This was day one of the new era.
On Tuesday afternoon, the familiar nasal voice of Steve Spurrier, the one that had for so long provided the final word for South Carolina’s football program, was absent from practice in a way it had not been for more than a decade. Instead, that final word came in Shawn Elliott’s voice, a voice safety Isaiah Johnson thought back to when he and other captains met Monday night with athletics director Ray Tanner and recommended Elliott be the one named interim head coach.
“Every day I step out and practice, I always hear him,” Johnson said. “I always hear coach Elliott yelling, screaming, just showing a lot of passion. He’s a guy that stood out to me.”
Spurrier made an appearance at team meetings after the press conference Tuesday and told the team how a new tone might help.
“He said, ‘My father was a preacher and every four or five years he would move somewhere else because they would get used to that same voice, so it’s time for a new voice,’” offensive lineman Mike Matulis said. “And I think a little of that is right. It’s time for a new energy.”
There’s something almost odd about how the game week routine remains the same, but that overarching presence that has defined the program is just gone. Well, there was one change in the routine.
The blaring music, ranging from DMX to James Brown to Papa Roach.
“(Elliott) used the music for more excitement,” linebacker T.J. Holloman said. “He said he wants us to have a live mentality. He wants everything to be exciting, everything to flow.”
Just about every player who spoke after Tuesday’s practice spoke highly of Elliott, who now steers the ship across at least six more games. Linebacker Skai Moore said he already has the players’ respect, and Holloman said Elliott came into team meetings promising a clean slate for everyone.
The players said they felt a little more intensity in Tuesday’s practice, the music and something more.
One thing that didn’t change: Elliott still hopped on his bike when it was done to ride back to the locker room.
Offensive tackle Brandon Shell couldn’t help but crack a smile when asked about the moment he learned about the promotion.
“In my head, I was like, ‘Yes!’” Shell said. “Because I know coach Elliott. He’s a great coach and a great guy.”
That energy could have its value considering the situation. When a team has already seen tectonic shifts, and will likely see more before it’s all said and done, it’s not uncommon to see a listless finish to a season. A coach with fire and energy can help prevent that for happening.
Somewhere in there, they also have to get ready for the game against Vanderbilt this week despite the swirling change around them.
“Roll with the punches,” Moore said. “Like we’ve been doing the past 24 hours really. So, we just roll with it.”
The Gamecock faithful didn’t get too much warning of Spurrier’s midseason resignation, and it turned out, many in the building didn’t either. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said the staff found out at the same time as players when they finished running Monday.
“I don’t know if anything is a complete shock in this business,” Ward said.
Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner said the contract fallout from Spurrier’s retirement has not yet been discussed. The potential questions include Shawn Elliott getting a bump after moving from offensive line coach to head coach, changes with Travelle Wharton moving to Elliott’s former position from offensive quality control coach and the financial details with Spurrier himself.
“Certainly, we will have to in the next several days and address those situations,” Tanner said. “This was never about contracts or money or those type situations. This was about coach Spurrier and what he felt was the right thing to do and then moving the program forward.”
Hall of Famer?
Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com tweeted Spurrier will immediately be eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame.
QB Connor Mitch returned to practice, as did RB Brandon Wilds and QB Lorenzo Nunez.
Players who were injured or wore yellow jerseys were: SS Antoine Wilder (leg), WR Christian Owens (left foot), WR Deebo Samuel (hamstring), TE Connor Redmond (back), QB Gage Pucci (knee) and C Cody Waldrop (ankle). WR Shaq Davidson (knee) and WR Jerad Washington (left leg) are out for the season.
Josh Kendall and David Cloninger contributed to the report