South Carolina's new special teams coordinator John Butler is working with players for the first time this week.
Butler, 37, spent four seasons as the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at the University of Minnesota. He consistently had Minnesota’s special teams unit ranked near the top of the Big Ten but lost his job after the 2010 season. Minnesota coach Tim Brewster was fired during that season.
Butler began building his reputation as a kicking-game specialist at Harvard, where he was on the same staff with Gamecocks strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald.
At South Carolina, Butler is also coaching the spurs position.
What do you think about special teams here?
So far all I know is the players. And the players are really fast and really athletic. We'll see with the next couple days when they put pads on in terms of them being physical and being tough.
What are some of the challenges for you this spring?
One, I've got to identify who they are in terms of where they fit within our schemes. Our schemes aren't going to be overly complicated. They're going to be something that's simplistic enough that we're going to be able to execute. That's the second thing. We've got to make sure that coming out of spring they understand the basic fundamentals of what we're trying to do. Spring is all about installing your schemes and identifying personnel.
How much of game tape from last year have you watched?
I've watched every single rep of special teams. I know exactly who's played where and who played well, and maybe some spots we've got to move some different guys. Defensively I've probably watched four or five games. And I'm getting a better feel of the offensive personnel out here on the practice field. I feel like I've got a pretty good idea of what they did well in the past and what we need to do better on in the future.
Talk about the job itself and being at South Carolina.
So far it's been great. The staff is outstanding. The players have been awesome. I've been here four days working with the players. All I can say is I'm very, very, very, very happy to be here, and I'm not overstating that at all. The weather is a big part of it too, being able to be outside. I've coach at Minnesota and it was great. I coached at Harvard for four years. The last eight years of our spring ball, you're either dealing with snow or you're inside. It's nice to be outside.
Do you realize you'll be a hero if this team returns a kick for a touchdown?
I understand that it's been awhile since something like that happened. The teams I've coached have scored their share of points in the kicking game. That's one of our biggest challenges. You have to be a team that minimizes the explosive plays of the opponent. And in this league, that's a tough job. At the same time I think we've got enough skill guys to do it. I know it hasn't happened maybe in the last six years. When I was at Harvard we had seven in one year, so let's hope we have one of those types of years.