The first week of fall football practice is almost complete, and new South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson sees things pointed in the right direction.
“Our kids are buying into what we’re preaching every single day of going out there and playing our style of football,” Robinson said Friday after the Gamecocks fourth day of practice.
In one word, that style is “physical.”
“That’s what we’re going to hang our hat on,” Robinson said. “Coach (Will Muschamp) talks about it all the time, being a blue collar football team. That’s what that means. Our guys are going to be tough, and they are going to understand that we play one style of football and that’s toughness.”
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That means lots of two-on-one and one-on-one blocking drills and lots of inside run drills, in which ball carriers must run between the offensive tackles. Board drills, in which two players face off in a single track created by a board on the ground, are a staple for the linemen, defensive end Daniel Fennell said
“Every day you’re going to do a board drill, you’re going to get used to it,” Fennell said.
South Carolina’s players also are getting used to starters going against starters in every practice, rather than offensive starters working against defensive reserves and vice versa.
“We always do ones versus ones,” Robinson said. “That’s why we practice the way we practice. That’s our edge. How we practice is our edge. We’re going to practice ones versus ones. We’re going to be physical. We are going to get after each other and then we’re going to love each other when we get off the field. When we step across that line, it’s (defense) against (offense). Then when we’re off the field, we’re a brotherhood again. That’s the way we practice. That’s what we want. That’s what we’re getting right now.”
The Gamecocks’ defenders, who are trying to prove they are better than last year’s last place finish in the SEC in total defense (allowing 429.8 yards per game), have embraced the attitude, senior linebacker T.J. Holloman said.
“Everyone has been giving a lot of effort, getting in the playbook, and trying really hard,” Holloman said. “Everyone is giving a lot of effort and that’s what the coaches are preaching to us, effort, discipline and toughness. They got us prepared during the spring. It’s the same types of drills (as spring practice) but a lot more physicality because we’re going into the season. A lot of expectations are different.”
The first goal for South Carolina’s more physical practice plan is to improve the team’s run defense, Robinson said. The Gamecocks were last in the SEC in rush defense last year, allowing 217.4 yards per game.
“The SEC is a line of scrimmage league. Some teams are spread, some teams are fast tempo but at the end of the day you have to run the ball and you have to stop the run,” Robinson said. “We are going to do those things to make sure we are getting prepared to do that.”
The Gamecocks will hold their first full pads practice of preseason camp Saturday. The practice will be nearly full speed contact, although the players won’t tackle each other to the ground.
“Shoulder pads and shorts is the same as full pads to us,” Robinson said. “We are going to be physical, but we’re going to be smart and protect our teammates.”