After a long winter, the South Carolina football team finally reached the spring practice period. The Gamecocks held their first practice on Saturday and defensive players discussed their outlook on the first practice and the rest of the spring on Monday.
Sophomore linebacker Mohamed (Mo) Kaba said “everybody looks hungry” in their early practices. Media outlets were allowed access to a portion of that first practice, and it was clear the team was excited to get on the field.
Sophomore quarterback Luke Doty, for one, was pumped. He screamed one word — football — at the top of his lungs in a short video the team posted on its Twitter page.
Doty took first string reps at practice and was vocal and energetic, looking like every bit the leader he was praised for as a recruit.
The entire team seemed to rally behind head coach Shane Beamer.
“Having him around is like, it pumps everybody up," sophomore edge rusher Jordan Burch said of the new head coach. While he did pay respects to his former head coach by saying, “Muschamp ... that was my guy,” he said the biggest difference between the two is Beamer is "more energetic."
Burch also said that he trusts his new head coach because all the promises he had made to the team have been "legit.”
Kaba echoed that sentiment saying Beamer has "earned my trust already, just by his actions."
The team seemed in high spirits. Sophomore edge rusher Tonka Hemingway described the locker room atmosphere as having "a lot of energy," and good vibes.
Another coach the team has seemed to rally behind is the new head strength and conditioning coach, Luke Day. Day has implemented competition-style workouts where the players compete against each other.
“He brings the fire out of you,” Kaba said.
Senior defensive back R.J. Roderick said the team has all bought in to Day's new workout regimen and is excited to continue training.
Roderick elected to return to the team after opting out for last season's final three games. The new workouts have a "whole different feel" than past years and it allows you to "attack it everyday," Roderick said.
Roderick says his "focus is learning both safeties,” and in his time away he “learned to stay more committed.” His play style fits in well with the defense's new 4-2-5 scheme, which gives the safety more responsibilities in run support.
The defensive back room as a whole is very young considering the departures of Jaycee Horn, Israel Mukuamu, Jammie Robinson and more, so Roderick said the room is concentrated on “bringing the young guys along,” as well as “having versatility and building depth.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the team also has to account for the loss of wide receiver Shi Smith to the NFL. The wide receiver one position should remain a battle throughout camp, and in the first practice redshirt wide receivers ran snaps at first string.
Redshirt senior receiver OrTre Smith looked healthy, something he has not been for much of his Gamecock career, and could factor into the conversation as well. Other notable receivers to watch throughout spring practice are redshirt senior transfer E.J. Jenkins, junior Xavier Legette, senior Jalen Brooks and sophomore Rico Powers.
Doty has a wide variety of weapons, so it will be interesting to see who he will distribute the ball to should he be named the starting quarterback.
The culture of the Gamecock football program has a new sense of accountability under coach Beamer, according to Kaba.