South Carolina tight end K.C. Crosby called it the best part of practice.
Nice and early, young people only a few hours removed from bed, get the nice jolt into the day. Many folks use coffee, maybe an energy drink.
These guys pop out of a stance and slam into 200 or 300 pounds of angry, padded teammate.
“It’s how we start off,” Crosby said. “Called your wake-up.”
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And what’s the result of the team’s day-starting Cock Drill?
“Either you’re going to lay down or you’re going to get practice rolling,” Crosby said.
USC’s Cock Drill is a tone-setter, an indication of the style Will Muschamp wants and a way to remind the Gamecocks what they want to be. The coach preaches physicality, hitting and toughness, and it only makes sense to not put off the hitting.
The drill itself is simple. An offensive player and defensive player line up across from one another with long bags on either side creating a chute. A runner comes through and it’s one-on-one, all-out effort, beat your man and get to the runner or open the hole.
And USC’s version of the Oklahoma drill has a wider-ranging impact in the locker room.
“It’s definitely a highlight of the day,” center Alan Knott said. “We’ve got guys jawing all day saying, ‘I’ll get you in the Cock Drill tomorrow.’ ”
Players usually face the same opponents most days. Crosby usually matches with linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams. Knott gets either Ulric Jones or Kobe Smith, both defensive tackles.
In the spring, defensive backs and wide receivers were often not involved in the early going, working on screen blocking instead, but in camp everyone’s been included.
Even the running backs, who would seem more likely to be running behind blockers.
“I like it a lot,” said tailback Ty’Son Williams, who often faces linebackers T.J. Brunson or Eldridge Thompson. “I like it better than running.”
Even quarterback Jake Bentley, who obviously isn’t participating, said it has a positive effect on practice. He noted his teammates enjoy getting after it and smacking the pads together.
Doing it at the start makes sense considering the identity Will Muschamp wants to instill. He was a hard-nosed player and built his defenses in the same mold. His first unit at USC was lacking, and at the start of camp, he said the Gamecocks needed to be more physical as an organization.
Although teammates usually line up across from the same faces most days, they don’t always. Crosby pairs with Allen-Williams, a good friend since they arrived on campus together more than three years ago, but the linebacker wanted to pop someone else earlier this week.
“Bryson and (running back) Mon (Denson), they were arguing yesterday,” Crosby said. “They were like, ‘I want you tomorrow.’ So maybe they don’t go together, but yesterday they went together because our competitive level is so high, that’s what they want to do.”