For a week, Shawn Elliott’s phone was asking him the same thing he was asking himself.
“I’d get a text from here or there and they’d say, ‘Coach, you in or out? What’s the deal?’” Elliott said.
The texts came from Elliott’s South Carolina offensive linemen, and for a week he didn’t know what to tell them. From Dec. 6, when Will Muschamp was hired to replace Steve Spurrier (and by extension interim head coach Shawn Elliott) as the Gamecocks head football coach, until Dec. 14, when Muschamp officially announced he had retained the seasoned line coach, Elliott wasn’t sure what to tell his players.
When Elliott could finally relay the news that he was coming back for a seventh year as a South Carolina assistant, his offensive linemen were delighted.
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“It was definitely a relief,” senior center Alan Knott said. “He’s such a great guy. He reminds me a lot of my high school coach. He’s one of the reasons I came here, so definitely glad he’s still here. That was definitely a tremendous thing for us.”
“We really, really felt good when he came back,” sophomore tackle Blake Camper said.
That, in turn, made Elliott feel good.
“It was really good to know those guys wanted me,” he said. “Maybe they think I’m doing a halfway decent job. Maybe they like me or something. It’s a good feeling. I wanted to be back with them.”
Making the transition from the boss at the end of last season back to assistant coach has been easy under Muschamp, said Elliott, who was Spurrier’s offensive line coach for five-and-half seasons before taking over the interim title when Spurrier resigned.
“It wasn’t a problem for me. It really wasn’t,” he said. “It’s about being comfortable around the guys you are working with, and I think we all kind of jelled so to speak. You know how when you get around someone, you either have that awkward feeling or you feel like you’re right at home? I think we all felt right at home. We can communicate real easy with each other and it was a good feeling from the start.”
Elliott is the only holdover from Spurrier’s staff, but he’s been made to feel welcome by the rest of the coaches, most of whom have worked with Muschamp in the past, he said. Offensive coordinator Kurt Roper even changed some of his blocking terminology to fit South Carolina’s old system.
“He said, ‘You’ve got a consistent group, so let’s try to fit it as best we can,’” Elliott said. “For us as an offensive line group, to not have to reteach or rethink was very beneficial for us.”
Elliott’s Gamecocks were 1-5 during his stint in the final half of the season last year. He interviewed for the team’s full-time head coaching position, and still has the itch to be a head coach at some point in the future.
“To say (otherwise) would be a lie,” he said. “Every time you walk out there on the field and you have the ability to go out there and communicate with guys that want to learn, that just builds the hunger inside of you to do something more every day.”
South Carolina’s offensive linemen haven’t noticed their coaching having any trouble going back to his old job.
“He’s such a humble guy. That radiates off of him. I love that about him,” Knott said. “Same guy, always has been, probably always will be.”