March 14, 2016
“It’s great to see you guys. I thought the offseason went really well. That’s a big compliment to Jeff Dillman and his staff; I’m really pleased with our guys’ work ethic throughout the entire offseason. We put them through a very strenuous program.
“Injury-wise, going into spring, on offense, Trey Derouen and Jerad Washington; Trey obviously had a knee surgery and will be out for spring. That leaves us with nine scholarship offensive linemen, which is not unusual, really, to have some bang-ups on the offensive line. We’ll be able to move some guys around and cross-train on some different spots. Jerad Washington is still coming off the broken leg, so he’ll be very limited as we go into spring. He will be in some non-contact drills, but we’re not sure right now, to be honest with you, how much he’ll be able to partake as far as drill-work is concerned.
“Defensively, Dante Sawyer will miss spring with a shoulder surgery that he had. He’s doing well off that. Jordan Diggs had surgery as well. Shameik Blackshear is obviously in a situation that he’s coming through; he will not go through spring, but his rehab has gone extremely well. Skai Moore has got a neck strain that our medical staff wanted to hold him out of contact at the start of spring They’re going to reevaluate that in a couple of weeks. He’s a really good football player, and he’s played a lot of good football, and I like where he’s at knowledge-wise of what we’re doing defensively. I may hold him for most of spring, or contact, from that standpoint. Nothing serious in that situation.
“I think as you see the depth chart; we’re going to release one after the press conference. I know that’s the most important thing to you guys. We’ve got five quarterbacks repping. There is no timetable, but you can’t rep five guys. We’ve got to whittle it down quickly, on the guys who can make explosive plays for us and take care of the football. That’s the bottom line – who can direct our offense and move the ball down the field and score? We’ve got those five guys repping. They’re all listed as “or” because we’re going to move guys around. We’re really going to try to rep a lot of what we call two-spot drills., where a lot of things are going on and guys are getting turns and reps There will be an offense going vs. a defense on one field and an offense going vs. a defense with the same script, and we’ll be rotating those quarterbacks to get them as many reps as possible. We’ve got to find of of those guys, two of those guys or three of those guys as quickly as possible to move forward with. I’d like to name a starter after spring, but if we’re not ready to do tat, we’re going to take it through to fall camp. Those guys understand how critical the reps are for them every time they’re out.
“At running back, David Williams and Rod Talley are listed first and second on the depth chart, but we’ve got a lot of guys who are going to get opportunities. A.J. Turner has done some nice things. We’ve got a lot of guys that will get some looks there at the running back position.
“At tight end, Hayden Hurst, Kyle Markway and Kevin Crosby have been three guys who I’ve been pleased with, seeing them in the offseason program moving around. I am looking forward to working with those guys. I think that can be a position of strength for us.
“At receiver, Deebo Samuel and Matrick Belton are really the only two guys that have played a lot. I think Terry Googer has played a little bit. But you’ll see that Bryan Edwards is listed as a first team receiver going into our first practice. I’m very pleased with his offseason; he still is a little slow as far as overuse is concerned with his knee, but he’s really come out of it well. He’s a young man who’s certainly deserving of the opportunity he’s created for himself.
“On the offensive line, again, we talked about Trey (Derouen) a little bit earlier, but Mason Zandi is at left tackle. (Christian) Pellage will play both inside and at tackle. (Alan) Knott, (Cory) Helms and (Zack) Bailey can all play the center position, but Bailey, Knott and Helms would be inside, and (D.J.) Park and (Donnell) Stanley backing up the two guard positions, with Blake Camper and Malik Young at right tackle. So, again, we’ll cross-train those guys at several different spots offensively.
“But obviously, the huge question mark for us is at quarterback and receiver and having some guys step forward for us there.
“Defensively, I am pretty pleased with our experience and our talent level in the front seven. You get a guy like Saki who’s obviously a good football player, played a lot of good football. T.J. Holloman and linebacker, Larenz Bryant and Jonathan Walton have done some nice things for us in the offseason program, so I am pleased with that.
“Marquavius Lewis has had a great offseason; I’m really pleased with his work ethic and how he’s gone about his business. Kelsey Griffin and Abu Lamin have done some nice things. Ulric Jones, Taylor Stallworth and Kobe Smith will be a little bit limited coming off shoulder surgery. They will partake in parts of spring; how much of the spring, we’ll see as we go through it. Darius English and Boosie Whitlow are two guys you’ll see. Keir Thomas is listed as a second team defensive end. He’s a true freshman, a guy that’s up to about 255 right now. He’s going to continue to grow based on his body.
“We need to find answers in the secondary. I’m not real confident in the safety position based on what we saw a year ago, but Jordan Diggs won’t go through spring, so we’ve got to find some guys. Chris Lammons will be a guy that we rep at safety as well as corner and nickel. He needs to be versatile enough to be able to do a lot of those things. Rashad Fenton is in the same light, at corner and nickel. Antoine Wilder will train as the nickel. Rico McWiliams will train some different places as well.
“I feel really good about our kicking situation. Elliott Fry and Sean Kelly are two guys that are experienced, good players. Drew Williams at snapper is a guy who’s a force as far as covering kick and punt situations.
“That’s kind of about where we are, right now, as a football team. The strength is probably defensively the front seven, as far as guys that have experience and talented guys. We don’t have a lot of depth, so we can’t afford any injuries in the offensive line and tight end position offensively. We’ve got a lot of unknowns heading into spring, but I’ve been pleased with our work ethic and attitude so far and I am looking forward to tomorrow and getting on the field. We have not been on the field with our team and the ball yet, so we have a lot of questions that will be answered over the next 15 practices.”
On his expectations for each practice session
“I think we’ve been really clear about setting the expectations of what we see every day at practice and what we want out of our football team. Each day will have a point of emphasis of installation. Offensively and defensively we’ll be on the same page on what we want to do, and what we want to do on special teams. Our players understand the expectations of what we need to get done.”
On what the biggest emphasis is for the spring practice period
“I think the biggest thing is the offseason program we emphasized what ETD – Effort, Toughness, Discipline, and displaying that every single day on a consistent basis. I think that now, going into spring, physicality’s got to be our edge. I think that, in our league, and I’ve been a part of this this a long time, it’s a line of scrimmage league. You’ve got a chance if you’re good on both sides of the ball up front. That gives you a chance, just a chance, but you’ve got to be able to block them when you need to run it and tight in the red zone late in the game. You’ve got to be able to gain first downs, and you’ve got to be able to stop the run defensively. And you’ve got to practice that way. A lot of coaches talk about tough – ‘we’re going to be tough; we’re going to be physical.’ But you’ve got to practice that way in order to be able to do it, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
On the timetable for selecting his starting quarterback
“I don’t want to put a timetable on anything and then come out of the third practice and you’re asking me who’s going to be the top three guys. We’re going to make those decisions as best as we can and give those guys every opportunity. The thing we’ve got to be able to do is come out of every practice, and those four or five guys have gotten an equal amount of reps. We’ve got to be fair to those guys in those situations, but also be fair to our football team and understand that we’re going to have to make some of these decisions quick, because you can’t rep five guys. That’s the bottom line.”
On what went into putting the depth chart together
“(It was) a little bit of film and a lot of the offseason program and what kind of work ethic they displayed. First impressions are really, really good or really, really bad. One or the other; the first impression of a guy’s work wthic, a guy’s intensity, of a guy’s competitive edge. Does he go compete every single day? That says a lot to me. So it doesn’t really matter if it’s the offseason program or it’s spring practice number one. You’re either a competitor or you’re not. You can’t turn that on and off. That’s not something that’s easy to turn on or off. You either compete, or you don’t. That’s what some of our guys need to learn, how to compete a little bit more."
On the fluidity of the depth chart
“Absolutely, it’s fluid every single day. We could change by the time we practice tomorrow as far as I’m concerned, as far as a meeting or anything as far as I’m concerned. And our players understand that. They understand that we’ve got to create – and I told our staff that this morning – a sense of urgency and competitive edge with this group right now. Because right now, we’re kind of sticking our toe in the water instead of jumping in, and we need to jump in.”
On the work ethic of freshman Brandon McIlwain.
“I think it’s been really good. He’s done exactly what my expectations were: to come in and work extremely hard, and he’s done that, so I’ve been very pleased.”
On his impressions of the quarterbacks
“Again, I think it’s hard for me to sit there and judge anyone off of a situation that I wasn’t involved in. At the end of the day, I’ve been pleased with those guys’ work ethic and their approach to being the quarterback at South Carolina. There’s no lack of ‘want-to’ out of any of the five. They all want to b a part of that conversation. That’s exciting to see. We’ll see how they manage it when the game starts and the bullets start flying.”
On how this spring feels compared to the other teams he’s worked with
“I really enjoy spring ball, because that’s when you’re really coaching and teaching. Obviously I love the arena on game day, but you’re able to see a guy really develop from practice one to practice 15, and really see him grow an develop, and you don’t have the pressure of having to get ready for a game and those sorts of things right now, which is good for us. I think every team presents its challenges. We certainly have several of them in front of us right now, but we look forward to the opportunity that’s set in front of us.”
On what position Skai Moore is going to play
“He’s going to play linebacker. I feel very comfortable with where he is at the college level. He’s a guy that can do a lot of things, and we will certainly use him in the key parts of the field. There are a couple of things we can do with him because of what he can do athletically. Obviously, those are things we’ll install and look at. He will participate in some non-contact stuff as the spring rolls on."
On having a number of quarterbacks to choose from heading into the season
“We have some guys that are capable of doing a good job. They’re certainly going to get a lot of opportunities, and we’ve tried to structure practices in a way that’s going to give them each a bunch of snaps.”
On his plans for South Carolina’s defensive formation up front
“We going to try and identify what our players do best. It all goes back to what are players can do and what they can handle. There are different techniques involved with each formation.”
On his thoughts on how winter workouts went
“Winter workouts are about effort, toughness and discipline. It doesn’t take skill to go out and play hard and display toughness, and that’s what we’re trying to get the guys to do on a consistent basis. You can’t fall in love with all that either. At the end of the day, you need to put on the pads and play the game of football. Sometimes you fall in love with a guy that runs well in shorts, and all of sudden he slows down a little when the game starts. I do think from a competitive edge standpoint, the offseason workouts are critical to your success.”
On the mindset of the team right now heading into the spring
“They’ve worked hard, and they’ve been receptive to everything we’ve wanted them to do. I’ve been extremely pleased with our work effort.”
On where South Carolina is at with installing its offense and defense
“I think it’s a day-to-day process. You throw it on the wall and see what sticks, and you try and figure it out. You have to install enough, so when you get into fall camp there’s a comfort level of what we’re trying to do on offense and defense. You need to find out who can learn too, so there will be heavy installation days. Part of the evaluation process is how the players are going to be able to adjust mentally. We’ll be smart as coaches and not give them too much this spring.”
On what running backs coach Bobby Bentley brings to the team
“His winning record speaks for itself. The offensive numbers speak for themselves, but he is a great person first of all. He’s a good man. He’s a really good football coach who will add a lot to our staff. The ties he has in the state of South Carolina are really important. He’s able to pick up the phone and call most coaches in the state. That’s something that is very valuable to me. To be able to have Bobby be that resource for us is really important."
On balancing the evolution of player safety with physical play
“A very extensive part of our team is how we tackle. We talk about how we block and tackling in the proper way. All of those things are really important in terms of the teaching process of football. Those are things we really talk a lot about. Part of being a good team is being able to practice the right way. We have certain tempos at practice where no one is tackling on the ground. We don’t cut block and we stay up high. The worst thing to do is to bend at the waist and duck your head. That’s when injuries come into play. You need to keep you head up, and do what I call a chest-to-chest tackle. Player safety is paramount for us, and our medical staff makes every decision for us in terms of a player practicing or not practicing based on an injury.”
On the team’s running back situation
“We’ll give every one of these guys every opportunity to be the running back at South Carolina. I’d love to go into fall camp with a deep group, because that is a position where there are going to be some injuries due to the physicality they’re going to embrace. We want to narrow it down as we get near the season. Our guys understand the sense of urgency they need to play with at that position. They need to come out with it not just tomorrow, but for 15 straight days.”
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