South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp called his first practice with the Gamecocks typical.
His players found it to be anything but.
“Very up-tempo,” middle linebacker T.J. Holloman said. “First day, came out the gate throwing everything at us. Trying to create adversity. We were prepared, but it’s different once you start practice.”
The pace was apparent. The staff were on players, demanding they get into position and run plays faster. Muschamp promised a higher-tempo offense when he took the job last December, and day one delivered.
The coach confirmed there were some anxious and uncertain moments early on, as players tried to adapt to new terms, schemes and approaches. That’ll happen with how quickly the staff demanded the players go, a jump from a season ago.
“We took a lot of plays off in practice,” defensive back Chris Lammons said. “Just jogging, not really running to the ball. But this year, coach Muschamp and coach (Travaris Robinson) made sure we were running to the ball.”
Muschamp expected some of the shock from the first day will dissipate quickly. When asked who stood out, he brushed off the the question, pointing out why the first day won’t show much.
“We’re in helmets,” Muschamp said. “We don’t play football in pajamas. We actually play in pads. We’ve got some All Americans out there in shorts. We’ll see what happens when the heat starts for them.”
Muschamp played safety in college at Georgia, and said he’ll be directly working with that position group this spring. He said he relishes the chance to do individual coaching.
“I embrace every second of it,” Muschamp said. “It might get old, but we’re going to embrace it.”
Lone returning starter Jordan Diggs is now listed at linebacker, leaving little-used Toure Boyd and Jasper Sasser as the first unit on the depth chart with D.J. Smith and Chaz Elder on the second group.
▪ The three periods of practice open to the media included a couple sessions devoted to special teams, and one with full team work.
▪ In the team period, which comprised about two drives, Perry Orth quarterbacked the first unit and Connor Mitch was with the second group. Mitch had one play where the rush got to him and was sacked.
▪ Sophomore cornerback Rashad Fenton picked off a pass and middle linebacker T.J. Holloman got his hands on a ball that tipped to receiver Matrick Belton.
▪ Defensive tackle Ulric Jones got some early work on the interior line in the team’s nickel package.
▪ Tight end Hayden Hurst was out with the first unit and was split out wide on several occasions.
▪ Running backs Rod Talley and David Williams each had at least one nice run. The Gamecocks showed some two-back looks as well as lining backs up deep behind the quarterbacks in the shotgun.
▪ Players this year have their last names on the back of their practice jerseys. All quarterbacks’ jerseys are yellow.
▪ The Gamecocks were in garnet helmets, which they wore against Clemson last season.
▪ Early enrollee defensive end Keir Thomas was in at the standard defensive end position on the second drive of the team period.
▪ A.J. Turner, Chris Lammons, Deebo Samuel, Fenton and Bryan Edwards were among the players fielding punts.
▪ Hurst and Markway were the wings (blockers on the edge) on the first field goal unit, while Boosie Whitlow was working near the middle of the field goal block unit.
DL Dante Sawyer (shoulder surgery), OL Trey Derouen (knee injury), LB Jordan Diggs (shoulder surgery), DL Shameik Blackshear will miss all of spring. WR Jerad Washington (leg), DT Taylor Stallworth (shoulder surgery), DT Kobe Smith (shoulder surgery) will be limited. LB Skai Moore (neck strain) will be held out of contact work early, but will reevaluate later on.
The Gamecocks will practice at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. It will be closed to the public.