Feb. 27, 2018
"Spring practice starts tomorrow. We'll go in helmets, by NCAA rule, the first two practices, Wednesday and Friday, and then starting pads on Saturday. We'll have a pads practice Tuesday and Thursday of next week, and then break for Spring Break. Then we'll come back and finish it up, with the Spring Game March 31 that obviously we're looking forward to. We've had 14 offseason workouts with our staff being back from recruiting. We started the Monday of Signing Day. Obviously, Coach Dillman and his staff have been working with our guys since January, and I've been very pleased with the conditioning of our football team. You look at the Catapult numbers, the change of direction, the speed has improved in the last two years tremendously. I think a lot of that is attributed to recruiting, but I also think our strength staff does an outstanding job. I like where our team is at this point. We still have miles to travel obviously.
"Injury report - right now, Bryan Allen-Williams and Jaylin Dickerson will be in non-contact jerseys. They'll be in yellow jerseys. They'll take part in all one-on-one situations, 7-on-7, but will not be in any contact situations for the entire spring. You will see them partake in part of practice. Tavyn Jackson is limited with a hamstring, and Shi (Smith) is limited with an ankle. I do not know how long it will be. I do not think it will be long term. I think they will be back within a couple of days. Mon Denson we will not get back until after Spring Break. He will not be able to be cleared until we get back at some point. The guys who will definitely be out for all of spring are Ernest Jones, Jamyest Williams, Aaron Thompson, Lavonte Valentine and Antoine Wilder. That's kind of where we are on the injury front.
"C.J. Freeman and Jerad Washington both have come to me and will transfer after the semester. I believe Jerad will graduate in May; he has an internship through the summer. We definitely wish both of those guys well.
"Position changes - we're going to rep Zack Bailey at guard. Zack, obviously, played the year before at guard. He played at right tackle. He certainly could go back to tackle if need be, but we want to rep him back inside. We'll start out the spring with Donell Stanley at the center position, but he's another guy that can rep multiple spots up front. Then we're going to give Malik Young an opportunity to play some defensive line and see how that transfers. We only have Kobe (Smith) and Javon (Kinlaw) as far as mainstays up front inside. Keir (Thomas) has played end and tackle, but we don't have a lot of quality experience behind that, so we're going to see how that goes through spring.
"We do have some class conflicts I'll hit on - A.J. Turner, Malik Young, Christian Pellage, several guys who may or may not be there during the flex session. I know how you guys are. You pull out your rosters and mark who's not at practice, then I get phone calls all night asking why they aren't at practice. Just to let you know; that's where they are. We do go to class here, and we're proud of those young men.
"I'm very pleased with the staff and how things are going to this point, with Bryan (McClendon) on the offensive side of the ball and of course (Travaris Robinson) on defense. Dan (Werner) has been a really good addition for us, but it's been a very good offseason as far as working with the staff, offensively, defensively and special teams. We've spent a lot of time going through our film from last season. Going forward, one of the things we need to improve to put our guys in a better position to be successful is roster management, as far as recruiting, but the present guys on campus and what do they do best? We're looking at those situations going forward, and the good thing is you've got spring to have practice, then in most situations we'll have a day off, well, not a day off, but we'll have meetings, and we're able to spend a lot of time on our opponents for next season and obviously managing our football team."
On who is slotted in at right tackle:
"Blake Camper. He had a really good offseason. I was pleased with his play last year. I thought he did a really nice job when Zack (Bailey) was injured. We feel comfortable there. We'll have Blake at right tackle, Sadarius Hutcherson at right guard, Donell Stanley at center, Zack at left guard and Dennis Daley at left tackle. If you ask me, my two biggest concerns would probably be depth and experience at the offensive line and the safety position. Guys jump out at you; we lost some really good football players and that depth on the offensive line after that first five, we've got to have some guys come along."
On the importance of spring practice:
"It's all important. It comes down to how you go on game day, but certainly when you build the foundation of your team, this is where it starts. Each team is different. I told the team, when we had a team meeting in January, 'the 2018 football season starts today. It doesn't start in August when you report to camp. It starts right now.' You've got continue to build that. We look at it in phase. The offseason program is phase one. Spring practice is phase two. We'll worry about the rest of the after spring ball, but right now, we have the opportunity to play the game of football. When you're in the offseason program, you're in shorts, and the football is not there. There are a lot of guys who look good in shorts running around, and there will be a bunch tomorrow and Friday. We'll find out on Saturday."
On the quarterback position:
"Every position on our team is up for grabs at the end of the day. Regardless of what you've accomplished here before, you've got to come out and perform at a high level every day. Michael Scarnecchia was the backup last year; going into the spring he will rep as the backup. Jay Urich will have plenty of opportunities, as will Dakereon Joyner."
On how Deebo Samuel managed his offseason after missing most of 2017 with injuries:
"I saw him attack the offseason like I felt he would. The injuries were obviously very frustrating for him, but he's a great young man, and he understands the situation. Control what you can control is what we talk about all the time. The injuries happen. We can grieve about it for a short time, but we've got to get ready to move on, and that's what he's done and done quickly. I'm extremely proud of how he's approached the offseason and how he's worked. We're going to gradually move him through spring as he sees fit. He's been cleared, and he looks good."
On Evan Hinson's status:
"He is a basketball player until basketball season is over."
On Stephen Davis Jr.'s return to the program:
"Stephen came to me and felt like he wanted another opportunity to play football. We gave him that opportunity."
On the maturity of the offensive line:
"I think we've got some experienced guys in the group. You talk in terms of the amount of snaps Zack (Bailey) has played. Obviously Dennis (Daley) played all of last year for us. Blake Camper has played for us. Sadarius Hutcherson is now moving into his third season, and Donell Stanley ahs been mainstay for us. He had a terrible injury our first year and had to miss the entire season, but (we got) him back last year and playing at a high level. All five of those guys have played good football for us and certainly have, in my opinion, good leadership capabilities. I've been pleased to this point; now we need to continue to press forward."
On how freshmen can earn playing time during the spring:
"We need to find out who can help us. We don't have a deep enough roster right now to get anybody's feet wet. At the end of the day, we're going to throw them in the ocean and see what happens. I've been very pleased with those guys, their work ethic, and how they've come in and worked, and I've continued to se improvement just in the three weeks we've been with them, just in how they've continued to evolve. They get an opportunity to go out for 15 days and prove their mettle and see what they can do for our football team to help us. If they can help us, they're going to play. It's no different than what I told them in recruiting: if you're good enough, you'll play. If you're the best, you'll start. That's up to you, not me."
On the depth at quarterback:
"I feel much better than last year with depth, having four scholarship players we feel comfortable with, that we've recruited, that we've evaluated, that we feel comfortable can certainly help us win football games. As far as playing another quarterback and getting ahead in the game, we're getting way ahead of ourselves right now. But I appreciate your confidence in our scoring ability. I'll let Bryan (McClendon) know (laughs)."
On the schematic ideas new quarterbacks coach Dan Werner has brought:
"I think, schematically, we're very similar to some things he's done at Ole Miss. We were already doing (those thing) here, and (we're) continuing to identify what our players do best. I think (we're) trying to dictate the tempo of the game more than anything, changing the tempo, but playing at a faster pace as much as anything."
On Dan Werner's relationship-building with the quarterbacks:
"By NCAA rules, we're allowed to meet during the offseason with our players two hours a week. So we've been able to do that, and working with the offseason program. So we've had opportunities to meet."
On what Bryan McClendon has brought as offensive coordinator during the offseason:
"At the end of the day, the kids have to have belief in what they're doing, and certainly it starts with that person. He does a great job handling our football players, and hitting the right buttons, pushing them when you need to push them and backing off when you need to back off. There's a mutual respect between the players and him, and I'm excited about our future."
On the changes he's looking to make offensively:
"We did some good things (last year). At the end of the day, we need to score more points. The inside zone is the inside zone. A stretch play is a stretch play. A gap play is a gap play. A six-man protection is a six-man protection. We've got to continue to improve and execute in those situation, which to me, when you talk in terms of execution, that goes back to coaching them better and putting our guys in better situations to be successful."
On the decision to move Malik Young to defensive line and the players who will see increased playing time on the line this season:
"Again, it's just depth, from the standpoint of an experienced player. You look at it, and Kobe (Smith) and Javon (Kinlaw) are the only two guys on our roster that have taken snaps inside on defense. Malik is a fast-twitch athlete, a guy that plays extremely hard, and a guy that has played before, so he checks all the boxes, from sitting down after recruiting was over and saying 'okay, there's an opportunity here to help our football team if it doesn't hurt our football team on the other side of the ball.' We want to give it a look and see how it goes.
"Keir Thomas has played inside some. Going into spring, M.J. Webb needs to continue to step up for us. Aaron Sterling and Shameik Blackshear at the end position, J.J. Enagbare has done some nice things we've seen in the offseason program as far as his movement skills. Tyreek Johnson has done some really nice things for us. Bryson (Allen-Williams) will not partake in the 11-on-11 contact, but at the buck position can do some good things. D.J. Wonnum has had a fantastic two years here at the University of South Carolina. Brad Johnson needs to take a step from year one to year two. Daniel Fennell needs to continue to improve, which he has. He improved tremendously and played extremely well in the bowl game for us. Again, there are a lot of guys that have edge potential, structure-wise and body-wise, but not as many girth guys inside to hold the point. We don't get Rick Sandidge until this summer, (and) Jesus Gibbs until this summer. Those guys are stepping on campus until this summer. Jabari Ellis (is not coming) until this summer. We need to find some answers right now until waiting until August. That will be too late."
On the possibility of using Jamyest Williams on offense or special teams:
"He got an opportunity to be the punt returner on special teams. He contributed for us on special teams last year on the coverage units. But not on offense."
On the mindset of the team after a nine-win season:
"I think they've handled the little success we've had very well, and it's been very little. I told our football team: 'we've made progress, but we haven't accomplished anything.' Let's understand where we are. But I think when your best players are very grounded guys, and they approach things the right way, you're going to be fine. And that's where we are right now. Our best players are very grounded guys."
"I feel very comfortable about both players, as far as their play-making ability. Both guys have had good offseasons. Eldridge had a little bit of a hip flexor there for a couple of days, but he's fine. Both guys need to play well for us, and both guys I think have the ability to play well for us. I thought as the year moved forward, they both started playing better. I think the bowl practice was huge for both of them, and I think both of them made tremendous strides."
On the running back position and what he's looking for from that group:
"Number one, durability. A lot of them got hurt last year, so they need to learn to play through some pain and carry the ball. That's number one. At the end of the day, we've got great competition, and that's my best motivator. They've got to understand that they've got to bring it every single day, and understand that they've got to go compete every single day. They're all capable of doing that. Mon (Denson) will miss most of spring. We'll get him back after spring break; I don't know exactly what day yet, but the other guys certainly need to compete, and Deshaun Fenwick is a freshman that's shown some explosive ability on campus."
On the ways he's challenged D.J. Wonnum to improve his game:
"You don't really have to challenge D.J. He's a self-starter. He's a guy that goes about his business. He's out there first for walkthrough every single day. He's in the building. He's up for meeting with Coach Peterson first every single day. There are certain guys that are what I call 'self-starters.' They're a joy to coach, because I know exactly what I'm going to get every single day from D.J. I know exactly what he's going to bring to the building every single day and exactly what he's going to bring to the practice field every single day. He has a self-pride about himself. It's really important to him every single day to do it the right way."
On the depth at the safety position:
"Javon Charleston, Steven Montac, Zay Brown, R.J. Roderick and those guys... Kenneth Coleman is a young man who walked on to our team and in the offseason looks athletic. As far as being a football player, we'll find out moving forward. I feel like we have enough numbers as far as that's concerned to get through spring. We've got to improve tremendously at the position from where we are today to get ready for September 1st. We have some time to do that, but we've got to improve a lot."
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