Three months ago, South Carolina linebackers coach Kirk Botkin was coaching high school football in Texas. And Grady Brown, the team’s new secondary coach, held a similar position at Southern Miss until last month.
But as the two led their first practice for the Gamecocks Tuesday afternoon, they said the transition was hardly difficult.
“You get used to it being in this profession so long,” Brown said. “Players get used to having new coaches. ... You just have to be honest with them and be yourself.”
After Tuesday’s practice, head coach Steve Spurrier praised the team's four new coaches for teaching instead of criticizing, which is especially important in early spring workouts, he said.
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USC also hired Everette Sands to coach running backs and Joe Robinson to lead special teams.
Botkin and Brown are coaching a defense that finished fourth in the country last season but lost several key players, including cornerback Stephon Gilmore, defensive end Melvin Ingram, spur Antonio Allen and defensive tackle Travian Robertson.
Much of this year’s spring will consist of making small tweaks and teaching younger players, who the coaches say have lots of raw potential. Botkin said he wants to adjust alignment and stances for much of the unit and work with younger players on “keeping their eyes where they’re supposed to be.”
“But I’ve got some really good players to work with, and I’m excited about that and excited about the opportunity,” Botkin said.
Botkin — a former NFL player and assistant coach at Arkansas — said the football terminology changes at every stop, and Williams-Brice Stadium is certainly larger than Texarkana High School’s field. But “football doesn’t really change,” he said, and he will carry over most of his coaching techniques.
The entire defensive staff is learning a new system under defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, who took over after Ellis Johnson left to be head coach at Southern Miss.
Brown said he’d talked with Ward quite a bit and “everyone is on the same page.”
“We just have to keep the train moving in the right direction,” he said. “We want to get back to the dome and win a championship.”