Gamecocks' Jeep shifting gears this spring
COLUMBIA -- Spring football isn't always just for players. College coaches are sometimes working on things in March and April, too.
South Carolina assistant Jeep Hunter is a good example. After two seasons as the Gamecocks' tight ends coach, Hunter was reassigned in January to work on the other side of the ball.
It's been seven years since Hunter, who will work with USC's safeties, has coached a defensive position.
"It's probably not like riding a bicycle," Gamecocks cornerbacks coach Lorenzo "Whammy" Ward said. "But once Jeep learns what we're doing in detail in the system, as far as his knowledge of certain plays, he can do it and do it well."
The fact that Ward and Hunter have been friends for about 15 years is important as Hunter makes the transition. Hunter leans daily on Ward to help him knock off the rust and pick up on the different nuances in coaching defense.
Hunter noted that defensive calls and checks change quite a bit in eight years.
"When you've been on the other side of the ball and you're not used to calling it every day, it makes a difference," Hunter said.
It's been since Hunter coached Eastern Kentucky's secondary in 2003 that he worked with a defense. In 2001, the Colonels ranked in the top 10 in Division I-AA in all defensive categories.
"I'll take the lead until Jeep feels comfortable with what we're doing, system-wise," Ward said. "The technique and the fundamentals, he knows that stuff."
Head coach Steve Spurrier decided the defense needed a shakeup after the secondary struggled with missed assignments in 2010, often giving up big plays. It wasn't all on the defensive backs, sure, but South Carolina finished 97th out of 120 FBS teams in passing defense, giving up 241.9 yards a game through the air. And that was actually an improvement from where that stat was late in the regular season.
Spurrier's inital idea was to move Shane Beamer, formerly with the spurs and boundary safeties, solely to special teams and move Hunter from tight ends to spurs and boundary safeties.
But Beamer, seeking an opportunity to coach on offense, left for Virginia Tech. When John Butler was hired to replace Beamer and coach special teams, he additionally took the spurs because of his defensive background.
In addition to coaches, players are also moving around this spring.
Akeem Auguste is moving back to his more comfortable corner position, after a year at field safety. Defensive head coach Ellis Johnson wanted to see what boundary safety DeVonte Holloman would look like at spur linebacker. That move prompted former spur Damario Jeffery to shift over to the weak-side linebacker.
It's too early for a full review of how Holloman and Jeffery have adjusted to their new positions, but whether they stick is dependent on the development of those at boundary safety. Corey Addison, Brison Williams and Martay Mattox are all getting snaps there this spring.
One change from 2010 is sticking. Midway through the season, the corners and safeties started meeting together, after previously being split up. It helped the secondary get on the same page, hearing one voice in meeting rooms.
Right now that voice is primarily Ward, but Hunter will be integrated in the summer months.
"If it's not broke, we won't fix it," Ward said. "We'll continue to try to improve on that. If they hear from one guy, they're all getting it from one source. That's the way we like to do it."
The Gamecocks moved the two scheduled practices for this week, Tuesday and Friday, to Tuesday and Thursday of next week -- even though those dates come after Saturday's spring game, still scheduled for 1 p.m. at Williams-Brice Stadium. The spring game will be available on ESPN3.com, as well.