impressed with as a freshman coming into our program and taking the steps to play the safety position. We feel good about the depth there, and Javon Charleston is now a defensive back fulltime. I thought he did some nice things when we moved him over last fall.”

On the special teams unit
“We have a lot of questions in the specialists area. Alex Wozniak is a guy that we feel like has the ability to be our placekicker. He and Michael Almond will battle for that job. Joseph Charlton and Michael will be the swing guys to punt. We have to answer some questions there. As for as snappers are concerned, Nick McGriff, Ben Asbury, and Harrison Freeman are three guys that we need. Drew (Williams) is a huge asset for us as far as in coverage and reliability with the snap. We need to make some strides as far as special teams are concerned.”

On the improvements his team has made with their level of competition
“I don’t think you’re ever where you want to be. As a coach, you’ll never be satisfied as far as that’s concerned. There’s no question that we don’t have depth at linebacker, and that’s coming in the fall, but at most positions competition is my best motivator. Guys know they’ve got to go out and perform every single day, and that promotes consistency in your performance. You know you’ve got to do it every single day. A guy can’t relax. A guy can’t have an off day. That helps your organization as much as anything. There’s no question it’s better.”

On the role Brandon McIlwain is expected to fill
“He is battling to be the starter. He’s been involved in all of our meetings, all of the mental reps. Again, in the recruiting process, with Brandon and his parents, he was going to play baseball full-time after his first full spring. That’s where we are.”

On what are his expectations for Jake Bentley
“Work is not going to be an issue for Jake ââ’¬” he’s going to work. That’s one of the great talents he has. He’s a guy that you have to continue to work on with his timing and the fundamentals and techniques of the position. And obviously his understanding of the game. The game is going to continue to slow down for a guy like him. I’m never concerned with his work ethic and how he’s going to positively affect the guys around him. That’s what is expected, but that’s something I know will happen.”

On how Zack Bailey was able to make the transition to the tackle position
“Athletically, we really feel like he can play the right side. We felt like Malik (Young) and Sadarius (Hutcherson) are both guys that are probably the fastest twitch guys we have up front to go play where you need your best athlete. We felt like Zack would handle the move the best, and it’s all about finding the best guys to go out there and play well.”

On Skai Moore’s role as a leader after missing last season with an injury
“As a playmaker and a guy who has led the team in tackles his first three years, you don’t lose credibility with your teammates. They understand. He’s been through a very frustrating time. He has had a lot of setbacks, and I think he’s handled it extremely well. He’s been very mature about that whole thing. I’ve been very proud of him and how he’s really attacked the offseason. He’s gone after it hard. We shut him down, so it’s been a tough offseason for him. His leadership ability for our football team is going to be huge.”

On where Skai Moore will play on the field this fall
“He’s going to play the Will (position) in the dime in our sub packages. He’ll have the ability to play the Mike. The Mike and the Will for us are pretty similar positions as the two inside spots. Bryson (Allen-Williams) right no will be playing the Sam, and T.J. (Brunson) will play the Mike or the Will. All three of those guys are pretty versatile, and they’re very intelligent. They’re good players, and they can play multiple spots.”

On managing the linebackers this spring with only three scholarship guys available
“You take the reps and use some other guys that are on the team that can rep for them. We’re going to look at some dime packages and have six defensive backs in the game with one linebacker on the field because we have to Bryson (Allen-Williams) at the buck for some rush situations. We’ll look at some different packages and be able to adjust.”

On where Ty’Son Williams stands as far as size and running style to Rico Dowdle and A.J. Turner
“His running style would be more similar to Rico He’s a bigger, vertical back who is a one-cut runner. He runs through contact extremely well, and he has a great work ethic and really good hands out of the backfield catching the ball. I think all three of those guys complement each other very well, and in our league it’s tough to make it through the season with one or two.”

On how the offseason program has helped the Gamecocks with their speed
“That’s part of our offseason program. We have two days of applied metric and explosive change of direction. That’s something we’re consistently working on, and in our weight room.”

On how new offensive line coach Eric Wolford has fit in
“He’s a really good football coach and a really good fit on our staff. I love his mentality. He has a blue-collar mentality like myself in how he coaches the guys on the field. So I have been very pleased.”

On the health of Shameik Blackshear
“He’s as healthy as he’s been since I’ve been here. When you miss an entire offseason of lifting, kind of like Dante Sawyer with the labrum last year, you sometimes as a coach forget about that and you see the strength gains Shameik and Dante have had in our offseason program. To only have one offseason surgery is huge. To have all these guys go through the offseason program as far as the lifting is huge.”

On how much he expects Shameik to contribute this season
“He’s going to have every opportunity this spring to be a productive player. He’ll get plenty of reps to be a guy that can help us. We certainly need him to take a positive step forward.”

On how the Gamecocks have embraced adversity and how to improve that even more
“You create fatigue and have the guys battle through it. Whether it’s in a running drill, offseason program or in the weight room. We have to be able to create the adversity because it’s going to happen and it’s going to happen in the season. Our guys have to do a better job of mentally battling through those situations. That’s something we have addressed with them.”

On how his goals for Carolina in his second season
“Our goals don’t ever change. We want to win the East. That’s what we want to do.”

On how Jamarcus King has been able to add weight
“The biggest thing with Jamarcus is that he’s a guy who hasn’t really lifted. He came in last summer and had an eight-week program to get ready for the season. That’s a little daunting. Jamarcus has had a great attitude as far as understanding what he needs to do to improve as a player. We all can improve ââ’¬” as coaches and players. He has embraced gaining weight and the weight room. That was very important in him understanding that.”

On his comfort level as the leader of the program in his second year
“I was still learning everybody’s name last year. There’s no question that from a coaching standpoint there is a lot of continuity and shared vision of what we want. Our players understand the expectation and the standard. They understand what we’re looking for. This is a coaching staff that has won multiple championships ââ’¬” we know what good looks like. We know what it feels like. Our players in my opinion have done a good job buying into that.”

On how the players have bought into his system and work ethic
“Good players work on their own. The really good players do it all the time and we don’t have to ask them to do it.”

On what tight end Kiel Pollard has done to separate himself and make strides
“I think the big thing is that he’s changed his body a little bit. He’s gotten in better shape ââ’¬” that was struggle for him in the fall. He’s a guy who has improved his feet, and he’s a guy who we are going to rely on in the passing game and obviously he is a guy that can hold the point in run blocking. I just think he was consistently really good in the offseason for us as far as his attitude.”

On Jake Bentley and what he needs to do to stay in the No. 1 spot in this QB battle
“Well, I think there’s so many things Jake can work on. He understands that. That’s the one thing I addressed earlier. He’s not a guy where I’m going to worry about his work ethic. His going to work with what is the basic fundamentals and techniques of the positions, understanding the offense and positively affecting everybody around him ââ’¬” which he’s got the ability to do. Those are things we’ve got to continue to do moving forward.”

On his comfort level with the physicality of the defensive backs
“I’m not comfortable at all until we’ve practiced. We haven’t practiced, so we’ve got to get out on the field. We’re going to give them a bunch of opportunities to be physical, and they’re going to love it (laughs).”

On moving the Spring Game off of Masters weekend
“There are a couple things. The Masters weekend obviously did affect us a little bit as far as our crowd is concerned. We need to have a huge crowd for the recruits that’ll be at the game. That was one part of it. The other part of it, I felt like we ended spring ball last year ââ’¬” we were into a discretionary week. We were into exams. Most of our guys don’t come until May semester. They’re starting school the end of May, first of June for an eight-week program to get ready for the season. I felt like we lost some spring gains from the all season program. To have the spring game a little bit earlier, to have two weeks of lifting outside of that time frame going into the summer ââ’¬” I thought we would have less loss of strength in my opinion as far as workouts are concerned. At the end of the day, primarily most guys are going to work a lot harder when Jeff Dillman is standing right by them. That’s just the way it is. I felt like we lost some things from the offseason program going into last year.”

On the cross-training he does with players during spring practice
“It’s huge to be able to prepare for the season to cross-train guys. Because in the season, it’s not about putting the next guy in on the depth chart. It’s about putting the next best player in. If it means moving a corner to nickel or a safety to a corner or a corner to safety or the right tackle needs to go to the left guard position when this guy goes down ââ’¬” all the scenarios that you go through as a coach, we’re not getting ready for the game. We’re installing our system, which the players have a better understanding of, so you’re able to cross-train guys at different positions to always be able to put the best 11 out there instead of just the next guy at the position. That’s not really what we want to do. We want to put the best 11 out.”

On dealing with rules changes regarding physicality in practice
“I really feel we’re in accordance in the rules right now. When we do up-tempo, we stay off the ground. We don’t do full scrimmages ââ’¬” maybe two in the fall, two in the spring and the spring game. Really, with what I’ve seen from the new practice techniques that they want to have, we are already in compliance and accordance with that. Obviously in the fall we will have an extra day off in the calendar week. That is a full day off of practice, walk-through, everything, which will be a little different. They want to back camp up so you can account for those days and still have the same number of practices. Really we’re in compliance right now with how the rules are being presented.”

On the progress of Sadarius Hutcherson at left tackle
“I think he’s a really good athlete. He’s a guy that we recruited, projected a little bit as a guy that was probably 240 when he showed up on campus for his official visit. Now he’s at 310. He’s the guy that has the fast twitch you want at the position to block the elite rushers in our league. He has a really good work ethic. He has a really good competitive edge and is a guy that we feel like can be a good offensive lineman. He’s shown all those things and has consistently practiced hard every day. He goes after it. He’s got a great competitive edge about himself. He goes and competes and that’s obviously something that your teammates notice and see.”

On the changes that led to moving Zach Bailey to a tackle spot on the offensive line
“Well I think obviously getting Donnell back helps and leaving D.J. (Park) inside helps and Cory (Helms) and Alan (Knot). We’ve got some other guys that certainly we will get the opportunity to see what they can do.”