COLUMBIA -- After a month of working with the players, new South Carolina offensive line coach Shawn Elliott now has some idea of what he's got.
"I've seen good plays, great plays and not-so-good things," Elliott said. "Consistency is the one thing I'm looking for right now, to build on. I think we've got some pieces in place to do some good things. But there's a lot to do between now and this summer and this fall."
Elliott gets one last look at the incumbents today when the Gamecocks go through their spring game scrimmage. Use the term game loosely to describe the day, though, because it is expected to really only consist of one half of football.Beginning at 4 p.m., it could be complete by 5.
There aren't even enough healthy bodies to divide up into a Garnet team and a Black team.
Even so, it's still another chance for Elliott to acquaint himself with his players.
Expect the starting line to go as follows: Jarriel King at left tackle, Garrett Chisolm at left guard, T.J. Johnson at center, Terrence Campbell at right guard and Kyle Nunn at right tackle.
Elliott, the 36-year-old Camden native, comes to South Carolina after nearly two decades at Appalachian State as a player and assistant coach. He brings a hard-nosed, fundamental-based attitude. "Intense" is the universally used word when it comes to Elliott. From meetings to the practice field, players are wary of Elliott's fire and ire.
"He's always got that mean eye," Eckerson said. "I like that. It keeps everybody on edge."
That much is similar to Eric Wolford, who left to take the head coaching job at Youngstown State after only one season at USC.
The following is not similar. Last season, the hunt to find the five best linemen was a week-to-week proposition. Wolford believed that perpetual competition bred the best results. Wolford always held that over his players' heads.
Elliott all but thumbed his nose at that idea. Continuity breeds consistency, to him.
He said, in particular, moving players from position to position in the middle of the season will not be part of his program.
"I want to find the best five that can go out on the football field and play as one unit," Elliott said. "I don't know if it's the best way, but it's the way I'm going to go about things, see if it works.
"At some point you've got to do some different things. If you do the same things, you get the same results. So we're going to do some things a bit different."
South Carolina has been last in rushing in the SEC each of the past three seasons. They've been next-to-last in sacks allowed the past two seasons.
So, Elliott enters with an understanding that things need to turn around -- and that he can't merely cast hope toward a long-range resurrection project.
He needs some immediate, tangible success.
"I want to see them play well, right away," he said. "Isn't that what we're all here for? I don't want to see them start playing well the eighth game of the season. That's certainly my goal, their goal, this team's goal."
Communication has been the spring focal point for the group. Elliott says he's seen far too much individual play. The players, as he says, have their "heads in the dirt."
"You can't be an individual athlete on the offensive line," he said. "You've got to be a five-man group that works as one. That's something we've got to get involved in."
The early reviews on Elliott are in. And they're positive. Of course, the fall is truly the time for judgment.
"He really does raise the expectations we have for this team and this O-line," said King, a senior from North Charleston. "He brings a lot of intensity and he forces us to do more than we're expected to do."
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