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Gamecocks Hold Football Media Day
Football  . 

Gamecocks Hold Football Media Day


Opening Statement:

A couple of injury things, Kai Kroeger is going to be out for the short term. He has a foot injury that took place last week while he was punting, getting ready for the football season, nothing long term. We are optimistic he will be back for game one. He is on the road to recovery right now and is in great spirits, obviously. Certainly nothing long term and hopefully he will be back for game one as well. Wish him a speedy recovery. Everybody else on the team injury wise is full speed and good to go. We have a couple guys that maybe we just have to watch at the beginning of practice this week. Make sure they’re not doing too much early on as we get back in to the swing of things. Clint Haggard and his staff have done a great job in the training room getting our players ready. Luke Day and his staff have done an amazing job in the weight room getting our players this summer. We talked to our guys back in June when we came back for summer school, the great football teams make progress in the summer time. They separate themselves from their competitors with what they do in the summer time. They can get better as a football team in the summer time. I really truly feel like our guys did and that’s a credit to our players and the way they work, but also Luke and his staff as well. I’m excited about the work they put in and can’t wait to get started on the practice field tomorrow morning with practice number one.


(In regard to Kai being hurt), Who do you look to take that spot in the mean time?

It’s a selection of candidates. Pretty much every healthy kicker we have has the ability to punt as well. If you name anyone on our team that’s listed as a kicker, he’s got a little bit of ability to do a little bit of punting too. And then anybody that’s on our roster that’s listed as a punter. It’s nobody that we sit here right now and say ‘ok he’s the punter’ and let’s go. It’s kind of going to be by committee throughout the preseason, and let’s see who separates themselves. Mitch Jeter and Alex Herrera can both do it, they’re also in a field goal kicking competition as well. We want to be respectful of that and cognizant of that. And make sure were giving both those guys the opportunity to be the very best place kicker they can be in this competition.


On the offense so far and its growth compared to the spring

A really talented Georgia State defense in game one that returns a bunch of starters and juniors and seniors. I think the biggest thing is one, the continuity year two in the system. As coaches we’ve had the whole offseason to tweak and figure out things we need to be doing differently schematically, things we need to do differently whatever it may be. We spent a lot of time studying that. Certainty when it’s year two in a system, it’s going to be that much more efficient, you would hope. That’s what we’ve seen from the spring time, through the summer workouts our players have been able to do, with what we have been able to do with them as a coaching staff within the rules this summer on the field. We are so much farther along than where we were, because there is one, so much retention. Then also trying to do a good job of what are we good at schematically and then let’s rep the heck out of that as well. It just becomes second nature for our guys. I would hope tomorrow morning it doesn’t look like a typical day one practice, where it’s sloppy and a bunch of mistakes. Because we are pretty far along compared to last year because of those reasons.


On Rick Sandidge being around the program in some capacity

Yes, certainly we’ve talked about some different roles for him. We just had a meeting from an organizational standpoint to get started. He was in that, sitting in his normal seat as a player. He’s talked to me about some things he wants to be involved with program wise this fall to be able to continue to contribute. It’s like I told Rick, you may not be playing on Saturday’s but you’re still a member of this team and a valuable part of this football family.


On Spencer Rattler being misunderstood and how he has attacked being here

The only thing I can gather is that way too many people watch that Netflix series, QB1. I still haven’t to this day. Some people may say that didn’t portrayed him in a positive light. Well, if I had a documentary on me at the age of 17, I would not be pleased with what was in it, I’m sure. All I know is, the Spencer that I was around for two years at Oklahoma, on and off the field, and the Spencer that I’ve seen in his time here as well. If you take a documentary when he was 16-17 years old, and then last season. I think it’s easy for some people to say he handled that situation poorly. But I have a hard time finding one instance where he handled the situation in a bad way that affected that football team, last year after he lost his starting job. I think it’s easy for people to assume that and have a perception. But perception as you know, is not always reality and it’s not what I’ve seen.


On at what point during training camp does it shift from installing the offense and defense to dividing up reps

I don’t know if there is necessarily one set day. We have depth this year, which is a good thing. So tomorrow morning, when we get in to some of our team periods and 7-on-7 periods, we will have two fields going. Everybody will be getting a ton of reps. We’ll have a group of players on one field, a group of players on the other field. And everybody is going at one time, running the same plays. You’re able to bring some of these younger guys along quicker, as well. We’ll be able to do that for these first two weeks of practice. Typically, you have an idea as you go. But once you get through that second scrimmage, which is two weeks before the first game. Once you get through that, to me, it’s kind of like ‘ok we have an idea of what people’s roles are’, and we are full speed ahead. Not all the way in on Georgia State yet, because you’re still two weeks away. But you have a better idea after those first couple weeks. We have an idea now, because we’ve been with them all summer. But it’s different obviously, with what they’ve been doing in the weight room these two months and in walk throughs. Then all of a sudden, you go out there tomorrow you put on a helmet and you’re practicing for an actual SEC football practice, and that’s different. Some people elevate their games at that point, and I’m eager to see who does it at that point.


On the growth of the offensive line

It’s been a lot of growth. That’s a great weapon for us coming back. Having those guys returning. They’re older guys who have played a lot of snaps. When you have that continuity on the offensive live, it should pay dividends. That’s the one position all five of those guys have got to be working together and in sync with anything. One guy taking a bad step can’t screw it up for everyone. Those are guys who played a lot of football together. They’ve spent a lot of time together off the field together. They’re older guys. They’re leaders. Jovaughn Gwyn for example, we keep track of everything that our players do. We just got done talking to the team about it this summer. We keep track of their accountability off the field. Are they in the building on time every day. Academic stuff. Are they weighting in with Kristin (Coggin) in nutrition like they’re supposed to. And then on the field. Are you making all of your runs when we’re out there timing our guys and we’re competing. Do you do everything you’re supposed to. We try to make some of those conditioning runs in the summer time as game like as possible to see how guys can’t handle pressure and are able to think on the run. It’s very, very hard to do and go through an entire summer and not have a single strike on anything, and Jovaughn Gwyn did it this summer, it’s amazing. To be a lineman for one, it’s not always easy for those guys to run and make times. If you could have the perfect summer, Jovaughn Gwyn just had the perfect summer. And now, we need, along with some other guys on our team, we need him to continue to come along as well. What they’ve done from the time they came back in January until now, is they’ve been great leaders for this team. They’re a hungry driven group ready to prove themselves this fall.


On being a different head coach from year one to year two

Probably not a lot to be honest. Certainly learned things. There were things, like as I stood up here last year I was thinking about ‘when we go play Eastern Illinois in game one, ‘how exactly do I want pregame warmup to be organized’, does everyone know what to do. So you’re further along from that stand point. Delegating wise, I’m probably a little bit better about that. I still have my hand in everything. But I know the people that work with me better than I did now. Marcus Satterfield, Clayton White, Pete Lembo, to Luke in the weight room, Clint in the training room, Larry (Waters) in the equipment room, Kristin (Coggin) in nutrition, DeMo (Derrick Moore) with character development. Kim Fields that’s basically in charge of me, knowing me better and me knowing her. So, there is just so many things like that, that I have a better feel for. But also being year two, I can look back, some of the mistakes I made in games, and things like that. Just being able to learn from that, decision I made. You’re always learning, you’re never comfortable. But certainly, there is a better handle on things in knowing what to expect.


On the offensive newcomers gelling and acclimating to the offensive schemes

They’re done well, they really have. Most of them were here in January. Austin Stogner and Nate Adkins got here in June. But for the most part, everybody’s been here. But they’ve done a good job. Credit our current players one, for embracing them and welcoming them and helping them get acclimated. But also credit to the guys that just came in, as far as earning their way and learning their way through this program and how we do things as well. It feels like Spencer has been here for a long time. It feels like Devonni Reed’s been here for a long time. And now, I think the spring time for them was getting acclimated. Summer time with all those guys, particularly the older ones, you saw a difference in their confidence and leadership abilities. Now, the next four weeks or so until we play in preseason camp is a critical time to really to continue to develop that leadership and become even more of a presence and an impactful person and player on this team.


On what the rest of the field goal unit will look like to start

It’s one of those things, I don’t want to say open tryouts necessarily on the team, but we’ve got to figure out who else can do different things. That’s regardless of Kai’s situation. We’ve got 120 players on our team, but when we go play Arkansas, we’re only allowed to take 70, that’s the SEC rule. When you start talking about your travel squad guys, the more people can do, the better. So being able to find other guys that can snap, hold, and whatnot as well. There are other guys that will certainly be working in there. Those specialists spend a lot of time together with Coach Lembo for sure. As far as specifics and people, Pete just walked in, so when you all meet with him, he can dive into the specific of the holder position. We’ve been preparing for contingencies as well.


On his philosophy with walk-ons and how he likes to use them

We can have 85 guys on scholarship, so then whatever the university tells me I’m allowed to have on the roster, the rest of that will be made up of walk-ons. So 35, roughly. To me, with us and our program, we actively try to bring those guys in. As a right, you earn to be invited to be a member of this team. But then to remain a member of this team, you have to constantly earn that, nothing is given. I love it, having those guys around. I want to utilize them in as many ways as we can. If you walked into our locker room, it wouldn’t’ be, here’s the scholarship guy’s over here and walk-on guys over there. If you go into a team meeting, it’s not, walk-ons you sit over  here and everyone else in the middle. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know. A walk-on is treated exactly like a scholarship player. The only difference is, he’s not getting his tuition paid for. But in regards to, who can produce, and who we can count on to help us win football games. I don’t care if you’re a walk-on, scholarship, whatever. We’re going to play you. We talk about competition. You see it hanging up all throughout our facility. We talk about competition all the time. I just can’t say that and not be about it. If there is a walk-on performing better than a scholarship guy then that walk-on is going to be out there and play. Any opportunity we have to reward a walk-on by putting them on scholarship, we did that some last year. Hopefully, we can do that this year as well.


On how finishing November and the bowl game fuel the drive to take another step forward

Any time you win that last game, it just gives you momentum and excitement going in to January. That’s for the fan base, but that’s also for the people within the program as well. There is no question the way we finished last season, gave our fanbase and us, great energy and excitement going in to the season. There was a quick turnaround between the Mayo Bowl and when classes started here in January. Our guys weren’t gone long, they were right back at it. We just kept that momentum going. The cool thing was, the momentum coming back, excited about how we finished, but also momentum about we can be even better. Let’s do everything we can to be better than 7-6 also. We finished strong, we talked about it as a staff this morning. We got better as the year went on last year. That will be critical this year, to continue to get better, with coaching, playing, everything.


On social media fan base pumping up the program

I would rather have that, than none of our fans giving a crap that we’re playing in four weeks or not excited and not being trending on Twitter and millions of views. I’d rather have that than the alternative, for sure. But it’s also critical to understand, and we talked about this, this morning too as a staff, and I’ll talk about it with the team tonight. Understanding that the reason that all this is taking place, is because of all the hard work that went in to last year as well. Along with what we’ve done up until this point as well. It’s been a grind. And there is a lot of work that has taken place by the individuals in this program to get to that point as well. There is a lot to look back at last season and feel, we have to do a whole lot better. We did some really good things last year, don’t get me wrong. But there is a lot to improve on. That has been made clear and will continue to be made clear to our program, players and staff, as well. I’m happy with where we are right now, nobody’s walking around says (pat on the back) ‘hey man we go picked fifth in the SEC East fellas, freakin’ go!’. Or ‘hey guys there’s nobody on our team that made first team All-SEC’. Like, there is plenty of bulletin board and motivation that I can use as well, because we’re not where we need to be right now, but we’re certainly on our way.


On how beneficial is it to the offense to have stability at quarterback

I think the stability, but also the depth in that room. You guys know this, last year when I stood up here, our quarterback room was Luke (Doty), Jason (Brown), Colten (Gauthier), and (Jake) Helfrich, we didn’t have many quarterbacks last year. Connor Jordan and then Zeb was up there putting together cutups for the meetings, he wasn’t even a thought. So just to have depth this year is so different. That you’ve got one, spencer whose played a lot of football, and is an older guy and has stayed healthy since he’s got here. You’ve got Luke who now has started games as a quarterback in two different seasons and is a year older. You’ve got Helfrich back. You’ve got Colten’s a year older. We’ve brought in three freshmen now, counting Jalen (Daniels). So just to have that added depth and competition is a huge benefit for sure. Especially compared to last year.


On the ceiling for Zacch Pickens

He’s very close. Zacch’s another one who had a very good summer. Our older guys like Zacch Pickens, Jovaughn Gwyn, they didn’t come back and just coast. They’ve come back and worked and gotten better through spring practice and now the summer as well. Zacch can be as good as he wants to be. I know he’s excited for this upcoming season. He’s really worked hard. He makes our program better each and every day. Not only when he walks on that field, but when he walks in this building. The impact that he has on the people and our program. Him coming back was huge. I think I said it before, going in to that bowl game, I wasn’t really sure. I felt like it could have gone either way. It was probably trending in the opposite direction, then what it ended up being. But it was huge for Zacch, because he felt like he needed it as a player, to continue to progress and develop and reaching his ceiling. But then it’s a great statement about our program that he came back. He could be making a lot of money right now in and NFL training camp. That he really enjoys being a part of this program and liked what we were doing and wanted to continue to be a part of it.


(On guardian caps) Why not use them in games?

I don’t know. I guess you got to talk to the guardian cap people about putting a logo on the side of them so you there can be a Gamecock logo. That’s where I would start. They’re all pretty vanilla in general. I saw the NFL, I think they’re doing it for every position right now, I think I read. There is an NFL coach actually complaining about that because he felt like it was creating bad habits as well. You could get used to using your head as well. I haven’t gotten into all that, it’s probably a better question for Clint Haggard. We use them for certain positions for sure. The ones that are having more head-to-head contact. You try keep your head out of that and teach that, don’t get me wrong. But the offensive lineman and defensive lineman, frankly, are banging more than a receiver and a defensive back are. So certain positions utilize it, but you may be on to something. It may be head into that direction.


On the complexion of the running back room and MarShawn Lloyd

I really like that group. I’m eager to see how that room shakes out from a competition stand point. There is a lot of unique skills sets in that room. With MarShawn coming back, he’s been great. He’s another that’s had a great summer. He’s on a mission. Has really stepped up his game this summer. MarShawn’s always been all business, he realizes it’s his time. To bring in Christian (Beal-Smith). He’s an older guy that’s played a lot of football. The leadership and maturity that he brings to that group. That’s the thing, not that it wasn’t last year. But Juju (McDowell) was a true freshman, I love ZaQaundre White, but ZaQaundre is ZaQuandre, you know. I miss him, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a different kind of vibe in that room. Not that they weren’t all business. But when you’ve got guys like MarShawn and CBS and then you add Juju to that. But then also other guys that we are excited about, like Dante (Miller) who we brought in from Columbia, I’m excited to see him. I think he’s got a chance to help us. Lovasea (Carroll) coming in from Georgia and being able to take the next step. It’s a bunch of guys in there, that’s going to be great competition for sure. Not just at the running back position, but then who can do other things to help us. That we want to flex out wide, do different things with in the offense. That’s a fun group and they’ll be some great competition in that room here in preseason camp.


On the level Spencer can take the offense

I would hope extremely high. Spencer has proven he can win championships. The last time I checked, he’s won his last 15 games as a starting quarterback and has a BIG 12 Championship to his name. He was quarterbacking a top-5 team last year when he was benched. He’s shown what he can do. He brings great leadership and talent to the position. It’s not all on Spencer, it’s on everybody around spencer to elevate this offense, coaches, wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, offensive line, all of us. Certainly, Spencer has done some great things and he will be the first to tell you he’s got a lot to improve on. We’re headed in the right direction, not just with him, but with everybody around him also.


On the 2023 recruiting class

Had a heck of a weekend last weekend for sure! A great day for Gamecock football, a great couple days over the weekend. Had an awesome cookout with some amazing players. I know I probably sound like a broken record, sometimes I talk about the amount of talent that’s here for this home game, or the amount of talent we have here for this junior day. But when I say we had an amazing amount of talent last Friday night that was here for the cookout, we had an amazing amount of talent that was here for that cookout last Friday. That was fantastic and great momentum. It’s been a good summer, hopefully we’ll get some good news here as we continue to finish up this week as well. I like where we are right now. Guys have worked hard and we’re in a good position. We’ve got a long time until signing day. But certainly, we’re full speed ahead on those guys that we’re recruiting. It’s been pretty cool too, cause those guys that are committed to us, they’ve really connected and developed a pretty cool bond with each other during this process. You guys have seen it on social media. We got on in particular that he may be our best recruiter of a couple of them, coaches included, who is doing some great stuff. They believe in this place like I do and it’s been fun seeing them interact.


On what made last year successful and what does he credit

A couple things. We really did become really close knit, and that will be key this year as well. That was a close, close, close team. If you watch the Mayo Bowl and that postgame interview I did on the field after the game. I made a comment about the team meeting we had the night before, and it was one of the most emotional team meetings I’ve ever been a part of, that was true. That was a group that really truly cared about one another and loved one another and played for one another. So I credit that. Then I just credit the competitive spirit and resiliency of the team that we had last year. That we had some ugly first quarters, don’t get me wrong, on the road in a couple game last season. But when you watched us play, never once did you say that team didn’t battle until the end and compete their butts off. I would say that. Whether it was down 14-0 against East Carolina and nobody flinched and we came right back and won. Or whether it was we had a bad first quarter or first half against Texas A&M, but guys continued to compete in the second half. Or Tennessee when we battled back like we did. That was a resilient, competitive group. Which, I would hope would continue to be the case this year. Those two things stand out to me. There’s a lot of things, you look back, things we did well that contributed to it. But taking the specific X’s and O’s out of it, those are two big things that will be critical for us this year also.


On what it’s like being at the top of the pyramid of what’s basically a Fortune 500 company

I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say it was challenging. There is 120 players in this program, and then there is all these different departments as well. They all do a fantastic job, but each of those leaders of those departments, they each have issues they’re dealing with as well. Things that they want in their specific areas, also. I feel like today, in some ways, has been kind of like a revolving door in my office. Every time someone walks out there is a (knock knock) ‘you got a couple minutes’. Then somebody else comes in, they leave and there is another (knock) ‘you got a couple minutes’. That’s part of it when you’re in this chair. I would say the biggest thing for me is, there is so many different things you’re dealing with that were different from even seven years ago when my dad was coaching, that are much different now. It is like you’re a CEO of a company, in so many ways. It’s like I tell our coaches and players, ultimately every single day my job is to continue to do what’s best for the University of South Carolina football program. Not everybody is going to like my decisions and what I say. People in this building. People outside this building. But I’m always trying to make educated decisions on what’s best for our program at that particular moment. We’ve got some great people that I hope love working here and love the job they do. They’re super talented in their roles. I feel like my job is to continue to empower them to be the very best they can be. Also understanding at the end of the day, it’s about the team and doing what’s best for us.