He’s finally “Shawn Elliott, Head Football Coach.”
Elliott came to work Sunday and had one directive facing him — find a way to beat Texas A&M on Saturday. There were no late-night team meetings and no buzzing phone asking what was going on.
Best of all, there was no referring to him as “The Guy After Spurrier Bailed.” It might not have been the circumstance Elliott desired, but he got a dream job, and the future is not about who he replaced, but how to make a bad situation better.
He doesn’t need to worry about how the team will react, or if the emotion of the moment will take over anything he tries to do in his job. His daily routine is to find plays on the board in staff meetings, put them in on the practice field and then do it on Saturdays.
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“That’s what we’re here to do — play the game of football, focus on it, get those distractions out of the way and now we’ve got a full week of preparation where we can solely focus in on Texas A&M and what we need to do to get better and try to accomplish that,” Elliott said at his first regular news conference on Tuesday (the first was after Steve Spurrier’s resignation and the opponent wasn’t the focus). “It was fly by the seat of your pants the week before. So this time we had a little bit of preparation, a little bit of normalcy.”
or USC, it’s all about football after a win and a bye week. Elliott has promised more consistency on offense and tweaks to the existing packages, and said that no matter what, A&M is an awesome opponent. The Aggies won’t let outside distractions hinder them. The Gamecocks are playing a team, not the memory of two weeks ago.
“It’s been good,” quarterback Perry Orth said. “We started prep a little bit last week and we got a nice little game plan going into this game. It’s been good to get back to football.”
The Aggies, among rumors of a rift in the locker room over quarterbacks, plodded through a listless 23-3 loss to Ole Miss last week, their desired flash-bang offense resembling a used sparkler. A&M mustered 192 yards, with quarterback Kyle Allen unable to get anything going with a 12-for-34 day.
That has to be pleasing to the Gamecocks, who have had severe issues with passing attacks. They’re coming off one of their best defensive days from the Vanderbilt win and are hoping for a repeat.
Offensively, Orth has settled in and will have a fully healthy Brandon Wilds behind him. Wilds said Tuesday he’s hoping for 30 carries or more, and with the Aggies’ defense having given up 230 yards to the Rebels, perhaps the Gamecocks’ running game can finally get on track.
Of course, the looming question as the season extends will be how long Elliott will wear a USC logo on his shirt. He mentioned Tuesday that while he hasn’t had any conversations with athletics director Ray Tanner on his future, his current job is as good of a formal interview as any he could have.
Those talks will wait, though. Elliott has a job and he aims to perform it to the best of his ability. It’s coaching football, not talking about the situation he was handed.
“It’s good. It’s really good,” he said. “So when we took the field, we could say, ‘All right, this is what we’ve got to go out and do. We don’t have any distractions here on Monday night or Tuesday morning.’ I’m the head coach, let’s move on from there.”
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