Pat Washington is very familiar with South Carolina.
The 28-year coaching veteran has spent 18 years in the SEC at four different schools, including an 11-year run at Tennessee (1995-2005) where he coached wide receivers. In 1998, the Vols went undefeated and won the national championship.
So when he was approached by new Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp about joining his staff, Washington recalled the passion and faithfulness of South Carolina fans.
“The biggest thing about this place, there were times when the team wasn’t as good as it’s been recently, but coming into the stadium, it’s always a packed house,” Washington said. “It doesn’t matter what the record is. The fans come to the stadium. Now I’ve come since the team has gotten a whole lot better, and not only is it packed, it gets really loud.”
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Now it’s up to Washington and a rejuvenated, eager South Carolina coaching staff to bring that excitement back. The former Auburn quarterback will coach tight ends at USC, a switch from what he’s done most of his career that also included stops at Mississippi State, Kentucky and Missouri. He was the Tigers’ wide receiver’s coach the past three seasons.
“I came in to coach a skill position as he was piecing it together,” Washington said. “I told him it didn’t matter what position when he decided I could be a part of the staff. I just wanted to join his staff, help him be successful and to win the East.”
Muschamp was just as eager to get Washington on board. Like everyone on the staff, Washington is considered a top-notch recruiter.
“Pat brings a wealth of experience in the SEC,” Muschamp said. “He will bring a lot of intangibles to our coaching staff.”
Washington has coached tight ends, running backs and receivers in his career. He said having to work on the line of scrimmage was going to be different than what he’s done the last several years.
“The challenge is getting back into the box,” Washington said. “I’ve been on the perimeter with receivers here lately. Now, I have to get more in the box and in tune with the language of the offensive line.”
A lot of his focus has been on keeping players already committed to South Carolina. The new staff already is recruiting for the 2017 and 2018 classes.
That hasn’t give Washington much time to look at the returners at tight end. With Jerrell Adams graduated, Jacob August, Kevin Crosby, Ulric Jones and Kyle Markway are the new candidates to start.
Washington said he is looking for tight ends who “are 6-foot-4 or 6-5 and are like a small forward that thinks they can play in the NBA. But height isn’t the only measuring stick. They have to be tough and able to stick their nose in there.”