Josh Kendall

It’s not practice, it’s work: The NFL experience never far from Gamecocks’ minds

When South Carolina’s players talk about going to practice, Mike Peterson tells them about going to work.

“I went to work every day,” Peterson says of his 14 years in the NFL. “When I hit them with that, that’s when they go, ‘Woah.’”

Peterson leans on his NFL experience a lot when he’s coaching the Gamecocks outside linebackers coach, bucks and defensive ends, which he’s been doing for four seasons.

“All the time,” he said. “Fourteen years, you always use that and go back to that. That’s where I spent a lot of time at. I use it all the time, meeting rooms, on the field, off the field, just talking to guys about different things. You would be surprised how many guys come to me and try to pick my brain about different things, different questions, whether it’s agents or whatever.”

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp has structured many parts of the Gamecocks program like an NFL team, a point he makes to his players often.

“Definitely,” said sophomore cornerback Jaycee Horn, the son of longtime NFL wide receiver Joe Horn. “We are in here early mornings working out just like NFL teams. Basically the whole program is based off that.”

Muschamp “basically says the same things that I see my dad going out and doing coaching wise,” said linebacker Damani Staley, whose dad Duce is the Philadelphia Eagles running backs coach.

The Gamecocks defensive coaching staff has decidedly NFL flavor. In addition to Peterson, there’s defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson, who played two seasons in the NFL, and first-year defensive line coach John Scott Jr., who coached with the New York Jets.

“Most of the players sitting in that room have aspirations of being able to go play (in the NFL),” Scott Jr. said. “Any time I am able to draw experiences from that (is good). I tell them, we are running the same type of schemes, the same type of stunts, it really adds some excitement to them.”

Any talk about the NFL is “an attention-getter” for college players, Peterson said.

“I think there is a lot of carryover from the NFL, but you have to remember these are still kids here,” Peterson said. “It’s a lot of different things that go on on that level, but a lot of guys here want to play at that level so we kind of use that.”

For instance, if players are late for meetings, Peterson reminds them that’s “coming out of your paycheck,” at the next level.

“So let’s start training yourself to walk into this meeting early,” he said. “Nine o’clock meeting doesn’t mean being here at 9:00. Nine o’clock meeting means being here at 8:50.”

Horn believes that type of “professionalism” will help the Gamecocks this year, he said.

“This year I think we have a lot of guys like that, being a professional on and off the field,” he said. “I feel like that’s what’s going to make us be a good team and even better defense. We have a lot of guys who act like professionals off the field.”

South Carolina spring game details

What: Garnet & Black Spring Football Game

When: Noon Saturday, April 6

Where: Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia (gates open at 10:30)

Admission: Free

TV: SEC Network (Matt Schick, Matt Stinchcomb, Alyssa Lang)

Radio: 107.5 The Game in the Columbia area

Extra: Former Gamecock lettermen will take part in a flag football game inside Williams Brice at 11 am.