South Carolina’s practice fields are, roughly, a 300-yard walk southeast of Williams-Brice Stadium.
As the No. 21 Gamecocks trudged back to their locker room Thursday night after a 52-28 loss to Texas A&M, many were thinking about just continuing on to those fields to get back to work, senior defensive tackle J.T. Surratt said.
“Our mindset immediately was, ‘We have to get better,’ ” Surratt said. “Right after the game, our first thought process was, ‘We can’t wait to get back so we can figure this out.’ Our whole thing is we want to get back out there and prove that that was a fluke and get out there and show what we’ve got.”
They will get that chance Saturday at 7 p.m. against East Carolina. Between now and then, the Gamecocks (1-0) will be practicing at a faster clip than they did in preseason workouts, coach Steve Spurrier said.
“We’re just being a little more competitive – first team (versus) first on some things. We’re still not tackling to the ground, getting guys hurt, stuff like that, but we’ve just tried to keep our guys moving better, a sense of urgency. It seems like we’ve been a bit lackadaisical. Obviously, we didn’t play fast (against the Aggies).”
Many of the practice changes involve the lines of scrimmage. The Gamecocks are now doing their pass protection drills as a unit rather than one-on-one.
“Everybody has been full speed, full go in all our pass rush stuff,” Surratt said. “I can’t even imagine having another game like that. Our whole focus is to get better. We have to show people we can get this job done.”
The practice field changes should carry over to the game field, Surratt said.
“We practice the way we play,” he said, “and right now we are practicing like we feel as if we can play with anybody.”
Some lineup changes also are on the way, Spurrier indicated, although he would not reveal them Tuesday.
“We’ll announce those later in the week,” he said. “Obviously, we’ve got to do some things differently around here or we’re in for a long season. We’ll try to do that and try to put a team on the field our Gamecocks fans can be proud of this Saturday night.”
Whether or not South Carolina has a team that can fulfill its high preseason expectations – a No. 9 preseason ranking and consensus pick to win the SEC East – is a question for the future, Spurrier said.
“You’ve got to go one game at a time,” he said. “Obviously, preseason talk is all it is. Some teams, maybe, aren’t as good as advertised. Some are better than advertised. Still wait and see for us. It’s a wait and see for us…wait and see.”