David Cloninger

Hope for new season, fresh start evident in first week of practice

Gamecock quarterbacks Jake Bentley (4) and Brandon McIIwain (11) prepare for a drill during the first full day of practice with pads Saturday.
Gamecock quarterbacks Jake Bentley (4) and Brandon McIIwain (11) prepare for a drill during the first full day of practice with pads Saturday. Special to The State

A week in and we don’t know too much about this edition of South Carolina football. Not that we would outside of a few more random observations from open practices – the first week is always a bit of a throwaway, due to two days in shorts, two days in shells, only one or two sessions in full pads.

We do know there’s been a switch in attitude.

Back when the Gamecocks were waiting for the next preseason magazine or poll to hit because they knew they’d be highly listed in them, the air around practice was breezy. Yes, the team worked hard, but things were going so well that every man on the field knew the good times would last forever.

Winning so much and in the fashion they won (the 2013 “Miracle at Mizzou” still makes me shake my head) instilled a certain confidence that they’d always find some way to win. Be it more talent or more breaks in a game or season, USC would win.

That feeling was obliterated when the breaks began going against USC in 2014, then the talent ran out in 2015. This group doesn’t talk about last year’s 3-9 disaster, preferring to preach what they’re capable of in 2016 – and that’s evident in how they practice and speak.

There’s much less standing around in practice (at least, the small segment the media has been permitted to see). Words like those of senior Mason Zandi, that opponents had better be prepared when USC comes to town, hover. The eyeball-darting intensity of Will Muschamp has implanted itself in every player.

The talent didn’t morph into what USC had from 2010-13 overnight and won’t throughout the season. There’s only so much a new attitude can do when countering with what the Gamecocks lost, and what they’ll face.

Yet the spark of hope, of re-discovering that confidence of what seems so long ago, is glowing.

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