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january 27, 2016 • Volume 38 • Issue 1 • $1.50

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Publication mailed from Columbia on Monday, Jan. 25

Will Muschamp, new coaching staff embraced by Gamecock fans and recruits


2 • Spurs & Feathers

Spurs & Feathers Published by Aiken Communications, Inc.

Contact Us: 326 Rutland Drive N.W. PO Box 456 Aiken, SC, 29801 To subscribe: Please call 800-559-2311; annual subscription price is $50 Ellen Priest Publisher Aiken Communications, Inc. Tim O’Briant General Manager tobriant@spursandfeathers.com (803) 335-1400 Ext. 500 Brian Hand Executive Editor bhand@spursandfeathers.com (803) 335-1399 Ext. 506 Ed Girardeau Contributing Editor/ Advertising Account Executive ed@spursandfeathers.com (803) 646-9807 Dee Taylor Advertising Director (803) 644-2371 Kathy Boyette Advertising Sales Manager (803) 295-3654 kboyette@spursandfeathers.com Brooks Rogers Advertising Representative (803) 446-4022 brooks@spursandfeathers.com Reporter Kyle Heck kheck@spursandfeathers.com

January 27, 2016

When to expect Spurs & Feathers in the upcoming year

Thank you so much for your continued support of Spurs & Feathers. Per our contract with the Gamecock Club, below are our edition dates for the 2016 year. Please note the digital magazine delivered via email is an added benefit courtesy of Spurs & Feathers. 2016 Spurs & Feathers schedule

Jan. 27 newspaper (start of new year) Feb. 24 digital magazine (springs sports lookahead) March 16 digital magazine (postseason basketball lookahead) April 27 newspaper (basketball, spring football wrapup) May 25 digital magazine (springs sports)

June 15 digital magazine (springs sports) July 27 newspaper (SEC Media Days) Aug. 24 magazine (preseason football) Sept. 7 newspaper Sept. 14 newspaper Sept. 21 newspaper Sept. 28 newspaper Oct. 5 newspaper Oct. 12 newspaper Oct. 19 bye week (no newspaper) Oct. 26 newspaper Nov. 2 newspaper Nov. 9 newspaper Nov. 16 newspaper Nov. 23 newspaper Nov. 30 newspaper Dec. 21 magazine (end of year)

Photographers Allen Sharpe and Jenny Dilworth Cover Design Brian Hand (photo by Allen Sharpe) Postal Information: SPURS & FEATHERS (USPS 12779) (ISSN 7454368X) is published 20 times annually. The frequency is monthly in January, April and July. The publication is weekly from September-November. SPURS & FEATHERS also publishes two slick-paper magazine issues — one in August and one in December. The annual subscription price is $50 for non Gamecock Club members. Members of the Gamecock Club receive a discounted subscription as a member benefit. Spurs & Feathers is published by Aiken Communications, Inc., 326 Rutland Drive NW, Aiken, SC, 29801-4010. Periodicals postage paid at Columbia, SC Postmaster: Send changes to SPURS & FEATHERS, PO Box 456, Aiken, SC, 29802.

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Spurs & Feathers • 3

January 27, 2016

Holbrook: ‘Players were juiced about getting out in the community’ by kyle heck Reporter

All-in-all, the Gamecock baseball team racked up 205 volunteer hours during the “MLK Week of Service,” an incredible The South Carolina baseball team has number for a four-day span. always been prevalent in the community, The week started with the Gamecocks whether it was helping the community re- hosting Epworth Children’s Home at cover from the devastating flood last year Founders Park for an event with the entire or doing various community outreaches team on Monday, Jan. 18. On Wednesday, over the years. The Gamecocks continued Jan. 20, the student-athletes visited with that trend with the “MLK Week of Serveterans at the Wm. Jennings Bryan Dorn vice” that took place from January 18-21. VA Medical Center. The next day was a With the season starting in February and busy one as the Gamecocks first visited running until late-May or June, there isn’t Arden Elementary School in the morning a whole lot of time to set aside for comto stress the importance of reading before munity outreach during that time. Before heading over to Greenview Park in the the rigors of the baseball season hit, the evening to play games with children from Gamecocks set aside a few days to help out the City of Columbia. and support those who support the GameAll through the week, the Gamecocks cocks. made a point to talk to the children and “Our director of baseball operations, Ty- veterans and connect with them and it son Lusk, came to me and thought it would was something that really hit home for the be a great idea,” head coach student-athletes. Chad Holbrook said. “We “You think you know, but hadn’t gotten to team pracyou really don’t know what tice or anything like that, somebody has gone through so we had a lot of time to until you see it face-togo to different places. Our face,” senior DC Arendas players were juiced about said during the VA visit. All Gamecock baseball getting out in the com“For us, it’s just a blessing coverage sponsored by munity and reaching out as to be here. Hopefully we DiPrato’s well.” can encourage them and

ty, particularly the baseball team. With the immense amount of success they’ve had over the years, the Gamecocks are wellrecognized across Columbia and the state. For Holbrook, it’s important to show those who support the team that they’re willing to get out and interact. At the event at Greenview Park, Holbrook had a conversation with Carey Rich, a former Gamecock basketball player and the interim superintendent for the City of Columbia Parks and Recreation. During that talk, Rich told Holbrook how important and meaningful it was to have South photo by allen sharpe Carolina student-athletes interact with the community. Growing up in the city, Rich said he wished he would’ve gotten that opgive them some joy.” portunity. As for the children the team interacted with throughout the week, one look at their “These kids don’t get to interact with our players everyday,” Holbrook said. “They faces told the whole story. They were beyond themselves with excitement at being get to see us on TV or they get to see us in the newspaper, but they don’t see us (in able to interact with the Gamecocks. The person). So to be able to interact with them team also autographed team posters and personally I think means a lot to the kids. handed those out throughout the week. Carey said (we) don’t have any idea how “It’s really awesome just to see, No. 1, much of an impact that has on the kids. their reactions and, No. 2, be able to do You can sit here and look at their faces and something for the kids,” Cropper said at watch them smile and watch them interact Arden Elementary School. “It’s an awewith our players and you can certainly see some experience.” that it’s well worth the trip for our playThe Gamecocks know how important it is to spend all those hours in the communi- ers.”

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4 • Spurs & Feathers

January 27, 2016

A fine line: The Jordan Diggs story by Brad Muller South Carolina Director of Content Jordan Diggs isn’t the first member of his hometown, or even the first member of his own family, to play “big time” college football. The list of renowned football players from his hometown of Fort Myers, Florida, reads like a Who’s-Who college all-star roster, including his father, Shed Diggs, who also played at South Carolina in the mid-1980s as well as other well-known names such as Deion Sanders, Jevon Kearse, and Sammy Watkins. It is Jordan’s ability to overcome tragedy, adversity and temptation that makes his path remarkable. “My area, the Dunbar Community, I would say is rough for a kid being that there is so much temptation,” Jordan said. Far from the perfect postcard picture of white sand beaches and palm trees, Jordan was surrounded by crime, drugs and violence. “I saw a lot growing up, and as a kid you’re exposed to a lot,” Jordan recalled. “I remember seeing police raiding houses, and then I just saw this guy at the store and today he’s being arrested. And a kid walking down the street, and two guys shooting at each other and a stray bullet hits the kid. These are the types of things we see, and it happens often.”

there was a problem at school, they could call him and he was always there. He was not only checking on our kids but on other kids he coached in football.” Shed was living proof of the opportunities football could provide in getting away from the temptations within the Dunbar Community. When his playing days were over, Shed’s positive public image took a dark turn, and the Diggs children didn’t realize that the days with their father around were numbered. Altemia began to notice some gaps in Shed’s routine and how it affected the family. After he was laid off from his job, she knew something wasn’t quite right.

A BROKEN FAMILY The day Shed was arrested had started like any other day as 12 year-old Jordan got ready to go to school. When Jordan returned home, Shed was gone. He had been arrested for drug distribution and sentenced to a ten-year term in federal prison. “It was really a lot thrown at me,” Jordan said. “It shook my world up a little bit. The toughest part was that he was gone. Life was so great with him, and then he goes away and I was facing struggles that I had never seen before.” “It was the worst time in my life if I could have chosen this to happen,” Altemia said of Shed’s arrest. “I’m here trying to work a DUNBAR DILEMMA minimum wage (job) with seven kids. So he Whether it’s at his grandmother’s house or left me with all that. We had to restructure inside Chaney’s Barbershop, which acts as a and regroup.” center piece for the community, it’s easy to Jordan remembers breaking down in tears find proudly displayed memorabilia of the when his father tried to tell him what had famous local young men who made it out to happened. To make matters worse, the famplay college and professional football. There ily’s house caught fire soon afterwards, causare many others who could have been up on ing them to move to a much smaller rental those walls, if not for some bad decisions. house across the street. A few months later, “There are a lot more kids who were way Jordan’s older brother Justin, who was 17 at more talented,” said Jeremy Ware, Jordan’s the time, was convicted of selling cocaine brother and former Michigan State standout and sentenced to four years in prison. Several who played one year for the Oakland Raiders. years later, Justin was sentenced to life in “You just go through so much. It’s like there prison under Florida’s Habitual Violent Ofis some pit here that just holds on to some fender law for his involvement in an armed people, and they can’t make it.” robbery. With another older brother, Jeremy Sometimes that “pit” grabs them even after Ware, playing football at Michigan State, Jorthey’ve had a taste of success. That’s what dan had to take on a new role in his family. happened to Jordan’s father. Shed Diggs is “I went from playing outside with my one of Dunbar’s earliest football products friends and doing stuff that normal 12 yearwho played linebacker for South Carolina old kids would do, to mom telling me, ‘hey from 1984-1987. son, I’ve got to work late tonight. I need you “It was like my dad was some kind of suto make sure the kids are bathed, feed them perstar,” Jordan said. “It’s like my dad was and make sure they go to sleep on time,’ ” some kind of a celebrity. Everyone had so Jordan said. much respect for him. It was awesome.” Jordan’s mom later came up with the idea “He spent a lot of time with me. I rememto send him to Bishop Verot High School, a ber many fishing trips and us just spending private Catholic school on the other side of that time. I cherished that. I really did.” town where Jordan would be surrounded by “He was like ‘Mr. Mom,’ ” said Altemia discipline, away from the temptations that Diggs, Jordan’s mother. “He was on task. If eventually caught up to his father.

“I believed strongly in education, and that was going to be their way out.” Altemia said. “Your athletic ability will make room for you to get the education that is going to prepare you later in life.” “For my mom to get me out of that community, I got a chance to see kids from different backgrounds,” Jordan said. “It actually helped me because I was able to think outside of what was going on at home. She has just always been there for me. My mom is, I know for sure, my biggest supporter. She has always believed in me even when I didn’t have the confidence to believe in myself. She always pushed me to keep on going and to keep trying.” Jordan transferred back to public school for his senior year, attending Island Coast High School where he was interested in the natural science program. The transition didn’t go smoothly at first as Jordan was ruled ineligible for football due to zoning questions. After several appeals, he was finally ruled eligible after the fourth week of the season. “Jordan was always a positive kid,” said Island Coast football coach Joe Bowen. “He gave it his all every time he was out there. All of the stuff he went through coming to Island Coast, he showed a lot of class. That’s what I remember the most about Jordan. “I can’t tell you that a lot of high school kids could have done what Jordan did. Life gives you some adverse situations, you have to fight through them. You have to face the challenges head on. I admired him for all that he went through.”

during a robbery at the family home six days before what was national signing day for Jordan. “I had never experienced anything like that,” Jordan said. “To see something happen, so tragic, so close to home, it was devastating. I remember not feeling safe in that community for months. Things didn’t feel right anymore. “I sort of look at ‘Mr. B’ like an angel that was sent to protect me and my family. I would like to believe that he went down fighting to protect us.” Signing day became bittersweet, but with a family filled with college and professional football standouts, Jordan felt that it was his destiny to follow his father’s footsteps on the field and attend the University of South Carolina. “I flipped,” Jordan said about receiving a scholarship offer from the Gamecocks. “I went home and told my mom. I told her ‘I’m going to South Carolina. They offered me.’ It was a really big deal being that was always the family dream – following in my dad’s footsteps and continuing the legacy. “Most people don’t get a chance to live their dream. This was my dream, to come here and play at this school, for my dad to see me play at this school and for my family to be in the stands, for me to wear number 42, and have success on the field, just like Shed Diggs.” Despite his father’s absence, Jordan maintained a good relationship with Shed and proudly chose to wear his number while remembering the good times. “It goes back to me always looking up to him and having so much respect for my faA NEW LEGACY With more than two dozen scholarship offers, ther and the kind of man that he was,” Jordan it seemed the tide was turning for Jordan, but said. “It also meant a lot being that my dad was in his situation, so I kind of felt like it wasn’t long before tragedy would strike every time I put on that jersey, I was carrythe Diggs family once again. Family-friend Constantine Bailey, known as “Mr. B” to the ing my whole family on my back. If I could restore my family’s good name instead of Diggs children, had been helping the fameveryone referring to Shed Diggs as the ily get back on their feet when he was killed


Spurs & Feathers • 5

January 27, 2016

guy that got into trouble and made some mistakes – it was way bigger than just wearing his number. I’m pretty sure me wearing that number means a lot to him, and I hope it means just as much to him as it does to me because it’s special.” MAKING HIS OWN MARK While he continues to honor his father, Jordan isn’t forgetting the promise he made to his mother in making sure his future isn’t “NFL or bust.” “South Carolina has been a growing experience from day one,” Jordan said. “It has been awesome. Just to come in and have a great academic support system, and (Associate Athletics Director for Academics and Student Development) Maria Hickman, everyone working at the Dodie (Academic Enrichment Center), and to have great coaches molding me along with my mom, I think I was able to grow.” “Jordan has always been very focused,” Hickman said. “From the time he stepped on campus, graduation is always something that we talked about. He wanted to know how he could graduate early, is grad school an option, internship opportunities – he has always had those types of questions. He has been a very hard worker, very dedicated and very studious as a football player.” Of all his accomplishments on the field, Altemia takes the most pride in Jordan making the SEC Academic Honor Roll, which requires student-athletes to earn a 3.0 or

better grade point average during the semester that his or her sport is in season. South Carolina has led the SEC in the number of student-athletes on the honor roll for each of the last eight years. “I was able to excel on the field and live out my football dreams, but also get a great academic foundation and go on to get a degree,” Jordan said. “That’s big for my mom and me. “I know I’ve done a lot of things right, and I think other kids can look at me and say ‘if he got through this, then if I push myself and apply myself, and use the resources I have here, I can excel as well.” Jordan will earn his degree in May, but he still has one more season of eligibility. With Shed being released from federal prison last November, Jordan’s one wish is for his father to be in the stands to watch him play for the first time in ten years, in a Gamecock uniform. “He didn’t get to experience high school ball with me even though I was having success,” Jordan said. “All of those things we missed out on, I feel like the emotions that I felt when he missed those moments, they’ll all be washed away just by him being there. For him to be at a game is going to be awesome. I think it’s going to be very special. I think it’s going to mean a lot to me and him.” Motivation to play football is not a problem as Jordan channels his experiences off the field into his intensity and passion on the

photo by allen sharpe

field. “To hear that stadium shake when you’re at your locker, and just moments before we break it down when we come out through that tunnel, just to get in there and see the smoke and the music start to play, and to come out, I felt like I made it,” Jordan beamed. “It was like I broke through. I overcame everything, and I’m here now. “Each snap I get is me reminding myself that, hey you weren’t supposed to be here. You were the kid that faced so many things.

Play for the kids that didn’t get the chance to stay on the straight path. Play hard for the kids who played in Pop Warner that veered off on the wrong track and wish they had this opportunity. I really cherish this, knowing that I’ve got my father in my corner and that he is supporting me and he wants the best for me.” To learn more and to see all of the videos associated with this special project, please visit http://www.itsgreattobeagamecock. com/diggs/.

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6 • Spurs & Feathers

January 27, 2016

Muschamp, Gamecock staff introduced at CLA by brian hand Executive Editor

Will Muschamp is quick to point out that ever since taking over as South Carolina’s head coach it has been nothing short of amazing. Gamecock fans everywhere have welcomed the Muschamp family and the rest of the Gamecock coaching staff with open arms and they cannot be more grateful. “It’s been really amazing,” Muschamp said. “It really has. It’s been so positive. Everywhere you go, everybody is so welcoming. My staff has commented to me several times about how welcoming (it has been). Also, from a University standpoint, from the president, from coach Tanner and the athletic administration, (it’s) been phenomenal (with) their workings. There is a lot of moving parts. You’re dealing with a wife and a family, a vehicle, housing, temporary housing and our people have been fantastic. When they’re able to make a move like this seamless, it really is a credit to our administration and the job they do.” This type of support is incredibly important to Muschamp who knows that for

South Carolina to be successful on the gridiron it is truly going to take a team effort. “At the end of the day, this is a team,” Muschamp said. “You’ve got to get the support in order to be successful and coach Tanner and his team have been phenomenal in doing the things we need to do to be successful. Everybody’s on board for us to be successful. And I’ve been more than pleased with how we’ve been progressing forward.” Muschamp made these comments at a press conference shortly after being officially introduced to the Gamecock fans during a halftime ceremony on Saturday, Jan. 16, at the Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner introduced Muschamp to the crowd at halftime. “(At South Carolina) we love a relentless pursuit of excellence and we have a coach who exemplifies all those traits and many more,” Tanner said before handing over the microphone to Muschamp, who then talked shortly before introducing his staff. “I want to thank Gamecock Nation for the welcome we have received,” Muschamp said to the crowd. “You are the most loyal

Photo by Allen Sharpe

fans in America.” Muschamp and the rest of the Gamecock football coaching staff know there is a long road ahead of them, but they are excited about where they are at this point in time. “We’ve got a lot of work in front of us,”

Muschamp said. “We’ve got 228 days until we kick it off in Nashville and 244 days before we kick it off here at Williams-Brice in front of the best fans in the country. I can only guarantee you one thing - we’re not going to get outworked. Spurs Up.”

NeSmith named SCGA Player of the Year south carolina athletics media relations University of South Carolina senior men’s golfer and North Augusta native Matt NeSmith was recently named the South Carolina Golf Association’s 2015 Player of the Year. NeSmith claimed the SEC Championship in April at Sea Island Club on St. Simon’s Island, Ga., to secure the top spot in the SCGA’s amateur rankings and remained there the rest of the year. He is just the second Gamecock All Gamecock golf coverage to win sponsored by Jeffers-McGill an SEC Championship, joining Eric Ecker who accomplished the feat in 1998. Following the SEC title, NeSmith won a sectional qualifier in June and competed in the U.S. Open where he finished T-107th. In July, he captured the SCGA Players Amateur and earned an exemption into the PGA Tour’s 2016 RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island, S.C. A week

photo by allen sharpe

Matt NeSmith with South Carolina head coach Bill McDonald after winning SEC title last year.

later, he finished in the top 10 of the Southern Amateur Championship in West Point, Miss. NeSmith wrapped up the summer with a third-straight appearance at the U.S. Amateur Championship in August and finished tied for eighth in stroke play. He then won his opening-round match before falling to eventual champion Bryson DeChambeau in the round of 32. This fall, NeSmith was named to the Golfweek Preseason All-America First Team. He was a third-team All-America selection for both Golfweek and PING following his 2014-15 season. NeSmith was a first-team All-SEC member last year as well. He had a pair of top-10 finishes this fall and enters the spring as the Gamecocks’ career leader in scoring average with a 71.88 mark. NeSmith is the second Gamecock to win the SCGA’s Player of the Year award in as many years with Will Murphy taking home the honor last year. Mark Anderson won the title as a Gamecock in 2009, as did Patrick Rada in 2007. NeSmith and the Gamecocks next return to action at the Bayou City Collegiate Championship in Humble, Texas, over Feb. 19-21 at the Golf Club of Houston.


Spurs & Feathers • 7

January 27, 2016

Staley: ‘Evolution of Coates has been a beautiful thing to see’ by brian hand Executive Editor

practice, but at the end of the day, you have to do it, and you might as well go hard when you’re doing it because you Alaina Coates entered the South Caroplay like you practice and if you’re out lina women’s basketball program prior here slacking at practice you’re either not to the 2013-14 season as a McDonald’s going to play, or you’re going to go out and Parade All-America selection and the there and slack off on the court … so I go South Carolina Basketball Coaches Asso- in there with a positive attitude.” ciation 4A Player of the Year. That attention to detail and change in The Dutch Fork High School product her all-around attitude has helped the obviously had a ton of expectations on her junior 6-foot-4 center from Irmo, South upon arrival, but as South Carolina grow each and evCarolina women’s basketball ery day. head coach Dawn Staley has Coates has done all of this pointed out numerous times, growth around still putting she also had a great deal together impressive seato learn, particularly since sons on the court with the she is not the most fond of two-time All-SEC selection practice. being named the SEC Fresh“I can’t even lie,” Coates man of the Year in the 2013said to the Gamecock media All Gamecock basketball 14 season. In her sophomore coverage sponsored by campaign in the 2014-15 during a press availability Yesterdays recently. “I don’t like to season, Coates was named

photo by allen sharpe

the NCAA Greensboro Regional Most Outstanding Player. Coates entered No. 2 South Carolina’s 83-58 win over No. 20 Missouri at the

Colonial Life Arena on Sunday, Jan. 10, needing just three points to become the 31st Gamecock women’s basketball player to score 1,000 points or more. Coates accomplished the feat on the first offensive possession of the game for the Gamecocks as her traditional three-point play put her at 1,000 for her career. She would go on to score 13 points and bring down 12 rebounds for her SEC-leading eighth double-double of the season. After the lopsided Gamecock win, Staley mentioned how special it was to see Coates reach the mark. “The evolution of her has been a beautiful thing to see,” Staley said. “To see her get a milestone like 1,000 points early her junior year is a tribute to the work that she has put into basketball. Hopefully we can continue to have milestones for her and other players that follow. It goes to show that when you put some work into it, basketball is a rewarding sport.”

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8 • Spurs & Feathers

January 27, 2016

Muschamp knows importance of experienced staff by brian hand Executive Editor

interim head coach this past season. In addition, co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon was Georgia’s interim head One of the most important things to do for Will coach during their bowl game recently. Muschamp the second he was hired at South These are just a few examples of the experience Carolina was to go about putting together an exon the Gamecock football coaching staff, but for ceptional coaching staff. Muschamp finding individuals with this type of During his introductory press conference just acumen and understanding was important and he over a month ago, Muschamp noted if they could used Bentley as an example since the noted offennot recruit they would not be on staff. sive guru is normally mentioned for his work with That is obvious as Muschamp has put together quarterbacks. a coaching staff that brings in some of the most “Here’s a guy (in Bentley) that’s called plays, highly regarded coaches in the country in the area been a head coach,” Muschamp said. “(Assistant with three former national recruiters of the year head coach for defense/defensive line) Lance on staff. Thompson’s called defenses. It’s real easy to have “What makes a good recruiter is being able to opinions when you’ve never done it before. To relate with the people,” Muschamp said. “All these have guys that have been in those roles and underguys you are going to get to know are very, very stand sitting in that seat, I think it’s critical.” good people. They do a great of relating with peoMuschamp knows this type of understanding of ple, building relationships, building trust. That’s gameday situations can only help him as the head a huge part of the recruiting process is somebody coach in year No. 1. that’s got the gift of gab a little bit to be able to sit “We’re going to gameplan together as an ofand talk and communicate with people very well. fensive staff, as a defensive staff, as a special That’s very important.” teams staff,” Muschamp said. “Then on gameday, Obviously to be successful at South Carolina, one guy has got to call out, so to be able to have Muschamp is going to have to be incredibly strong been in those roles before they understand the ison the recruiting trail, but when putting together sues. They understand the problems in teaching his inaugural coaching staff at South Carolina he a quarterback, they understand the problems in also went about finding people that have been in putting together a plan and having to call it. They certain positions before. For example, running understand we’ve got to block those guys up front. backs coach Bobby Bentley served as the head It’s not just about dropping back every snap. Those coach at Presbyterian College before, while offen- are things that they understand, so I think that’s sive line coach Shawn Elliott was South Carolina’s very important to have guys that have had some

photo by allen sharpe

experience in those roles.” Like his head coach, defensive coordinator/defensive backs Travaris Robinson fully understands somebody has to make the final decisions, but at the same time having valuable input can go a long way towards making the Gamecocks successful on the gridiron. “It’s one voice,” Robinson said. “That’s the one thing. Everyone has their opinion, but when we leave the room, it’s Coach Muschamp’s opinions, it’s our football team’s opinion, it’s South Carolina’s opinion. Our guys do a great job. We’ve got some incredible men on staff. And that’s the one thing I would say. As a parent in the recruiting process and even if you’ve got a kid that’s here already, you’ve got good men leading your son.” Elliott knows his experiences as the interim head coach at South Carolina along with his time on staff and as a national champion assistant coach at

Appalachian State can only further the Gamecock cause. “People that have opinions or experiences that they can bring from all backgrounds it’s certainly beneficial,” Elliott said. “Not everyone has the answer. Someone always has the final answer, but just to have different opinions and the backgrounds that you can use as a resource and think about things that you can talk through, it’s only going to make us a lot better.” Bentley as a high school coaching legend at Byrnes and during his time at Presbyterian and Auburn has worked with nearly all of the other assistant coaches at South Carolina in some capacity. He knows just important that is in the upcoming year. “It’s really good to be around guys like this and have it all mesh together,” Bentley said. “It makes for a tremendous staff.”

and Emma Barksdale swam 1:53.23 to place third. The Gamecocks were back in the winner’s circle in the 100-yard backstroke. Heather Merritt’s time of 57.67 grabbed the top spot, and Ferguson came in second at 58.03. Dirrane led Carolina in the next race, the 100-yard breaststroke, placing second with a time of 1:04.69. Then came the 200-yard butterfly and two more Carolina podiums; Maynard swam a 2:04.35 to finish second, and Marissa DelGado was right on her heels in 2:04.65. It was all Carolina in the 50-yard freestyle. Vay won the race with a swim of 24.38, and McKenna Keith came in second with a time of 24.47. At the first break, the Gamecocks held a 78-53 lead. Vay guided Carolina to another victory in the 100-yard freestyle, her second individual win of the day. The sophomore completed the race in 52.64, and teammate Caroline Petrone came in third with a time of 53.84. Merritt tallied her second win of the day in the 200-yard backstroke, leading Carolina to a podium sweep. The winning time of 2:04.94 set the pace, while Megan Carlson finished second in 2:05.47, and Ferguson took third with a swim

of 2:05.77. The closest Vanderbilt swimmer was more than two seconds behind the Carolina trio. Though Vanderbilt won the 200-yard breaststroke, two Gamecocks finished on the podium. Barksdale swam the race in 2:20.20 to finished second, and Dirrane’s 2:20.66 was good for third. Carolina came up with their second podium finish in the 500-yard freestyle. Smith stood tallest for the second time on the day, winning the race with a swim of 4:56.17. Worrell came in second in a time of 5:04.00, and Maltby was third at 5:07.18. The last race before the second break was the 100-yard Butterfly, with Maynard’s third place finish leading the Gamecocks. At the intermission, Carolina’s lead was 138-88. Carolina emerged from the second break as sharp as ever. Barksdale won the 200-yard IM, completing the race in 2:04.85, while Dirrane was back on the podium as her 2:08.24 was good for third. The Gamecocks put an exclamation point on the day by winning the 400-yard freestyle relay. The quartet of Vay, Keith, Petrone and Carlson posted a time of 3:33.07 to claim the race and make the final score 165-97, Gamecocks.

Gamecocks drop Vanderbilt for dual meet victory south carolina athletics media relations

“Heather Merritt was outstanding in winning both backstroke races, and Meredith Vay made some great jumps forward to get back to where NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of she was last year. Sarah Smith was very solid South Carolina women’s swimming & diving in both races, and her 500 time especially was program led from start to finish as they took very strong. All three of them swam really well down Southeastern Conference rival Vandertoday.” -- On his three multi-event winners. bilt, 165-97, on Saturday, Jan. 16, at the CentenThe win pushes Carolina to 1-3 in dual meets nial Sportsplex. Three different Gamecocks led this season. Vanderbilt’s loss drops the Comthe way with two individual event wins each, modores to 4-4. and Carolina won both relays. Carolina started the day in the best way pos“Today was a good day for our women’s sible: with a victory. The team of Ashleigh team,” South Carolina swimming head coach Ferguson, Kersten Dirrane, Paige Maynard and McGee Moody said. “It was more about execut- Meredith Vay took the 400-yard medley relay ing our races than the times. We did a good with a time of 3:50.26. job getting our hand on the wall first, which Next up was the 1000-yard freestyle and we didn’t do well last week against Duke. We another Gamecock win. Sarah Smith was vicfinished our races today, and that was a good torious, with her time of 10:16.89 winning by thing.” nearly 12 seconds. Elizabeth Heather Merritt (100 and 200 Maltby came in third, swimback), Sarah Smith (500 and ming a 10:29.38. 1000 free) and Meredith Vay Vandy took their first win in (50 and 100 free) each won two the 200-yard freestyle, but the All Gamecock swimming and Gamecocks still grabbed two solo races to pace Carolina. Vay was also a part of the win- diving coverage sponsored podium spots. Taylor Worrell ning teams in the 400 medley by Aquarian Pools finished second by just .03 and 400 freestyle relays. of Columbia seconds with a time of 1:52.29,


Spurs & Feathers • 9

January 27, 2016

Charleston County Gamecock Club oyster roast a success by kyle heck Reporter With the South Carolina football team not participating in a bowl game, the Charleston County Gamecock Club wasn’t sure how many people would come out to its third annual oyster roast on Saturday, Jan. 9. However, there ended up being no need to worry as around 120 people showed up at the Big Game Bar and Grill in Mt. Pleasant for the oyster roast. “We were planning for 100, so that was good,” Charleston County Gamecock Club president Jen Skoy said. “We had to go out and buy more oysters because we went through 30 bushels of oysters. It was really good. We raffled off a Dawn Staley autographed basketball and after everybody got their fill of oysters, we went inside and watched the (men’s) basketball team play Vandy, which also went really well.” Those in attendance got to see the Gamecocks take the lead late against the Commodores before coming away with a 69-65 victory. In fact, both the men’s and women’s

basketball teams are doing fantastic right now. Skoy said that played a large part in how excited the people were at the oyster roast. “There’s definitely a buzz about the basketball teams,” Skoy said. “In years past, if you tried to center a party around the men’s basketball game, your turnout might not have been what we had today. I’d say just about everyone that ate oysters went inside and stuck around for the whole game. There’s definitely excitement with both programs being undefeated.” With the great turnout and positive result in the basketball game, the annual oyster roast couldn’t have gone any better. “Anytime we can get big groups of Gamecock fans together and cheer for a common cause, it’s always a good time,” Skoy said. With the start of a new year, the Charleston County Gamecock Club is making plans for events in 2016. Support continues to boom and Skoy said they are lucky in the fact that they have so many businesses in the Charleston area that are owned by Gamecock fans. They never have any trouble trying to find a host for

submitted photo

an event. “We’re really lucky,” Skoy said. “We actually have more business that are owned by Gamecocks than we can have events. I’m constantly getting an email or a text or a Facebook message from people that own businesses that want to help us out in some way. We try to spread it out through the different areas and it’s a good problem to have.

In addition, Skoy said the club is hoping they can get an appearance from new football coach Will Muschamp sometime this spring and they are also planning postseason watch parties for the basketball teams. For more information about the Charleston County Gamecock Club, you can like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter at @ ChasGamecocks.

Upcoming Gamecock Club events CONTACT: Tickets are $45 each if purchased by Monday, January 25 and $55 each if purchased after the 25th. Based on availability. Tickets include Gamecock football update by Muschamp, hors d’oeuvres, access to cash bar and complimentary parking. Business casual attire. A link to the Ticketmaster website to buy tickets can be found on the Charlotte Gamecock Club Facebook page.

USC in the Triad presents an evening with “The Captain” Carey Rich EVENT: USC in the Triad will host a dinner and talk with Carey Rich at the Emerywood Clubhouse located at High Point Country Club in High Point, North Carolina on Wednesday, February 17. Registration starts at 6:30 p.m. and the dinner and talk starts at 7 p.m. Charlotte Gamecock Club Signing CONTACT: The event with Rich, a Day Recruiting Roundup Featuring former South Carolina basketball player, Coach Will Muschamp will benefit the “Mac Credille Scholarship EVENT: The Charlotte Gamecock Club Fund” for the men’s basketball student will have a signing day recruiting roundup manager scholarships. For more informawith new South Carolina football coach tion on the event and USC in the Triad, Will Muschamp as the featured speaker. visit their Facebook page and follow them The event will be held at the Charlotte on Twitter at @USCTriad. City Club, located at 121 West Trade St., starting at 6:30 p.m. and going until 8 p.m. These are the known upcoming Gameon Thursday, February 4. Please note, cock Club events. Please email bhand@ City Club parking entrance is located at spursandfeathers.com if you would like 116 West 4th St. your event listed in the future.

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10 • Spurs & Feathers

January 27, 2016

Snyder with one final ‘Inside Look’: It will forever be a great time to be a Gamecock

I had told family and friends that I would likely retire from my sports writing career when Coach Steve Spurrier retired. We both believed that would be at least several years down the road, but now that the HBC has thrown his last visor, I will follow through with that commitment and make this my last, last column for Spurs & Feathers. First, let me thank the new S&F staff for allowing me to express my thoughts about South Carolina football these last two years, and let me add that I believe the USC program will return to the heights (and maybe beyond) it reached over the last decade. I personally don’t think there is any question that USC Athletics Director Ray Tanner’s first choice was not Will Muschamp, but as I have watched him assemble his staff and begin the recruiting process, Glenn Snyder I believe he is the Inside right man for the Look job. There are a number of reasons why I feel this way. First, I am a strong advocate of second chances, and I believe Coach Muschamp has to know this is his last chance to be a Division I head coach. After his experiences at Florida, both good and bad, I think his determination and motivation to make the Gamecocks relevant again is off the chart. It’s the retentions and hires of the behind the scenes people that has me optimistic about his chances for success. Keeping Jamie Speronis as director of football operations was a good move. Jamie has been the “handle it, handle it” guy for the program for 11 years. He knows all the ins and outs of the day-to-day operations, and serves as the liaison to the compliance office and several other athletics and university departments. Keeping Robbie Liles as director of recruiting operations was another smart decision. He has handled the on-campus recruiting efforts, coordinated official and unofficial visits, assisted with football camps and clinics, as well as assisting with team and bowl travel, and he has an outstanding relationship with the high school coaches. I think it was always a given the former Gamecock great running back Marcus Lat-

photo by brian hand

timore would return to be a part of the USC program. He has served as an ambassador for USC under the president’s office, a role he will continue, as well as serving as a life styles coach for the players. Arguably one of greatest role models ever for college athletes, Marcus will help attract players to Coach Muschamp’s program. I have known Clyde Wrenn for over 30 years and there is no one on the planet that has a better relationship with the state’s high school coaches. His title is Special Assistant for Development, but what he will do is help Carolina’s new coaches develop their relationships with the high school coaches, as

well as helping them stay within the boundaries of the recruiting rules. I really don’t know a lot more about the new assistants than what I read, but keeping Shawn Elliott as offensive line coach was a no-brainer. He is an excellent coach, a good recruiter and he loves the University of South Carolina. I believe he proved in his role as interim head coach this past season that he has the ability to inspire players to perform at a high level. As for the rest of the staff, it appears to be a solid mix of good coaches who are also excellent recruiters. I don’t see a liability in the group on either front.

Time will tell if Coach Muschamp and his staff have the “right stuff” to elevate the program to the heights Gamecock fans enjoyed under Coach Spurrier, but the inroads they have made early in recruiting, have me feeling enthusiastic, because I’ve always said, that in the end, it’s about talent. For over 30 years I have been a South Carolina fan who has had the privilege to write about the program and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I don’t think it will happen overnight, but as I said, I am very optimistic about the future. It will forever be a great time to be a Gamecock!


Spurs & Feathers • 11

January 27, 2016

Tanner: From 27-year-old head coach to national champ to Hall of Fame by brian hand Executive Editor Nobody will ever forget Jim Valvano running around the floor at “The Pit” in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1983 looking for somebody to hug after his underdog NC State team pulled off the miraculous by winning the national championship. Every time of the year that it is NCAA Tournament time the video of Valvano running around after NC State won the national title game is played over and over. A few years later, little did Valvano know that he would set forth another run to national titles when as NC State athletics director, Valvano promoted former NC State infielder Ray Tanner to be head coach of the Wolfpack baseball program. Tanner was just 27 years old when Valvano promoted him from assistant to All Gamecock baseball head coach coverage sponsored by in the late DiPrato’s 1980s, but “Jimmy V” knew that when Sam Esposito retired he had the right guy already on staff. Boy, did he ever. The Wolfpack reached the NCAA Tournament in Tanner’s first season, which was part of seven tournament trips in nine years. The 1990 ACC Coach of the Year and the 1993 Atlantic Region Coach of the Year, Tanner led the Wolfpack to the 1992 ACC Baseball Tournament title. After 395 wins in nines years at NC State, Tanner was offered an opportunity he could not pass up though. “When (his wife) Karen and I met at North Carolina State and we were both working there and she was a graduate of (South Carolina), she always spoke so highly of the University and often talked about the opportunity to come back,” Tanner told Spurs & Feathers about the opportunity at South Carolina recently. “I was familiar with the University, of course, because of Bobby Richardson and June Raines and the great success in all of the sports and the great fans, but she always said that if we ever get the chance to go there and work, you will love it.” Tanner at the time when talking with Spurs

photo by allen sharpe

& Feathers could not emphasize the “love it” part enough. “That was the quote she repeated numerous times - “You will love it,’” Tanner said. “How true it has been.” Tanner was officially installed as the head coach of the South Carolina baseball program on June 14, 1996. That day will always hold great significance to Gamecock fans everywhere as an already storied Gamecock baseball program

was going to reach even greater heights under Tanner as the Gamecocks won 738 games under his tutelage in 16 seasons. Under Tanner’s direction from 2010-12, the Gamecock baseball program put together what is perceived by most to be the greatest run in NCAA Division I baseball history as the Gamecocks won two national titles in 2010 and 2011 and finished as national runner-up in 2012. At one point during the stretch, South Carolina won 22 consecutive

postseason games and 12 straight games in the College World Series. The two national titles were on top of two national runner-up finishes, six College World Series appearances, three SEC championships, six SEC East division titles, an SEC Tournament title and 13 straight NCAA Tournament appearances. A three-time SEC and three-time National Coach of the Year, Tanner in his time as a college baseball head coach overall compiled a record of 1,133-489-3 (.699). The 27-year-old that Valvano put his faith in as a head coach entered the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 8, in Nashville. The Hall of Famer is now obviously in charge of making decisions at South Carolina as the athletics director and just recently made a key hire in Will Muschamp as the head football coach at South Carolina. Just like Valvano knew Tanner would be the “right fit,” Tanner felt Muschamp was the right man at South Carolina. That “right fit” is something that Tanner went into the coaching search for Steve Spurrier’s replacement looking to find and he believes Muschamp fully fits that bill, particularly since for Tanner it was important that he found someone that considered South Carolina like he did when he was hired a destination-type job. “If you had been in my meeting with him, that was part of the process,” Tanner said. “This was not the place where you stay for a little while and then you go somewhere else. This is a destination. I talked to him about his family, I talked to him about the coaches that are here now and I talked to him about my career and where we are at the University of South Carolina. It’s a very special place with a tremendous fanbase and he understood and certainly he’s in the same place with us.” If the decision by Tanner to hire Muschamp is anywhere in the ballpark like Valvano’s choice in Tanner it could be special. Only time will tell, but now the head coach of 21 sports as the athletics director, Tanner, who is in his 20th athletic year overall at the University of South Carolina, is driven daily by making South Carolina elite in all sports. “It has just been great to be a part of the Gamecock family and when I get up every day, I’m excited about the challenges ahead and the opportunities to change the landscape in the department of athletics,” Tanner said.


12 • Spurs & Feathers

January 27, 2016

Smith on Gamecock softball: ‘I think this is a group that’s really bought in’ by kyle heck Reporter

At the start of practice in early January, head South Carolina softball coach Beverly Smith was looking mainly for one thing. She wanted to see if the excitement her players had in fall practices and scrimmages carried over to the spring semester. As it turned out, the Gamecocks were indeed excited to get practice underway in 2016 and with time winding down until the season opener, that excitement continues to grow. South Carolina begins its season on Feb. 12 when the Gamecocks travel down to Tampa, Florida to participate in the USF Wilson DeMarini tournament. The season starts with a matchup against Michigan and South Carolina will also play host South Florida, Virginia Tech and Illinois State. It’s a challenging schedule to start as the Gamecocks play the national runner-up from last year in Michigan. However, Smith said her team is ready and capable of handling the early challenge. “I think for me, scheduling is important and I felt like this team was ready to face some challenges,” Smith said. “All the teams at this tournament were at the NCAA regionals last year so we’re going to be tested early and that was my goal. I want our players coming out and having competition right off the bat and I think we’ve got the team to play the schedule that I’ve scheduled.” The Gamecocks have indeed been on the up and up coming into the new 2016 season. They are the only team in the SEC to have improved their win total over each of the last three years. South Carolina returns its best player from last season in senior outfielder Alaynie Page, who batted .436 to go with 15 home runs and 45 RBIs en route to being named a first-team All-American. Also returning is pitcher Nickie Blue. The junior was the top hurler for the Gamecocks, leading the team with 20 wins and a sparkling 1.86 ERA as a sophomore. Smith also added an impressive recruiting class full of freshmen and an outstanding junior college pitcher. Jessica Elliott won a national championship last year in the junior college ranks and will help replace Julie Sarratt on the mound. The class includes four freshmen, three of them left-handed hitters and all of them will compete for playing time this year. “I think our depth is probably the most

photo by allen sharpe

Pictured is junior Nickie Blue talking with South Carolina softball head coach Beverly Smith. Blue had 20 wins in the circle last year. exciting thing,” Smith said. “We’re going to have a lot of different looks this year than we’ve had in the past. I have a lot more lefthanded hitters, I have more speed and I have a lot more options coming off the bench.” Smith said that there is no question that the Gamecocks will have to pitch well to accomplish what they want to accomplish. However, she is happy with what is returning and what her team added in that regard. “The circle is going to be critical for us,” Smith said. “Making sure our pitchers are ready to go is of high importance to me. Then I think for me, figuring out our lineups. I think there are some positions that are still in question so (I’ll be) watching the girls

compete for starting spots.” The practice time before the start of the season is of utmost importance to Smith and the Gamecocks. They are hoping to carry over the momentum from the fall and the last three years that saw South Carolina continue to improve. “I think we had a really good fall in terms of the foundation and groundwork,” Smith said. “And again, we’ve been laying that for the last four or five years, but now we’ve just been constantly building. I think this is a group that’s really bought in and are excited about working together to achieve their goals.” There are four seniors on the roster that

have witnessed the rise of South Carolina softball. It will be important for them to make sure that the younger players understand what it takes to be a competitive team in the SEC. With all the talent surrounding the seniors, Smith and company believe this is a year where they can contend with the best of the best. “The SEC is just so competitive,” Smith said. “Every SEC matchup is important and us continuing to improve our conference record is important if we’re to achieve our goals. We want to be SEC champs. We have to go through a lot of great teams to get there, but I think we’ve got the talent to do it.”


Spurs & Feathers • 13

January 27, 2016

Fairfield County Gamecock Club loses one of its own by kyle heck Reporter

Known as a tight-knit group, the Fairfield County Gamecock Club always enjoys spending time together. One of their favorite things to do is tailgate at South Carolina baseball games. Hours prior to first pitch, you can usually find the club out in the parking lot hanging out and getting ready for Gamecock baseball. The tradition wasn’t just limited to Carolina Stadium, however. Known as “The Cockpit Tailgaters” the group would also travel to Hoover, Alabama for the SEC baseball tournament and Omaha, Nebraska whenever the Gamecocks made the College World Series. On Dec. 10, 2015, the Fairfield County Gamecock Club and the tailgating group lost one of their own. After a long battle with cancer, Sandy Bleiler passed away. Known as a fun-loving Gamecock fan who transplanted to South Carolina from Pennsylvania, she could get along with anyone and her loss was big for the tight-knit group of South Carolina fans. “Sandy was very dedicated and loyal to our Gamecocks,” Fairfield County Gamecock Club president Gene Schofield said. “She and husband, Bill, participated in ‘The Cockpit Tailgaters’ events. They always did more than their part. They traveled with the tailgating

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group on many of the road games, baseball, football and women’s basketball. Sandy and Bill drove to Omaha two of the six trips our tailgating group (made) to Omaha for the CWS. I have always said we could write a book on our happenings and events on our travels. We have lots of memories that will always be with our group. We have a lot of great memories with Sandy.” Sara Burnside is another member of “The Cockpit Tailgaters” and she said she’ll miss Sandy greatly. Some of her favorite memories with Sandy include hanging out in Hoover and Omaha and playing corn hole and just having a good time in general. “It’s just not going to be the same without her,” Burnside said. “I’m going to miss Sandy with her playing corn hole and just always laughing with her little Pennsylvania accent in our group. She’s going to be much missed by a lot of people, she really is.” Sandy was vice president of the Fairfield County Gamecock Club up until the day she passed away. As a vital part of the community and tailgating with other Gamecock fans, she touched a lot of people during her life. “We heard about Sandy and I will always remember her warmth and welcoming spirit,” wrote Janet Reinhold and her family. Her son, Steven, played baseball for South Carolina from 2004-07. “I have never forgotten how she collected articles about the baseball

so kind to Kirk and I at the baseball tailgates,” wrote Kristin Webb and her family. Their son is Tyler Webb, who played baseball from 2010-13 and was part of the back-toback national championship teams. “So many great memories of all of us together. We were so fortunate to meet both of you (Bill and Sandy).” Sandy’s daughter, Janice, has been appreciative of all the support she has been shown since her mother passed away. The Bleiler family moved to Winnsboro from Pennsylvania in 1987. Big Penn State fans when they moved to South Carolina, Janice’s Lieutenant Commander in the Navy told her that they would have to become Gamecock fans if they were living in the Columbia area. “So I basically went home and I said, ‘hey submitted photo mom, we have to start rooting for this team called the Gamecocks,’” Janice recalled. “She games that we were not able to be at and then was like, ‘OK.’” Sandy then joined the Gamecock Club and she surprised me and sent an entire package was a vital part of the Gamecock community to our home. Those days are still the best memories of our lives and the wonderful peo- for the rest of her life. After her passing, the ple we met along the way are never forgotten family that is Gamecock Nation came together and supported the family during the and Sandy is one of them that just made it tough time. such a special time.” “The Cockpit Tailgaters” got close with sev- “They didn’t need to take the time for that,” Janice said. “They met my mom and my eral families of Gamecock baseball players mom always had a good time. The players’ and they all felt the impact of Sandy’s kindmothers were great. They didn’t even have to ness and compassion. “Sandy was such a sweet lady and was also do that. That’s what made it so special.”

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14 • Spurs & Feathers

January 27, 2016

For Roper, it was an ‘easy decision’ to join South Carolina family by kyle heck Reporter

New South Carolina co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper has been in the Southeastern Conference a long time. This job marks the fifth SEC school he’s been with and his wife, Britt, is from North Carolina. Throw in the fact that he spent six years coaching at Duke as well and it’s obvious that he is very familiar with the Carolinas. However, coaching in the Palmetto State particularly is something that has always appealed to Roper, no matter where he has coached in the past. “I’ve always been envious of the cars driving around with the palmetto tree on the back and I’ve always wanted to be able to put one of those on my car,” Roper said. “I’m excited about living here and just being a part of that.” It didn’t take long for new head coach Will Muschamp to approach Roper about being his new offensive coordinator at South Carolina. This past year, Roper was a senior offensive assistant coach with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, but it didn’t take him long to make the decision to return to college. “I think the biggest thing for anyone being hired into a new situation is knowing what that situation entails,” Roper said. “I know what day-to-day is with coach Muschamp, I know how much football I learned, I know his expectations, his demands, how he treats people, so this is was a very easy decision. Coupled with it being the University of South Carolina, it was a pretty easy decision.” Roper was Muschamp’s offensive coordinator at Florida in 2014 and made a huge impact on the offense. In 2013, the Gators averaged 18.8 points per game on offense. One year later under the direction of Roper, the Gators improved drastically and averaged 30.2 points per game. Roper’s track record extends even further than that, however, as he did amazing things at Duke while coaching its offense. The Blue Devils consistently broke school records on offense and it all culminated in 2013, when Duke won a school-best 10 games and played for the ACC championship. Known as a quarterback guru, Roper helped develop quarterbacks like Sean Renfree and Thaddeus Lewis at Duke, both of whom went on to play NFL football. He also coached wide receivers Jamison Crowder

photo by allen sharpe

and Connor Vernon, both of whom set school and ACC records. Prior to Duke, Roper spent two seasons at Tennessee as a running backs coach, one year as quarterbacks coach at Kentucky and six years coaching quarterbacks at Ole Miss, where he mentored Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback with the New York Giants. While with South Carolina, Roper hopes to get the Gamecock offense to play fast, physical and smart. “I think anytime you can create one-onone tackles in space as much as you can, that’s going to equal more yards, which can equal more explosive plays and hopefully score more,” Roper said. “So we’re going to play in space, we’re going to play with tempo, but we don’t want to lose a physical mentality. We want to be a tough team, we want to be a team that when the game is over, the (opponent) knows we played them and we

were there. So we want to be a physical team that plays with some tempo.” While he’s the co-offensive coordinator, Roper will be the primary play caller on game days, but he’ll still get input from fellow co-offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon. While spending last year with the Browns, Roper got a chance to work with legendary Gamecock quarterback Connor Shaw. While Shaw wasn’t able to play because of injury, it didn’t take long for Roper to find out how he became South Carolina’s all-time winningest quarterback. “Connor and I got really close,” Roper said. “I think that’s what you start looking for in a quarterback. Everybody says, ‘what’s the most important attribute in a quarterback?’ They start talking about arm strength and accuracy and size and what Connor has that very few people have is just pure heart, grit, determination and competitive fire. You can

build from that.” Roper said he talked with Shaw about what it was like at South Carolina and learned that Columbia was a great place to live. “The same passion that he has on the field he has for the University of South Carolina in Columbia,” noted Roper. Spending so much time coaching in the SEC, Roper became very familiar with playing at Williams-Brice Stadium and how tough it was to win there. Right now he’s just happy that he’ll be on the home side for the foreseeable future. “I think the gameday atmosphere really is rivaled by none,” Roper said. “I always thought that this was a difficult place to play. I’ve been coming here and staying out on Two Notch Road for a long time in the visiting team hotel and you were just always in awe of how much South Carolina loves its football. So to be a part of that, it’s awesome.”


Spurs & Feathers • 15

January 27, 2016

Robinson and the Gamecock defense plan to get the football by brian hand Executive Editor Travaris Robinson wants the football. Spend a couple minutes with South Carolina’s new defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach and it’s easy to see that he is going to have a group that is going to be flying around intelligently trying to get the football from the opposing offense. Plain and simple, to Robinson it’s all about takeaways. “That’s going to be one of our focuses,” Robinson said. “We’re going to get the football and we’re going to be a turnover outfit. That’s very important to what we do and you’re going to hear me talk about that all the time. Everything we do is going to be about the football, the effort, about the little things, taking care of the little things and if you do that, the big things will take care of themselves.” Robinson has been working with new South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp as a defensive backs coach for the past five seasons at Florida for four years and then at Auburn last season. This is Robinson’s first shot as a defensive coordinator, but he knows his work with Muschamp has him more than ready for the opportunity. “(Muschamp is) a guy that I’m comfortable with,” Robinson said. “A guy that shares the same vision as me or I share the same vision as him. I’m very excited to be a part of this staff and just honored that he offered me a spot to be on his staff to be honest with you.” But once again, that spot on Muschamp’s staff will be focused around a workmanlike effort from his unit around getting the football back for the Gamecock offense. “We’re going to get the football,” Robinson said. “We’re going to be a blue collar outfit. We’re going to be tough and we’re going to be knowledgable on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. That all in itself, if we just get the football, we tackle well, we have relentless effort, we’ll have a better defense and we’ll have one of the best defenses in this league and that’s our goal.” The Miami native was a standout himself at Auburn as a defensive back. Robinson garnered All-SEC honors during his senior season in 2002, racking up 92 total tackles to go along with four interceptions and three pass breakups. Robinson would go on to play in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before getting into coaching. Once rated as the No. 1 recruiter in the country by ESPN, Robinson is a huge asset on and off the field for Muschamp’s first coaching staff at South Carolina. Robinson is excited to work with the Gamecock defensive unit because he knows they have a way of doing things that current and future Gamecocks are going to love. “We’re going to hold them accountable and responsible for everything they do, but we’re also going to love them,” Robinson said. “That’s going to be the key is getting our kids to buy in to what we do and getting our kids to understand

photo by allen sharpe

that it’s going to be tough love, but it’s going to be a lot of love. That’s one of the things that coach Muschamp wants and that’s one of the things that I believe in and I’m excited about that.” This approach along with what Columbia and the University of South Carolina has to offer is something that Robinson is extremely passionate about. “It gives you a college atmosphere and then a mile away from that it gives a downtown city atmosphere, so it’s enough to do that you can have a good time, but it’s not too

much to do that you’re going to get distracted,” Robinson said. “I think it’s a great blend. It’s truly my first time in a college town that had a downtown atmosphere to it. I’m excited and I know my wife and my kids love it. I’m excited to be a part of it.” Overall though, Robinson is just thrilled to be a Gamecock. “They’re very cocky in this stadium (Williams-Brice),” Robinson said. “It’s a great environment and I can’t wait to be a part of it wearing the garnet.”


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South Carolina Gamecocks

Recruiting Round-up By Phil Kornblut

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp and assistant Bryan McClendon dropped in on TE Robert Tucker (6-3 240) of B.E.S.T Academy in Atlanta last Thursday morning and before leaving they had secured a commitment. “It means a lot, it was a blessing to commit to an SEC team and I’m very excited to go play for Coach Muschamp,” Tucker said. “Coach Muschamp and Coach McClendon came by and I committed today.” Tucker is a versatile player and has the ability to play linebacker as well as tight end, but he said the Gamecock coaches like him strictly for the offense. “They said they are going to move me all Phil Kornblut over...slot, H-Back and Contributing I’ll have my hand in the Writer dirt, too.” Tucker visited Tulane last weekend and will visit USC this weekend. Some of his other offers were Minnesota, UCF and Marshall. Tucker is the first tight end commitment for the class and he gives the Gamecocks 22 new scholarship players on their roster for the 2016 team. Richland Northeast LB TJ Brunson (6-1 220) last Monday morning announced a commitment to USC a day after taking his official visit with the Gamecocks. Brunson, a former Louisville commitment, also considered offers from Maryland and Virginia Tech. “I’ve often heard that it isn’t a four year decision but a forty year decision, and after much thought and prayer, I’d like to make the announcement that I’ll be attending the University of South Carolina,” is what Brunson wrote on Twitter in revealing his decision. Brunson overcame a serious hip injury during his junior season to become one of the state’s top defensive players in 2015. He had 140 tackles to help lead the Cavaliers to the 3A playoffs. He also earned Defensive MVP honors for South Carolina in the Shrine Bowl leading the Sandlappers with 13 tackles and a sack. “I never doubted myself and at the end of the day, when you hear people say you’re not going to be back at the level you were, it lit a fire and made me want to play harder.” Brunson was the first prospect Will Muschamp visited in person after taking the job at USC in December. Brunson said he enjoyed his official visit over the weekend and was made to feel at home by the players and coaches. “They want the best for you on and off the field,” Brunson said. “I expect to be coached hard and at the end of the day that’s going to bring in more wins. I wanted to go to a school where I feel wanted and have

a great relationships with all the coaches and the players.” Brunson also got an idea of how Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson see him fitting in with the defense. “They said I’d be playing the equivalent to what Antonio Morrison played,” Brunson said of Florida’s All-SEC linebacker who had over 100 tackles this season and was the defensive leader for the Gators. “That’s one of the things Coach Muschamp said to me. They feel like I can be one of the guys in the 2016 class to be the leader and be one of those guys to get the others to rally around and play fast.” Brunson gives the Gamecocks 21 newcomers for the 2016 football roster. Change of plans for USC commitment Shrine Bowl DE Javon Kinlaw of Goose Creek. Instead of coming to USC over the past weekend for his official visit, Kinlaw headed to Jones JC in Mississippi for an early enrollment. Kinlaw said the plan for him is to play one season at Jones and graduate in the summer of 2017. That will allow him three years with the Gamecocks starting in 2017. “I feel good about it,” Kinlaw said. “I feel like I can get it done.” Kinlaw had acknowledged during his recruiting process that junior college was a likelihood for him and USC took his commitment on December 23rd knowing he could be a junior college candidate. Kinlaw gives USC three commitments for the 2017 class. DE Kalan Ritchie (6-6 210) of Georgia Military JC will not be brought in by the new USC staff his coach said last week. Ritchie signed with the Gamecocks in 2014 out of Goose Creek High School and remained committed thru the coaching transition. But GMC coach Bert Williams said they were informed by the Gamecocks that Ritchie would not be part of their 2016 class. “We understand the decision and it was handled appropriately with ample time to react,” Williams said. “No issues with us. He has a good bit of interest outside the SEC. We will know more in a few days.” This past season Ritchie totaled 21 tackles with 7 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. Also Monday, TheBigSpur reported DB Jamarcus King of Coffeyville JC, KS, who was announced by the school in December as a signee and an early enrollee, will not be able to enroll early because of academic issues. DB Daniel Thomas of Montgomery, AL made his official visit to USC over the last weekend. Thomas said he enjoyed his stay and in particular “the support and the love they had for us. I talked a lot to Coach Robinson. He wants me to come in and possibly be an impact player.” Thomas did not commit and will continue with visits. He goes to North Carolina this weekend and then to Clemson. He does

not have a favorite at this point. Former USC commitment and current Auburn commitment DB Marlon Character of Atlanta made his official visit to USC over the weekend. He has not backed of his Auburn commitment, but the visit gave him something to ponder. “I loved the visit,” he said. “The visit was really good. I got a lot out of it. They said they’re going to use me on multiple ways on the defense. They have a lot of spots open right now. They said they just need corners, safeties, nickels, anything to get active on the field early and make some plays. I’m still committed right now to Auburn, but I’m still taking into consideration other schools like South Carolina and Virginia Tech because those are the officials that I’m taking. South Carolina is a little higher with the new coaching staff than it was when everybody was about to leave and stuff like that.” Character will visit Virginia Tech this coming weekend and Auburn January 30th. He said he won’t make his final decision known until Signing Day. USC commitment OL Pete Leota of Asheville made his official visit over the weekend and said he’s 100% committed and he won’t take any more visits. “My decision to South Carolina is final,” he said. “Loved coach Muschamp and his staff, family loved him and I decided it’s best if I don’t take any visits.” He had been looking at Wake Forest, North Carolina, East Carolina and Virginia Tech for possible visits. TE Hank Tuipulotu of Nation Ford called his USC official visit “awesome, really cool. The coaches are looking like they are doing a great job. The program is on the rise. The facilities are so sweet and the campus is so nice. There’s a lot of nice things to like about this schools.” Tuipulotu is committed to BYU and will visit there this coming weekend. “I’m not sure I can make a decision right now,” he said. “It’s tough to say. I haven’t visited BYU yet. But having my family being able to come to all of the games is real intriguing, a real pro for coming here.” Tuipulotu is planning to go on a Mormon mission for two years right out of high school so he won’t enroll in the college he chooses before 2018. “Well, it won’t really have an impact on my choice,” he said. “Both schools are cool with my decision to serve a mission. They will work around it. It just means that I won’t be on the roster the next two seasons since I will essentially be taking a break between high school and college.” His father and his uncle played football at BYU. TE Evan Hinson of Deltona, FL made his official visit to USC over the weekend and left with a favorable impression. “I loved it, I liked the school,” he said. “I have a good relationship

with my tight end coach and Coach Muschamp. I liked how comfortable the players were and how I can fit in with that.” Hinson will visit Southern Cal this weekend. He has not set a visit for January 29th, but is looking at Florida, Tennessee and Central Florida for that visit. USC recruiter Pat Washington and his recruiter from Southern Cal are due to visit him this week. He said there is no favorite. Also taking an official visit to USC over the weekend was DE Tyreik Martin of Valley, AL. He’s a former a Missouri commitment and remains strong on the Tigers as well as USC. He is scheduled to visit Jacksonville State this weekend and Indiana January 29th. WR Sam Bruce of Ft. Lauderdale made an official visit to USC last weekend and according to his mother the Gamecocks remain very much in the running. “He said he had a good time and enjoyed the atmosphere,” his mother said. “Coach T-Rob (Travaris Robinson) has been after him since the ninth grade. He has a good relationship with him.” Bruce has been committed to Miami and remains so at this point. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer met with him Wednesday and Robinson and Miami coach Mark Richt were in Thursday. Muschamp is expected to visit next week. Bruce has taken official visits to Ohio State and USC. He will visit Florida this weekend and Miami January 29th. WR Kiel Pollard of Moultrie, GA was committed to Arkansas before visiting USC last weekend. He had a good visit with the Gamecocks, but thus far this week he has not felt the desire to switch his allegiance. But the final decision has not yet been made. “We’ve talked about it and we’re still undecided about what’s best for me,” Pollard said. Bret Bielema of Arkansas is scheduled to make his in home visit Thursday and Muschamp is also expected in this week though Pollard didn’t have the exact date for that. Getting to know Muschamp and his staff was a key point of his visit last weekend. “At first I thought the coaching staff was kind of different but after knowing them it was better than I thought,” he said. “I think it’s a good place.” Pollard said he’s been in touch with his USC recruiter Bobby Bentley since the visit. Asked if one of the teams was out front, Pollard responded, “I’m still committed to Arkansas. It’s still about the same (strength).” Pollard said he does not have a timetable for making his final decision. DL Jamil Dukes of Mooresville, NC said he couldn’t make his official visit to USC last weekend because of family matters. He has been in touch with recruiter Shawn Elliott about rescheduling, but a date has not been set. He said Elliott may be in to see him this week.


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Dukes said he doesn’t have a visit scheduled for this coming weekend. Dukes said he’s not sure yet if he’ll have to go the junior college route first, that this semester will determine that. He said East Carolina is another school still in the mix with him. WR Randrecous Davis of Atlanta has been committed to Georgia since last summer, but that commitment is not expected to last much longer. The Dogs aren’t showing him much interest since the coaching change, and the two guys who did the work for Georgia to get him to commit in the first place, are. Miami head coach Mark Richt and USC receivers coach Bryan McClendon are actively recruiting Davis for their new schools. He will visit Miami this weekend and USC January 29th. Right now, the Hurricanes own the stronger position with him. “They are on the radar,” Davis said of the Gamecocks. “I’ve got a close relationship with Coach BMac. They want me to come in and start and whatever. I’m pretty close with Coach Richt. Miami is leading. It’s mainly because of Coach Richt and the things I’ll be able to do there on the field and off.” Davis said outside of communicating with his Georgia recruiter on Twitter, there’s not much going on for him with the Bulldogs. He’s not even sure if Georgia is coming in to visit him and he has not set an official visit to Athens. Davis said he’s not sure when he’ll make his final decision. Georgia commitment WR Javon Wims (6-4 215) of Hinds JC, MS will make an official visit to USC this weekend. He visited Miami last weekend. Wims is a Jacksonville native and was recruited to Georgia by current USC assistant McClendon. Last season Wims caught 47 passes for 779 yards and 9 touchdowns. He played for Hal Mumme in 2013 at Belhaven University and as a freshman caught 7 passes for 55 yards. ATH Yafari Werts of Newberry make an official visit to Georgia Southern over the weekend. He has been committed to the Eagles since last summer and remains so, but some bigger programs are making a push. Georgia Southern wants Werts as a quarterback. USC is strongly involved and sees him as a slot receiver and return man. He talked with Gamecock recruiter Shawn Elliott on Saturday. “He was telling me how they wanted me and we talked about my visit,” said Werts who will visit USC this coming weekend. “He said there’s a good chance I’ll leave with an offer. We’ll see how that goes. I’ll take my time and see their plans for me. I’ll take it into consideration. It could shake things up a little bit. But I don’t want to be just another guy. I want the ball in my hands wherever I go.” After the USC visit Werts said he might take a mid-week visit to Appalachian State. He is scheduled to visit North Carolina on the 29th. A USC defensive front that has had its share of problems the past two season should get a major boost in 2016 with the addition of DL Kobe Smith (6-4 295) of Lawrenceville, GA. Smith arrived at USC Friday to begin his spring semester classes. That will allow him to go through spring practice and get a jump

on preparation for next season. ‘They are going to get a real good defensive lineman,” said Archer High School coach Andy Dyer. “To his credit he has worked extremely hard and has gotten better every year. He had a great senior year. His senior year was his best year which is how you want it to happen. He did a great job of continuing to work and get better. We are super proud of him.” With his size and strength, Smith should be a defensive tackle who can plug inside running lanes plus provide an up the field pass rush in the face of the quarterback. His coach expects Smith to do just that in the SEC. “He’s got really good feet for a big boy and my defensive line coach did a really good job getting him to use his hands. He was a force for people to deal with. I think right now he’s going to be a good run guy, but he’s savvy enough that he knows how to get off blocks and put pressure on the quarterback.” New USC coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson recruited Smith when they were at Auburn. When Smith decommitted from Kentucky last month, Muschamp quickly offered and got the Gamecocks in a position of strength with Smith. Smith also was once committed to NC State. DL Cecil Stallings of Tucker, GA and OL Lloyd Cushenberry of Geismar, LA have been committed to USC since last summer. Both say they are still committed. Both plan to take official visits to USC. And both are looking at the same second option. Stallings visited Mississippi State last weekend and Cushenberry is going to Starkville this weekend. “It went pretty good, I enjoyed it,” Stallings said of his visit with the Bulldogs. “I didn’t know that Mississippi State was that nice. That was a shocker to me. It’s like a family down there. Boys on the team seem real cool and they think of themselves as brothers.” Stallings said he’s not talked recently with USC. In fact, his only contact with the new staff was when a recruiter came to visit him soon after Muschamp was hired. Still, he considers himself committed to the Gamecocks and is considering visiting USC or Ole Miss this coming weekend. If he visits one this weekend, he might visit the other January 29th. “I’m still interested,” he said of the Gamecocks. Asked if that’s where he wants to go, Stallings replied, “I’m not so sure yet. My options are still open.” Does he think the Gamecocks still want him? “Kind of, but who knows.” USC coach Muschamp along with assistants Travaris Robinson and Lance Thompson were knocking on doors and shaking hands in the New Orleans area last Monday. Two stops were to see DB Kristian Fulton of Metairie and DL Stephon Taylor of New Orleans. Their goal, at the least, was to get each lined up for an official visit. They batted .500. Fulton visited LSU last weekend and is calling the Tigers his favorite right now. He’s scheduled to visit Arkansas this weekend and Florida for January 29th. The story is much different with Taylor who has a definite visit set with the Gamecocks for January 29th. He went to Tex-

as last weekend and is going to Florida State this weekend. Plus, LSU and Oklahoma are in the mix. Taylor does not claim a favorite, but one thing is clear, he really likes Muschamp, Robinson and Thompson. “I have a great relationship with the coaching staff,” Taylor said. “Coach Muschamp has been recruiting me for a long time. Like I’ve been telling him, I’d like to play for him. If I adapt to it, that will be the place I will be at, if it has what I need and want, and what my parents want.” Taylor said his relationship with Muschamp and the others dates back to their coaching days at Auburn and Florida. “Coach Muschamp and Coach Thompson, I’m very familiar with them, and Coach T-Rob,” he said. “Their plans for me are they want me up there to be ready to train and come in and play as a true freshman. I could play all across the line.” Taylor did not want to identify a favorite, but said if everything goes well on the visit USC “will be in my top three, but I’m not going to say I’m going to commit.” Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher and two of his assistants also met with Taylor Monday night. Taylor plans to wait until Signing Day on his decision. DL Karamo Dioubate (6-4 285) of Philadelphia is back on the recruiting market after decommitting from Penn State. He visited Temple last weekend and will go to Michigan State this weekend and then come to USC Sunday. “I have interest in South Carolina, I’ve been talking to them,” Dioubate said. “It was a tough situation they had last year and they are rebuilding right now and they are trying to bring them back up to standards.” He also has taken an official visit to Auburn. Ohio State, Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Wisconsin are some of the other offers on his list. USC Tuesday offered RB Justin Crawford (6-0 195) of Northwest Mississippi JC. Crawford rushed for 1600 yards and 16 touchdowns and caught 29 passes for 394 yards and 6 touchdowns last season helping his team to the junior college national championship game. His top schools right now are USC, Missouri, West Virginia, Georgia and Texas A&M. Crawford took an official visit to Louisville in December. He is planning to visit Missouri this weekend and USC January 29th. USC last week offered former Marshall commitment TE Provonsha (Pro) Wells (6-6 217) of St. Petersburg, FL and recruiter Brian McClendon was in to see him at school Wednesday. “The offer, it’s eye opening. It shows me that my talent is bigger than what I see and bigger than what we see here in St. Petersburg. They see me as a very big target, a guy that can get out there and play as soon as I get there.” Wells played tight end, wide receiver, slot receiver and some quarterback this season. He had 983 receiving yards, 1300 all-purpose yards and 8 touchdowns. “They like my versatility,” he said. “They like how I can go after it and do what’s needed to be done. The South Carolina deal blew my mind away. I didn’t think an SEC school would come my way.” And the reason for that, Wells said, is because

this past season was his only season of high school football. He’s been a basketball player but was encouraged to play football and now knows that’s his ticket to the big time. Wells visited UCF over the weekend and is scheduled for Iowa State this weekend. Muschamp and Robinson met last Tuesday with DE Jacoby Hill (6-3 220) of Atlanta. Muschamp offered Hill soon after taking the Gamecocks’ job and Hill has had USC at the top of his list since then. “I actually tried to commit when I first received the offer, but they wanted me to wait until I come up to the visit the school,” Hill said. “Coach Muschamp said he didn’t want me to commit until I visited the school. It was my first big SEC offer. Going into my junior season, I sat down with my coaches and talked about which schools I would go to automatically if I got their offer and South Carolina was one of them.” Hill further explained why he likes the Gamecocks. “My idol (Jadeveon Clowney) went there and I pretty much like what they have going on,” he said. “It’s an SEC school, a Power Five school and very good competition.” Hill visited Memphis last weekend and is looking at going to Mississippi State this weekend. The Bulldogs have just come back in on him and he’s waiting on an offer. Despite his strong feelings for USC right now however, Hill identifies with Memphis as his leader. “Memphis leads because they have been consistent,” Hill said. “When I went on my visit, I felt like it was home basically. It was more than just football.” Hill is scheduled to visit USC January 29th. He had 24 sacks over the past two seasons along with 147 tackles. Robinson met with DB Torrian Hampton (6-4 185) of Lakeland, FL Tuesday. “He was telling me they really like my film and will call me tonight or tomorrow,” Hampton said. “He said he likes how I come down and make tackles and hit, and how long I am.” USC has not offered. Hampton will visit Middle Tennessee State this weekend and Bowling Green on January 29th but said a USC offer would lead to a visit there. Last season he had 85 tackles and 7 pass break ups. WR Korey Banks (6-0 170) of Tyrone, GA is a North Carolina commitment and he made his official visit to Chapel Hill last weekend. He is slated to see Alabama this coming weekend and USC January 29th and Wednesday night Muschamp made his in home visit along with assistant Bryan McClendon. “I have a very high interest (in USC),” Banks said. “I have a good relationship with coach BMac. I’m building one with Coach Muschamp so you know I have a very high interest. They said they need a lot more explosive guys, guys that can separate and I fit the role.” Banks said his commitment to the Tar Heels remains “still about the same, still 100%.” However, he wants to take all of his official visits before making a final decision. Former USC commitment DB JJ Givens of Mechanicsville, VA visited Miami last weekend and has visits set with NC State and CONT. on page 22


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‘No doubt’ Elliott wanted to remain a Gamecock on Muschamp’s staff by brian hand Executive Editor It always was, but it was particularly plain to see Shawn Elliott’s passion for South Carolina football over the last few months. Elliott had a tough gig as South Carolina’s interim head coach in the latter part of the 2015 season, but his dedication and hard work in trying to keep the Gamecocks competitive in every outing made him beloved among fans everywhere. This love for all things Gamecock made it a no-brainer for new South Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp to place him on his inaugural staff. “I think it was really critical,” Muschamp said. “No. 1, he’s a really good football coach, he’s a really good person, he loves South Carolina and he wants to be here. Those are kind of my factors in hiring a coach. And he’s an outstanding recruiter. He’s a guy that I’m really excited about to be a part of our staff. I think he’s done an outstanding job through the years here at South Carolina and obviously at Appalachian State as well.” Now in his sixth year at South Carolina, the Gamecocks’ offensive line coach said it was an easy decision to stay with the program on Muschamp’s staff. “He was straightforward with me,” Elliott said. “He knew my love for the University of South Carolina and this great state and he knew I only wanted to do great things for the program. I knew the guys he was bringing on and, of course, coach Muschamp and his reputation. There was no doubt.” Elliott knows his undertaking as interim head coach was a unique opportunity. He also knows it has made him a better coach in the long run. “So much a better coach because you working with so many different areas other than the ‘x’s’ and ‘o’s,’” Elliott said. “You’re thinking recruiting, you’re thinking Friday night meals, you’re thinking team morale, you’re thinking so many different things and you’re trying to hold a staff together. There were so many different things that went through your mind that you’re going to benefit from if you ever were to be a head coach one day.” Elliott obviously had his appetite whetted in his time as a head coach and he wants to be a head coach one day. In fact, Elliott interviewed for the head coaching vacancy at East Carolina shortly after Muschamp

photo by allen sharpe

was hired, but he is completely focused on Gamecock football right now. He’s more than happy as a Gamecock. “I think a lot of people go searching for happiness when you’ve got something right here,” Elliott said. “I think a lot of people make the mistake thinking bigger may be better, more money may be better, but I think

once you find it, once you have that happiness with my family and my two kids, it’s hard to go elsewhere. I’ll be honest with you, once you have it, why go search?” A true Gamecock, Elliott is excited to see how everything plays out over the ensuing months as he knows at his position and every other position anything can happen, which is

one of the beautiful things about a new staff taking over. “I think there is going to be position battles like in every position with a new staff coming in,” Elliott said. “That’s the great thing about Will. He’s opening it up again and giving everybody a shot. Everybody we have on our roster is going to be battling for a spot.”


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Gamecock beach volleyball announces 2016 schedule south carolina athletics media relations Four home tournaments and one dual match at Wheeler Beach highlight the 2016 South Carolina beach volleyball schedule. The Gamecocks are coming off of a 14win season and will face six teams that competed in the 2015 AVCA Sand Volleyball National Championship, including defendAll Gamecock ing national beach volleyball coverage champion sponsored by James W. Southern Smith Real Estate Co. California. “We are excited about our schedule for this spring,” said head coach Moritz Moritz. “There are a lot of opportunities ahead of us. Although the primary focus is on daily improvement, the teams that we will compete against will challenge us to be at our best. It’s our responsibility now to prepare the best that we can for what lies ahead and to take that challenge head on.”

South Carolina will open the season March 4-5 in Tempe, Ariz. for the Sun Devil Challenge, with matches against Colorado Mesa, Florida State, New Mexico and host Arizona State. The Gamecocks will also head to Phoenix on March 6 to face Grand Canyon. The following weekend, South Carolina

will return home to host the Gamecock Challenge (March 12-13) featuring Mercer, Tulane, UAB and Costal Carolina. The Gamecocks will hold the Carolina Classic on March 19-20, with matches against Jacksonville State, Louisiana-Monroe, Florida Atlantic and North Florida. College of Charleston will head to Wheeler

Beach on March 23 to face South Carolina in a dual match. Carolina will close out the month of March at home with the Gamecock Invitational (March 26-27). The tournament will include UAB, Carson Newman, Jacksonville and TCU. The Gamecocks travel to Miami for the Surf and Turf Classic, hosted by Florida International, on April 1-2. Other teams competing in the event are Southern California, Stetson, Georgia State and Tulane. The season will continue at the Fiesta on the Siesta on April 9-10 where the Gamecocks have the chance to face competitors from 30 different teams from around the country in Siesta Key, Fla. South Carolina’s regular season will wrapup at home on April 16-17 with the Palmetto Invitational. The Gamecocks will compete against UNC-Wilmington, LSU, Carson Newman and Coastal Carolina. The first CCSA Conference Tournament will be held at LakePoint Sports Complex in Emerson, Ga. on April 22-24. The inaugural NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships will take place from May 6-8 on the Gulf Shores Public Beach in Gulf Shores, Ala.

South Carolina studentathletes continue success in the classroom

has played an integral role to the success of our department through their dedication and focus on each student. We are proud of our studentUniversity of South Carolina student-athletes athletes who continue to rise to the challenge and began the 2015-16 school year in fine fashion in compete in the classroom.” the classroom, posting a combined 3.171 grade Sport GPA point average (GPA), according to Maria HickBaseball 2.974 man, Associate Athletics Director for Academics Men’s Basketball 2.776 and Student Development. Women’s Basketball 3.027 The 3.171 GPA extended the department’s Beach Volleyball 3.562 streak to 18-consecutive semesters in which the Equestrian 3.449 student-athletes combined for a GPA of 3.0 or Football 2.571 better, with 15 of the 18 teams earning at least a Men’s Golf 3.486 3.0 GPA. Women’s Golf 3.739 Women’s golf led the charge with a combined Men’s Soccer 3.113 3.739 team GPA. Men’s swimming & diving also Women’s Soccer 3.404 was highlighted for posting its second-best GPA Softball 3.447 on record, a mark of 3.367. Overall, the departMen’s Swimming/Diving 3.367 ment named 66 student-athletes to the President’s Women’s Swimming/Diving 3.548 List (4.0 GPA), 172 to the Dean’s List (3.5) and Men’s Tennis 3.298 360 to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll (3.0). Women’s Tennis 3.631 “The foundation for academic excellence has Men’s Track & Field 3.110 been set by the administration and coaches,” Women’s Track & Field/XC 3.444 said Hickman. “The Dodie Academic staff Volleyball 3.268

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January 27, 2016

Behind the scenes look at a South Carolina women’s basketball bus trip

by kyle heck Reporter

On Dec. 7, 2014, then-No. 1 South Carolina was preparing to play ninth-ranked Duke in Durham, North Carolina. The home of the Blue Devils, Cameron Indoor Stadium, is known as one of the toughest places to play in the nation. However, on that particular day, Gamecock fans made it their home away from home, thanks to the efforts of head coach Dawn Staley and the University of South Carolina. Staley came up with the idea before the season began to organize a bus trip to Duke to make it easier for Gamecock fans to attend and help curb the supposed tremendous homecourt advantage at Cameron Indoor Stadium. So three charter buses were booked and shortly thereafter, the trip was sold out. Even with that, what happened when the Gamecocks ran out onto the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium was a surprise to even Staley. At least half of the fans in attendance were clad in garnet and black and loud Gamecock cheers filled the arena during South Carolina’s 51-50 victory over Duke. “We were on the court stretching before the game,” then South Carolina senior Aleighsa Welch said. “We saw them come in and they kept coming and coming and coming. We didn’t realize how many fans would be here, but it gave us extra motivation during our slumps.” South Carolina had scheduled bus trips for women’s basketball games before then, but that particular Duke trip was the culmination of an incredible journey that continues to grow. Along with the Duke trip, a bus trip to Georgia was also sold out last year and Diane Palmer, an administrative assistant at South Carolina and lead organizer of the bus trips, said 10 buses made the trip to Greensboro, North Carolina where the Gamecocks punched their ticket to the Final Four with victories over North Carolina and Florida State. Three bus trips are scheduled for this season and the first one was on Sunday, Dec. 20, when two buses carrying 115 fans made the trek to Myrtle Beach to watch the No. 2 Gamecocks take on East Carolina in the Beach Ball Classic/Carolinas Challenge. To have over 100 people sign up was impressive with it just being a few days before Christmas. The fans showed up bright and early on Sunday morning at the Key Road parking lot beside Williams-Brice Stadium

photo by allen sharpe

ready to go cheer on the Gamecocks.

the buses stopped at a gas station to allow a chance for everyone to use the restrooms Departure or get something to eat. After a 30-minute At 8 a.m., organizers started to load up the break, the garnet and black army filtered out buses with rally towels, snacks, drinks and of the gas station and back onto the buses to everything else needed to make the threecontinue the journey. hour journey to Myrtle Beach. Soon after, After everyone got comfortable again, Mccars starting filling up the parking lot. Fans Farland and Hayden Lipham, a Gamecock checked in and picked up a special “Garnet & Club assistant, led a trivia session. Five gift Blk” T-shirt that came with the trip package. bags were up for grabs with one each going Everyone found seats on the two buses and to those who correctly answered the five talked to those around them. Apples and cle- questions. mentines were available for breakfast. Palmer The first question asked for the year that had cut up the apples herself and added pine- Dawn Staley carried the American flag at apple juice to add some extra flavor, much to the Olympic games. After a couple of wrong the delight of those on the buses. guesses, the correct answer, 2004, was stated. After making sure that everyone was pres- Next up was a question asking which mement that had tickets, the two buses departed ber of the South Carolina women’s basketball the parking lot just after 9 a.m. Once the staff celebrated a birthday the previous week. vehicles were en route, Patrick McFarland, That one was answered quickly with the corExecutive Director of the Gamecock Club, rect answer being Nikki McCray-Penson. stood up on the second of the two buses and The third question was the hardest, as it welcomed everyone aboard. asked for someone to name the three new “We’re glad you’re with us. Let’s go beat additions to the coaching staff this season. those Pirates,” McFarland said, drawing a It took a little while, but eventually someone cheer from everyone. said Katie Fowler (strength performance coach), Fred Chmiel (assistant coach) and Trip to Myrtle Beach Marcella Shorty (athletic trainer). The last About an hour and a half into the trip, two questions asked for the three former

Gamecocks currently playing professionally overseas (Ashley Bruner, Elem Ibiam and Aleighsa Welch) and finally, what the combined record of the South Carolina men’s and women’s basketball teams were and what other team in the country also had that record. The answer to the first part, 20-0, was quickly answered as well as the final part of it. No one. When the buses starting traveling through Conway, there was a definite uptick in the amount of excitement. People started talking about the Gamecocks and the upcoming matchup and they started gathering up their things to prepare to unload. Just before 12:30 p.m., the two charter buses pulled up to the front of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, where the game was being played. McFarland had another message before everyone got off. “Welcome to Myrtle Beach. Y’all ready?” McFarland said, drawing a resounding “Yes!” from the crowd. The Gamecock fans then started to get off the buses, putting on their shirts and picking up their tickets from McFarland and Lipham before heading inside the arena for the 1 p.m. tipoff. Dominating win and ride home Before the Gamecocks headed to Myrtle Beach to take on East Carolina, Staley said she hoped that Gamecock Nation would create another homecourt advantage for her team away from home. The fans again went above and beyond as garnet and black easily outnumbered purple and gold. Senior Tiffany Mitchell’s 17 points led five South Carolina players in double-figures as the Gamecocks cruised to a dominating 88-57 win over the Pirates. Gamecock fans were loud throughout and the coaching staff and team stood at midcourt after the game and recognized their loyal fans. “It’s amazing,” Staley said the day after the win. “When we walk out onto an arena just to see garnet and black, it’s incredible. I know the years that we’ve played down there at the Beach Ball Classic, it’s been all (North) Carolina blue, but now when we play, it’s all garnet and black which is a true testament to our fans and their ability to come into an arena and take over. It gives us great relief to know that every time we step on the floor, we see our fans in the stands cheering us on.” The game ended right around 2:50 p.m. and by 3:15, everyone had grabbed a ham or turkey sandwich provided by Panera Bread


Spurs & Feathers • 21

January 27, 2016

along with a beverage and climbed back aboard the buses. Shortly thereafter, the buses began the trek back to Columbia. In the back of the second bus, a few fans had a toast with juice. They clanked their plastic glasses together and said “11-0” in unison. Among that group was Felicia Jackson, a loyal fan who’s been participating and helping with the bus trips ever since Staley and the University brought up the idea four years ago. She regularly makes victory cupcakes and that was no different on Sunday when she passed around the sweets after the buses had gotten back on the road. Jackson said Staley has truly brought Gamecock Nation together to support the women’s basketball team. “They’re sticking together,” Jackson said after getting back to Columbia. “Right now everybody is just loving everything that she’s doing with Gamecock Nation.” Once the buses hit the interstate again, it was a relatively quiet trip home. The televisions were turned on to watch the NFL’s Carolina Panthers kick a game-winning field goal against the New York Giants to improve their record to 14-0. As the kick went through the uprights, there was a loud cheer on the bus from those supporting the local professional team. After that game, the Texas A&M-Oklahoma women’s basketball game was shown until the buses pulled back up to the Key Road parking lot at 6:15 p.m. McFarland thanked everyone for coming and invited them back for the final two bus trips of the year, on Jan. 21 to go to Auburn and Feb. 15 to go to Tennessee. He is one of many who have been impressed with the support shown for Staley and her team. “Two full buses five days before Christmas, it’s phenomenal the fan support that women’s basketball gets,” McFarland marveled before the buses left Myrtle Beach. “They’re just passionate about it and they would come any day at any time to come see the women’s basketball team for sure.” ‘I thought that this would be something fun that they would like to do’ As the cars filed back out of the parking lot, Jackson reflected on how far the trips have come since she first started. “Our last trip to Duke, I think we took (10) buses,” Jackson said. “From 20 people to 10 buses, that’s good.” Jackson is referencing the first trip she went on with Palmer, which was four years ago at Clemson. Palmer said there were some fans that expressed interest in traveling to the games so

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photo by allen sharpe

they booked one bus and about 25 people traveled to that game in the upstate. “The first bus, we only had about 25 people, but coach Staley said, ‘we’re going to go anyway’ and after that, the buses have just been full all the time,” Palmer said. Over time, Palmer and the other organizers have had to book more and more buses and the trips continue to grow in popularity, evidenced by the tremendous turnout at Duke in 2014. While winning has a lot to do with the increasing popularity, that’s not the only good thing about joining the trips. The people that started going years ago told their friends and family how much fun they had and it went from there. “We had a good time and the word spread and the interest grew and here we are,” Palmer reflected. While the packed buses over the last couple of years have been unprecedented, Palmer said it’s not surprising. She knows the passion that Gamecocks have for their teams and they prove it to her every time she helps schedule a bus trip. “I thought that the fans in Columbia, they really support Gamecock athletics, all the sports across the board,” Palmer said. “I thought that this would be something fun that they would like to do.”

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22 • Spurs & Feathers

January 27, 2016

Lexington County Gamecock Club looking forward to great year by kyle heck Reporter

these board meetings is have those people involved with the University who don’t get the exposure they deserve, bring them to our meetWith the calendar turning to 2016, the Lexings, let them talk to us about situations he’s ington County Gamecock Club is looking went through, how he takes care of situations forward to another year of doing big things for on the field,” Gunter said. “It was very interestthe Gamecock Club and South Carolina athlet- ing tonight.” ics. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the club had its annual Guy talked about his background and how board meeting to focus on the future and get he ended up at South Carolina before speaking things in order for 2016. about what he does when athletes are injured While it’s important to take care of business, on the field of play. He went through the prothe Lexington County Gamecock Club also cess of what happened to Marcus Lattimore wanted to have a guest speaker to cap off the when he suffered his devastating knee injury evening and provide some insight into the Uni- against Tennessee, taking those in attendance versity. Dr. Jeffrey Guy, South Carolina’s own behind the scenes of his surgery and recovery. assistant professor of clinical orthopedic surIn addition to having Guy in attendance, the gery, was the featured speaker at the meeting at Lexington County Gamecock Club presented a the Cayce Tennis & Fitness Center. Guy helps $10,000 check that was made out to the Gametake care of all the student-athletes on campus cock Club that will be used for the graphics and also works with regular college students at the tennis complex by the Rice Athletics and other high schools and colleges in the area. Center. Lexington County Gamecock Club president “That was another big project we worked on,” Steve Gunter was excited his club and its mem- Gunter said. “We feel that it’s very important bers were able to hear from Guy at the board that we help our programs the best we can. We meeting. were very honored to help them in some way.” “That’s one of the things we like to do at With baseball season quickly approaching, RECRUITING ROUNDUP CONT. from page 17 and Maryland the next two weekends. He still lists eight schools...USC, Clemson, North Carolina, Arizona State, Wisconsin, NC State, Maryland and Michigan State. USC target DB Kristian Fulton appears locked in to official visits this weekend at Arkansas and next weekend at Florida. DL Aaron Thompson of Ft. Lauderdale was scheduled to see Maryland last weekend and has visits the next two weekends scheduled with Tennessee and USC. OL Jordan Johnson of Jacksonville went to last weekend. This coming weekend he will head to USC and then on Sunday he’s going up to Virginia Tech. And the last weekend he will start out at Georgia Southern and follow that with a trip to Georgia Tech. Johnson said he does not have a leader as he goes into his visits. DE Allen Cater of Kennesaw, GA made an official visit to North Carolina over the weekend. He did not commit. He plans to visit USC this coming weekend. He also has visited Arkansas and Indiana. QB Tylin Oden of Columbia, TN is getting interest from USC but no offer yet. USC quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper met with him this week for a second time. He is scheduled to visit Iowa State January this weekend. ATH Stephen Davis Jr. of Dutch Fork made his official visit to Auburn this weekend. He is scheduled to visit USC this coming weekend. DL D’Andre Christmas-Giles of New Orleans has set an official visit to USC for this weekend. USC last week offered WR Jeriko Morris of Crystal Springs, MS. He’s a Southern Miss commitment. 2017 LB Markail Benton of Phenix City, AL has USC in his current top 10. The others are Clemson, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. USC last week offered 2017 prospects DB Quentin Montgomery of Jacksonville, DB Brad Stewart Jr. of New Orleans, DL Eric Crosby of Virginia Beach, VA and RB Devan Burnett of Tampa. 2017 QB Jake Bentley of Opelika, AL made an unofficial visit to USC over the weekend. He’s the son of Gamecock’s running backs coach Bobby Bentley. The Gamecocks are one of his favorites along with Stanford, Georgia and Miami.

photo by kyle heck

that means the Lexington County Gamecock Club’s annual baseball banquet is coming up as well. The banquet featuring head baseball coach Chad Holbrook will take place on Jan. 25. In addition, the club set up its spring banquet that will take place on April 21 and will feature an appearance by new head football coach Will Muschamp. All-in-all, it’s shaping up to be another exciting year in Lexington County and Gunter and

the rest of the local Gamecocks are looking forward to it. “I’m very excited about working with our members again,” Gunter said. “We have a very good group and they have set some high goals so I look forward to a good year.” For more information on the Lexington County Gamecock Club, you can like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter at @ LexGamecockClub.

2017 DE Logan Rudolph of Northwestern will visit USC January 30th to meet with the coaches and take in the basketball game. He was offered by Miami Tuesday. 2017 prospects USC offered this week include DL Emmanuel McNeil of Lawrenceville, GA, DB Deon Jones of Washington, DC. WR Leroy Henley of Ft. Lauderdale and OL Jordan Tucker of Roswell, GA. USC Saturday offered 2018 OL Curtis Dunlap Jr. of IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. South Carolina’s 2016 commitment class as of Jan. 21: (italics is mid-year enrollee) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22.

CHRIS SMITH DB 5-11 180 SOUTH POINTE JAMARCUS KING DB 6-1 180 COFFEYVILLE JC, KS CECIL STALLINGS DE 6-5 250 TUCKER, GA GRIFFIN GRENTRY DE 6-2 260 HOMEWOOD, AL SADARIUS HUTCHERSON DE 6-6 250 HUNTINGDON, TN KEIR THOMAS DE 6-2 240 MIAMI JACOREY MORRIS LB 6-2 215 OAK HILL, AL TJ BRUNSON LB 6-1 220 RICHLAND NORTHEAST WILL PUTNAM OL 6-5 270 HARRISBURG, NC AKEEM COOPERWOOD OL 6-7 325 GEORGIA MILITARY JC LLOYD CUSHENBERRY OL 6-3 310 GEISMAR, LA PETE LEOTA OL 6-5 307 ASHEVILLE, NC BRANDON MCILWAIN QB 6-0 205 NEWTOWN, PA CJ FREEMAN RB 5-11 195 GREENSBORO, NC RICO DOWDLE RB 6-1 190 ASHEVILLE, NC ROBERT TUCKER TE 6-3 240 ATLANTA TRE JACKSON WR 5-10 178 BATON ROUGE, LA BRYAN EDWARDS WR 6-3 208 CONWAY CHAVIS DAWKINS WR 6-2 195 BYRNES DIONDRE CHAMPAIGNE WR 6-3 175 FORT DORCHESTER DARIUS WHITFIELD DL 6-3 285 MOBILE, AL KOBE SMITH DL 6-4 295 LAWRENCEVILLE, GA


Spurs & Feathers • 23

January 27, 2016

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24 • Spurs & Feathers

January 27, 2016

Bobby Bentley ‘fired up’ to be a Gamecock by brian hand Executive Editor

New South Carolina running backs coach Bobby Bentley was a 25-year-old when he took over the reins as head coach at Byrnes High School. Bentley would go on to win 119 games and multiple state championships in two stints as the head coach at Byrnes. In addition, he served as the head coach at NCAA Division I FCS Presbyterian for two years where he helped the Blue Hose set numerous records during his time in charge before stepping away to pursue other opportunities that eventually led to him becoming a quality control assistant coach under Gus Malzahn at Auburn. Despite his unprecedented success as a head coach in the high school and college ranks, Bentley is quick to point out that it was his two years at Auburn that maybe prepared him the most for South Carolina. “The last two years have probably helped me the most, honestly,” Bentley said. “All of my years combined have gotten me to who I am and my character and the type of coach I am. I was a head coach at 25, so being able to sit back as an analyst probably allowed me a two-year graduate program. It allowed me to watch great people work and administrators work at a great institution too.” Being at Auburn and working under renowned Auburn running backs coach Tim Horton helped Bentley immensely. “It allowed me to see them and it allowed me to now be prepared for this job especially at the running backs position because I had coach Tim Horton to work with and we were very blessed to have Cameron Artis-Payne, who was a pro before he was a pro, and now he’s with the Carolina Panthers (as well as) Corey Grant, who is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars,” Bentley said. “I worked with them every single day. As an analyst you have more contact with them than the on the field coach as far as day-to-day contact. You get to know what’s making them work, what’s making them tick. That’s really helped me being around those guys and prepared me for this position.” It’s no secret that Gamecock football head coach Will Muschamp wants a balanced attack offensively and Bentley is completely on board as he knows that is what it takes to win in the SEC. “A lot of people know my background,” Bentley said. “I want to throw the football, but in the SEC if you can’t run the football, you can’t win. That’s period. If you’re somewhere else, you can sit back there and throw it, getting four wides and those

photo by allen sharpe

things, but we’re going to be a balanced football team. We’re in the SEC and that’s what we’re going to do and be a physical football team.” Bentley knows that physical mindset has to be key for the Gamecocks to be successful in the ground game. “We’re going to be a very physical group,’ Bentley said. “We’re going to be unselfish, we’re going to be tough. Any time a coach

turns on the video if they’re watching our running backs at the University of South Carolina (they are going to see) they are relentless. I think you’ll see ‘bull yards’ and I’m not saying ‘bull yards’ where you’re running over people. ‘Bull yards’ from a standpoint of the yardage that they make on their own and not just the yards that they block for us. If a guy gets 10 yards then he get should get four of them on his own; six

of them should be blocked.” In general, Bentley is just excited to be back in the state of South Carolina where he made his name and - more importantly to be a Gamecock. “You’re just excited every day to know you’re a Gamecock,” Bentley said. “Coming to work every day you’re jacked, you’re excited, you’re fired up every single day. It’s just great to be here.”


January 27, 2016

Spurs & Feathers • 25

by kyle heck Reporter

Just 31 years old, Hutzler already has experience trying to stop SEC kick and punt returners. He knows it will be difficult, but he’s confident he can get his Gamecocks to be able to do it. A major plus for the new coach is the fact that South Carolina is scheduled to return its starting kicker and punter from last year. Elliott Fry is an All-SEC performer at kicker and Sean Kelly was one of the best punters in the league during his first year as a Gamecock. “I’m very excited,” Hutzler said. “Obviously to have a foundation of guys that have kicked and punted in games, made their critical kicks photo by allen sharpe and have done their job at a high level is exciting.” be an unselfish team and a team that really goes Reunited with Muschamp, Hutzler feels he is out and plays hard from the first quarter through in as good of a place as he can be. the fourth, or however long it takes. Through “Good opportunity for me to work at a place the winter program and through the spring, like South Carolina,” Hutzler said. “I’m really those things will truly show come game one.” excited about it.”

Hutzler excited to work with Muschamp and Gamecocks quite an impressive one. He led a special teams unit that had a freshman rank in the top-10 in the country in kick return average while the In 2014, Coleman Hutzler worked with head Eagles were second in the nation in punt return coach Will Muschamp at Florida, serving as the defense, allowing just 1.66 yards per return. team’s special teams coordinator and lineback- Boston College also blocked an impressive ers coach. After an impressive season in that three punts on the season. As linebackers coach, role, Hutzler moved on to Boston College the Hutzler helped lead a defense that was best in following season. However, when Muschamp the nation, allowing just 254.3 yards per game. offered him a job on his new staff at South Hutzler will again coach special teams and Carolina, it was something that Hutzler couldn’t linebackers with South Carolina and is lookpass up because of how much he enjoyed coach- ing forward to putting his fingerprint on the ing under the new Gamecock coach. program. “Unbelievable respect for him,” Hutzler said “We talk a lot about field position, winning the of Muschamp. “As a coach, as a leader, the way battle of field position,” Hutzler said. “We talk he runs the program, the way he coaches kids a lot about making gamebreakers and making (and) as a husband and a father. Just the combig plays. We do those things, we will help this plete person. That’s exciting to be able to work team win games and that’s the only end result for him again.” that matters. We want to be a tough team. We Hutzler’s only year at Boston College was want to be a blue collar team (and) we want to

Washington brings experience, knowledge to Gamecock staff by kyle heck Reporter

New South Carolina tight ends coach Pat Washington describes a lot of his fellow Gamecock coaches as “whippersnappers.” A 28-year coaching veteran, Washington is the most experienced coach on South Carolina’s staff. Over the years, he’s interacted with several members of the Gamecock staff. He remembers working with or running into offensive coordinator Kurt Roper as a graduate assistant at Tennessee, defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson as an assistant at Southern Miss and head coach Will Muschamp as another assistant at Eastern Kentucky. Washington comes to South Carolina from his latest stop at Missouri, where he was the receivers coach since 2013. He is excited to start a new chapter with South Carolina and the amazing coaching staff. “It’s awesome (and) it’s amazing,” Washington said. “I was at Missouri so we’ll be sitting there

1998 and won a national championship. All-in-all, Washington has spent 18 years coaching in the SEC, which is about how long most of the kids he’ll be recruiting have been alive. That vital experience is priceless and he’s hoping to pass on that knowledge to future generations of Gamecocks. “This is a very, very competitive conference, but it never really dawned on me until I got out of this conference,” said Washington, a 1987 graduate of Auburn. “Not that the (other) conferences I coached in weren’t as competitive, but there was a difference. The guys you were going against photo by allen sharpe were a little bit different. To have the experience is to understand week in and week out, not only and talking and somebody will get a job and I’m look at video and tell a player, ‘this is what you like, ‘hey, I know that guy.’ These young guys have to deal with,’ but I’ve been there, played getting great opportunities, they’re well-deserved there, coached there, I think I know what I’m and they’re working hard.” talking about with how you have to prepare yourWashington has been all over the place, but self to go to Florida or whatever school and what most notably he served as Tennessee’s wide you have to deal with from an outside and inside receivers coach for 11 seasons (1995-2005) and standpoint.” during that time the Vols went undefeated in Just like the other assistant coaches, Washing-

ton is excited for the challenge ahead at South Carolina and sees a bright future for Gamecock football. There’s not much Washington has to do to convince kids to come to the University and believes there is a lot of potential with instate recruits. “This state reminds me a lot of like Mississippi and even Tennessee,” Washington said. “There are a lot of players under rocks. You have to move those rocks and kind of find them.” With so much experience within the SEC, Washington is all too familiar with WilliamsBrice Stadium and it’s safe to say he’s happy that he’ll be on the home side for once rather than having to deal with the intimidating atmosphere as an away coach on game days. “I’ve been here several times as an opposing coach and to me, it just amazes me the fanbase here, the loyalty of the fans here,” Washington said. “It didn’t matter what their record was, this place was packed. Just preparing to come and play here we always piped music in practice knowing it was going to be a loud place.”


26 • Spurs & Feathers

For your Oscar consideration: Frank Martin and his long-lost movie role

January 27, 2016

ing until 8 o’clock in the evening. There was a lot of standing around between takes. He said he earned “a couple hundred bucks” per You’ve heard day. He didn’t receive a credited role, which of Frank Martin explains why you can’t find him on any IMDb. com page. In an odd coincidence, the man who the basketball choreographed the football scenes in the movie, coach. But have Mark Ellis, is the brother of Gamecock football you heard of radio voice Todd Ellis. Frank Martin the And get this: Martin could have had a bigmovie star? ger role in “Any Given Sunday.” The directors Okay, that approached him about continuing with the film might be a when it shot its game scenes in Miami and Dalstretch. But with las. Oscar season “The guys wanted me and the rest of us to upon us, it’s only commit full-time for three months. I couldn’t fitting to share do it because I had my teaching job,” Martin the story. explained. “The other guys who were with us Before he led were security guards at the school and assistant South Carolina coaches who had part-time jobs. They did the to critical acclaim in the SEC, Andy Demetra photo by allen sharpe whole thing.” Now for most popular question: can you see Frank Martin, Contributing the Gamecocks’ Writer The movie was shooting in nearby Homestead, and other exercises in the movie’s background. Frank Martin in “Any Given Sunday?” Good luck. For all the shooting, Martin only fourth-year head Fla., at the city’s old minor league baseball “It was legit. It looked like a real practice,” appears in one scene: a faraway shot of him coach, had a park. Like most films, the directors hired loMartin said. small, non-speaking role in the 1999 movie cals to play extras and fill out other small roles. It turns out Shawn Elliott isn’t the only offen- and the players jogging off the practice field. Most of the actors blend together in a blurry, “Any Given Sunday.” The film, about the fictiOne of them was Miami Senior’s athletic sive line coach at USC. tious Miami Sharks pro football team, grossed trainer, who had been cast to play a referee. During his eight days on set, Martin rubbed pointillist mass. His support staff has tried for years to pick him out, to no avail. To this day, over $100 million and remains a basic cable One day, he approached Martin at school. The elbows with some of Hollywood’s finest. He Martin says his mother is the only person who staple. football players in the movie - all of whom were stood next to Al Pacino, the Sharks’ head can spot him. “It was great. It was another thing that I actual, ex-football players – were grumbling. coach. One of his co-workers, another extra, “You have to really pay attention,” he said. could sit back and just say, what an unbelievThey hated the actors who had been cast to play cracked up Pacino by imitating his Tony MonNot surprisingly, Martin has taken his brush able experience,” Martin told me of his brush their coaches. Their mannerisms and body lan- tana character from Scarface. He met NFL with the big screen with good humor. with Hollywood. guage, they said, looked pitifully inauthentic. Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who had been cast “It was short, quick - not very good,” he re(Unfortunately, he’s not even the most faThe directors asked Martin’s athletic trainer as the Sharks’ defensive coordinator. He said called, laughing. mous Frank Martin in cinema. That’s also if he knew any real coaches who could fill the hello to Oliver Stone, the movie’s two-time Unlike the Gamecocks’ 2016 season. With the name of Jason Statham’s character in The roles. Academy Award-winning director. (LL Cool Transporter franchise. Though Martin points “He said, ‘Hey, they want new coaches. Are J and Jamie Foxx, two of Any Given Sunday’s six weeks left in the regular season, Martin has South Carolina poised for a potential NCAA out that he, like Statham’s Frank Martin, drives you interested?’” Martin recalled. leading men, didn’t quite mingle with the exTournament run. He’ll gladly trade his apa black Audi A8.) It was over Spring break, so Martin figured tras.) pearance in “Any Given Sunday” for a role in As these things tend to happen, Martin why not. He wound up spending eight days on “It was a neat experience. I really enjoyed another feature, scheduled for an early March stumbled into the role accidentally. At the time, set, playing the Sharks’ offensive line coach it,” Martin said. release: he was working as a math teacher at his alma during the film’s practice scenes. Martin preStill, the days had more monotony than Selection Sunday. mater, Miami Senior High School in Miami. tended to run the linemen through station drills glamor. Shooting lasted from 6:30 in the morn-


Spurs & Feathers • 27

January 27, 2016

Bryan McClendon: ‘I just saw the potential here for great things’ by kyle heck Reporter While spending some time with new South Carolina co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon, there is one word that sticks out when talking about what made him join new head coach Will Muschamp’s staff. Potential. “The thing that stood out was No. 1, I get a chance to work with the people that are here,” McClendon said. “I think we have great people that are here at South Carolina. Then not so much just that, but just the potential to do great. I think the last staff did a great job of taking this institution to a whole different level and I just saw the potential here for great things. That’s what ultimately attracted me to come here.” Muschamp was able to lure McClendon away from his alma mater, Georgia. The 32-year-old played wide receiver for the Bulldogs and was part of the 2002 and 2005 teams that won the SEC championship. McClendon has been coaching with Georgia since 2007 and was the interim coach for the Bulldogs when Mark Richt was let go this past season. McClendon helped lead Georgia to a victory over Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl. “There was a couple of things that stood out to me the most,” McClendon said of his time as interim coach. “One was how important it was for everyone to be on the same page. Everyone has to be preaching the same thing. And the No. 2 thing that I think really showed up is how important it is that you are there for the right reason, which is the kids. Those kids are why you do what you do.” Known as one of the best recruiters in the country, McClendon takes his job of building relationships with prospects and players seriously. Prior to becoming the interim head coach, McClendon was the wide receivers coach, assistant head coach and passing game coordinator during the 2015 season. He was runnings back coach from 2009-2014 and was the recruiting coordinator for Georgia for the 2014-15 season, when the Bulldogs brought in the sixth-best recruiting class in the country, according to Rivals. In 2014, McClendon was named the 247Sports national recruiter of the year. “My message is, it’s about the people,” McClendon said. “The same thing that attracted

photo by allen sharpe

me to come here is you have people that are going to be for the kids. No matter what, those kids’ priorities, those kids’ well-being are going to be put first.” While at Georgia, McClendon was responsible for bringing in players like Todd Gurley, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb and hopes to make the same impact at South Carolina. McClendon will make sure to instill in his

players the necessary values and discipline to not only become good football players, but better human beings. “We’re going to work hard,” McClendon said. “We’re going to work hard at fundamentals and we’re going to be team first guys. I think that’s why the game of football was created, to be honest with you. It was for young men to understand that it’s about oth-

er people more so than it is about them. For young men to understand why it’s important to be mentally and physically tough and for young men to understand why it’s important to work hard. No matter what, that’s the biggest thing that I want to make sure we instill in guys here. It starts from the top down with coach Muschamp, that’s important to everybody here.”


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January 27, 2016

Lance Thompson confident about future of South Carolina football by kyle heck Reporter

Lance Thompson knows a lot about South Carolina. He attended The Citadel in the 1980’s and fell in love with the Charleston area and the state in general. That’s why when new South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp offered him a job on his staff, he jumped at the opportunity. “Lowcountry boils, beach music, Carolina Cup and Carolina football, maybe not in that order,” Thompson said of his favorite things about South Carolina. “There’s a lot of things about South Carolina. When I was going to school in Charleston, I loved Charleston. I loved South Carolina.” A Riverdale, Georgia native, Thompson followed Muschamp over from Auburn to be the Gamecocks’ new assistant head coach for defense as well as the defensive line coach. Serving as the Tigers’ linebackers coach last season, Thompson was named the interim defensive coordinator when Muschamp left to take the reins at South Carolina. Thompson did a great job of limiting Memphis star quarterback Paxton Lynch, a probable firstround NFL draft pick, in leading Auburn to a Birmingham Bowl victory over Memphis. A common theme with the new Gamecock football staff, Thompson brings an excellent reputation as an elite recruiter into Columbia. Prior to joining Muschamp at Auburn, Thompson coached at Alabama three different times and also coached at LSU and Georgia Tech. In 2014, Thompson was ranked as the No. 1 recruiter in the Ultimate ESPN 300 recruiting power rankings. Some of the recruits he’s been responsible for bringing in include Julio Jones, A.J. McCarron, D.J. Fluker and Trent Richardson, all of whom went on to NFL careers. “In recruiting I think it’s just like everything else in life,” Thompson said. “None of us live on an island of one. You have to create as many win-wins as you can. If you’re presented an opportunity for a young man, it’s a two-way street. He’s got to understand that he knows coming to your school is going to benefit you, but he’s got to understand … I get a quality education where I have a foundation for future success and he’s going to work me hard and train me and coach me to be the best player I can be.” Thompson sees an opportunity at South Carolina to really sell the school and the college experience.

photo by allen sharpe

“When you ink your name on the dotted line at the University of South Carolina, you’re a Gamecock for life,” Thompson noted. “That connects you in to the Gamecock family, which is worldwide.” Being responsible for the defensive line, Thompson is excited to turn around the fortunes of the South Carolina front. The Gamecocks have struggled generating pressure

over the last couple of years since the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, Devin Taylor and Kelcy Quarles departed. “You always want big, athletic guys,” Thompson said. “It’s important. (The) D-line is critical.” Thompson and the rest of the new Gamecock staff will have a short amount of time to recruit before national signing day comes

in the first week of February. Despite the dubious proposition, Thompson is looking forward to it and believes it will be easy to get kids to come to South Carolina. “We’re going to do a good job,” Thompson said. “We have a tremendous recruiting staff, guys that have outstanding relationships and we’re going to do the best job we can here to finish it up.”


Spurs & Feathers • 29

January 27, 2016

The road to success is always under construction “A person has to remember that the road to success is always under construction. You have to get that through your head. That it is not easy becoming successful.” – Steve Harvey Yes, leave it to the host of “Family Feud” to sum up what South Carolina basketball is currently going through. Frank Martin has spent countless hours the past four years building a program that Bill Gunter could compete Contributing in the SEC and Writer finally in 2016 it appears to be paying off, but fans should not forget where this program was just four short years ago. “The road to success is always under construction,” make no mistake, the Gamecocks road to success is still under construction. The team is still learning to play at a high level and compete when the going gets tough. Tuesday night, on the road in a difficult environment against Mississippi the Gamecocks managed to overcome a few road blocks and take another step toward success. Trailing for the majority of the game and staring down the barrel of their second straight loss on the road, Martin’s team summoned their inner coach. They battled, scrapped and in the end overcame a solid Rebel team in overtime. Over the past two seasons fans have watched as situations like these would turn sour on the Gamecocks and they would end up with a double digit loss or fight back only to give the game away in the end. Not this time though, not this ball club. The Gamecock basketball program is still a work in progress. This program still has many hurdles to overcome and many lessons to learn. That is because Martin is not building a one year success, but instead trying to get a program off the ground and be able to compete year, after year, after year. Certainly over the years there has been the occasional blimp of success, however, the Gamecock basketball program has been wandering in a lonely place for far too long. When Martin took over in 2011, the program was basically left for dead. Fan apathy was at an all time high with at-

photo by jenny dilworth

Pictured is South Carolina head coach Frank Martin with junior guard Sindarius Thornwell as he was honored for joining the 1,000-point club. tendance at the Colonial Life Arena barely evant basketball program both in the SEC beating out that of a Keenan High School and nationally. Learning how to win those game. type of ballgames will be passed down Martin has put in the time, recruited and from upperclassmen to the younger players built a program that fans can be proud of who will take those valuable lessons and and right now is reaping the apply them later. That is what rewards. There is still a ways building a program is all to go and fans will need to about and for the Gamecocks remember that, as the end of it is slowly coming together. the Harvey quotes, “it is not The record itself is very easy becoming successful,” impressive and who knows and that is certainly the case what exactly this year’s for the Gamecocks. team is capable of giving Last Tuesday night was not to the fans. Martin and the an arrival for the Gamecocks, All Gamecock basketball Gamecocks have not taken coverage sponsored by the easy path to their success it was just another stepping Yesterdays stone toward becoming a relthis season and there are sure

to be a few more bumps in the road as the program continues to improve. With all that said, Martin is doing things the right way and the win over Mississippi was another sign of the promising direction the Gamecock head coach has them going. As Harvey said in his statement above, the road to success is always under construction but the Gamecocks have the right foreman for the job. While construction is not complete, enjoy what you are witnessing now and expect things to get even better but also do not forget where this program was just a few short years ago and the hard work that Martin and the Gamecocks have put in to get to this point.


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January 27, 2016

This staff has the right keys to make this plan work He’s here to change things. From the opening press conference Will Muschamp gave the existing team some sage advice, ”change is inevitable, growth is a choice.” These were some of the first words players were given by the new head coach upon his arrival in Columbia. Like the players sitting in that room we all have a choice to grow along with the changes or to resist it, but change is coming. Change can be hard, but as we all look on our own personal experience we can remember times when we didn’t want to change only to regret not getting started sooner. Maybe it was a Langston Moore doctor telling Contributing you to change Writer your diet or else... Or failing to change how you conducted your business, using antiquated systems that keep you from optimizing your company’s output and success. Maybe it was just the dreaded “going with the flow” of doing “good” year after year, realizing one day “you could’ve done better.” I heard this posed to me at one point in my life: “What’s the enemy of being great? Being good.” Jim Collins’ popular management book “Good to Great” discusses why some companies make the leap from being good and others become great. Whether we like to admit it or not this sports program like every other sports program in the country is a major company. And there are only a few programs who are great athletically and academically across the board as time marches on. All of these programs are fighting to remain on top and to find ways to stay there much like many enterprises. Many players don’t realize they are their own company in essence and how well their personal company does, the better the entire program is for it. When I heard the big word “development” come out of coach Muschamp’s mouth during the press conference I knew we had a guy. Not just for the football product on the field but setting the stage for our players to be GREAT in all facets of life. With 200+ days left before the Gamecocks open up in Nashville for the new #SpursUp Muschamp era, there’s lots of work to be done. While the staff is assembled and the players prepare for an offseason like none other, we look at the the major principles laid out in Collins’ book on the characteristics of being a “great” company. The similarities between running a great program and great business are similar and you’ll see what I mean below:

photo by allen sharpe

Level 5 leadership - Collins defines it as leaders who are humble, but driven to do what’s best for the team (company). Since arriving, Muschamp and his staff have come across humble and sincere at the opportunity to coach here at South Carolina. Paying homage to the old staff and what they built, but driven to “want to get to work” to be great. If you listen to any audio or read any reviews of any new hires they all echo the same sentiment. First who, then what - Collins states “get the right people on the bus.” From assembling a staff that will support the new direction of the program, develop the players coming in and maximizing the ability of the players on the roster currently is vital. That bus is packed and ready to roll! Confront the brutal facts - “confront the brutal truth of the situation, yet never give up hope.” 3-9, no need to hide from it. That’s who we are until we hit the field next season. But we’ve heard coaches echo this and use it as a reminder to get to work since the staff was assembled. I’m sure this will be used during winter workouts when the times get tough to

remind the players why the “hard” is so hard. Culture of discipline - “rinsing the cottage cheese.” Collins tells of a ironman winner who would burn 5,000 calories a day but would stay disciplined enough to “rinse the cottage cheese” to eliminate unnecessary fat from his diet. Wow! That’s someone who saw discipline as an “edge” over his competition instead of a “hassle.” Coach Muschamp will no doubt use discipline and “doing the little things” as an “edge” for our team. Technology accelerators - let’s not front, compared to other programs (companies) our presence on social media and using it as a tool to recruit has been sorely lacking these past years. Looking over the various social media platforms now, that has changed in a matter of months. This staff engages the kids where they’re at constantly and consistently. It pays off with recruiting and branding. The Flywheel - “the added effect of many small initiatives.” From our new presence on social media to how we recruit to our new staff the little changes can compound into big changes over time. One thing builds on the next.

The “flywheel,” “rinsing the cottage cheese” all this stuff sounds like football jargon already, but these business principles lend themselves to the overall scheme to greatness,not just on the football field, but in life. One of our new hires Bryan McClendon echoed this sentiment emphasizing the full development of these young men beyond the football field: “you are here to help these kids and make sure these kids are ready for the world.” McClendon along with all of the other members of the new staff have emphasized getting the right people here, then developing them is what will take Carolina into the next stratosphere of excellence on and off the field. The new leaders have hit the ground running and they are making an immediate impact. A lot of times with change people mistake all work for good work, but that’s not true necessarily. What is true is this coach, this staff has a plan and they seem to have all the right keys to make this plan work for a long time here at South Carolina. With what we’ve seen and heard thus far, we can only wait to see the product unfold next year and the years following. #SpursUp #ForevertoThee #JustaChicken


Spurs & Feathers • 31

January 27, 2016

It is time to get tickets and pack the CLA It has been a long time coming for the University of South Carolina’s men’s basketball program. For those of us who reminiscence of the early 70’s, the hope to return to the days of glory springs eternal and with each win, the Gamecocks put themselves into elite company in the history of the program. Starts like this year’s don’t come along too often. Based on the history of past USC basketball teams, All Gamecock basketball this one may coverage sponsored by very well be Yesterdays going places that no team has gone before. With the win over Ole Miss last Tuesday night, the men equaled their number of wins (17) from last year and with one more win will have the most wins in one season since 2008-09. The four SEC wins put USC two wins short of equaling last year’s total in conference play. Seven wins would be the most since the 10 SEC wins in 2008-09. The 4-1 start is the best since the 2003-04 team started 5-1. South Carolina has notoriously started slow in conference play, losing two league games in the first four every year except two. The 10win team in 2008-09 started 1-2. The 11-win team of 1997-98 started 2-2. The best start ever in SEC conference play was in 1996-97 where the Gamecocks after tournament to NC State. That team lost the starting the season slowly and an 8-5 record second game of the year to Tennessee, then before starting conference games, reeled off another midseason loss to Davidson, but went 12 straight wins before losing at Georgia and 14-0 in ACC conference play and finished 25winding up with a 15-1 regular season confer- 3. South Carolina hosted the NCAA regional ence record, by far the best season in the SEC in Columbia that year and by losing the tourera. nament, was not allowed to participate in the The Gamecocks opening this year of 13 post season, even the NIT. straight non-conference wins along with two Thus, the start of this year’s team is reason wins in the SEC ran their record to 15-0, the for excitement. Winning 10 games or more best start since the 1933-34 season. I would in conference appears to be a very obtainable like to say that I remember it fondly, but that feat. Win 8 of 9 conference home games (if was actually before my father’s birth. History not all nine) and South Carolina already has tells us that the team finished two wins on SEC opponent’s 18-1 and 6-0 in the old Southern homecourts. It is certainly not Conference. a given, but the team looks to be The only loss came in the in good shape to get there, whatSouthern Conference Tournaever the combination of home ment when the team caught and away wins. the mumps and many stayed in Last year’s team came out of Columbia, including the stars of the non-conference schedule the team, Freddie Tompkins and looking very good with a win Dana Henderson. The team that over a top-10 Iowa State team, made the trip lost to NC State. only to be derailed in the conIronically, the team that many ference opener at home against Ed Girardeau consider the best basketball Florida. In that game, the Gators Contributing team ever, the 1969-70 team, played tough perimeter defense Editor ended its season in the ACC and South Carolina fell behind

photo by jenny dilworth

unable to get back to even, though making a run at the end. The Vanderbilt game was very similar. Vandy played a tough perimeter game and took the early lead. The Gamecocks took the lead midway through the second half and were able to hold off the Commodores for the win. A telling difference between this year and last. The Mississippi game went to the final minutes with USC trailing by 11. South Carolina scored the final 11 points in regulation and won in OT by three on the Rebels’ home court. The Gamecocks only won two games on SEC opponent’s home court last year, beating Georgia in mid-February and Tennessee in Knoxville in March. Historically, South Carolina has struggled to win on the home floor of SEC opponents; particularly early in the season, so winning two of the first three puts them in a good position going forward. All of this to say with each win I become more convinced that this will be a special season. Frank Martin has talked about how they have to earn the fans trust and belief that this team is for real. Martin gave credit to the fans for helping the team win games against Memphis and Vanderbilt as the homecourt advantage came into play.

Carolina fans have been disappointed before and it’s fair to have been in a wait-and-see mode. However, USC appears to be in a position to make a real run at the SEC title. Not only for the regular season, but perhaps this will be the year that the Gamecocks can make a run at the tournament title. Winning every home game will be important and we need to fill the Colonial Life Arena as full as possible and help the team get through to the win. All of the games will be big. Kentucky will be in on Feb. 13 and will bring their usual number of fans. It is important to keep your tickets and show up as Gamecock fans. Don’t share your ticket with the Wildcat fans no matter how much they cry. Ten wins in the SEC would give USC 23 wins in the regular season. Any more than 10 and that would be gravy much less a run in the SEC tournament, but Carolina has a great chance to make their first NCAA appearance since 2003-2004 and a chance to get USC’s first win in the national tournament since 1973. It is all realistically possible. Time to get tickets and fill the CLA. Come and get a hot dog and make some noise and help the Gamecocks start the new era of basketball glory.


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January 27, 2016

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