ORANGEBURG – South Carolina State football coach Buddy Pough knows his offense has the potential for big plays this season.
He'd just like to see them a little more frequently than he did a year ago. A year ago, the Bulldogs struggled to make dynamic plays on a consistent basis, part of the reason they went 5-6.
S.C. State averaged just 293 yards and 19 points per game. The Bulldogs had less than 30 plays that went for more than 20 yards.
“That’s got to improve this year if we’re going to have a chance to be a good offensive football team,” said Pough, who begins his 18th season as the Bulldogs' head coach. “I know it’s out there, we’ve got guys that can make big plays, we just need them to do it.”
It will have to start with quarterback Tyrece Nick, a redshirt junior who had 2,069 yards of total offense in 2018. Nick led the Bulldogs in rushing with 903 yards and provided most of the big plays in the running game. Where Pough hopes to see improvement from Nick this season is throwing the ball after he completed just 45 percent of his passes a year ago. He threw for five touchdowns and four interceptions.
"Nick is our guy at the moment,” Pough said. "There are times when he shows signs of greatness and times where he needs to me more consistent. We just need to make sure we design what we are doing to fit his needs so he can be successful. Nick was a huge threat for us as a runner. We need him to be a more consistent passer.”
Behind Nick on the depth chart is redshirt-freshman quarterback Corey Fields, a former Baptist Hill High School standout.
Fields, The Post and Courier’s high school football co-player of the year his senior season, played in two games last season. He was allowed to redshirt under the NCAA rule that allows players to take part in four games and still retain a year of eligibility.
Fields, who threw for more than 8,900 yards and 107 touchdowns at Baptist Hill, has shown flashes of brilliance during training camp, tossing a 50-yard bomb to Shaquan Davis in the Bulldogs' final preseason scrimmage.
“Corey is pushing Nick every day and he will get a chance to play as well, so don't be surprised if you see him early on this season,” Pough said. “There are going to be times when we can use his skill set.”
With veterans like Will Vereen, Quan Caldwell and De’Montrez Burroughs and the emergence of Davis, Pough expects the Bulldogs' receivers to be vastly improved from a year ago.
“They’ve got to be better,” Pough said.
Pough also is hopeful that the Bulldogs' running game will be able to put pressure on opposing defenses. Former Fort Dorchester standout Datron James is looking to play a bigger role after rushing for 343 yards last season.
“The running game wasn’t what it needed to be last year,” Pough said. “I thought some of our offensive linemen underachieved. We have to get more from that group this season.”
After some uncertainty about his future at S.C. State, Pough signed a contract in January and needs just four more victories to become the school’s all-time winningest coach.
“I get to do what I love for a little longer,” Pough said.
The Bulldogs open the season on Saturday against Wofford.
S.C. State Bulldogs
HEAD COACH: Buddy Pough, 125-71, in 17 seasons at S.C. State
LAST YEAR: 5-6 overall (4-3 in MEAC)
RETURNING STARTERS: Offense 7, Defense 9
IMPACT PLAYERS: QB Tyrece Nick, QB Corey Fields, RB Datron James, LB Chad Gilchrist, DL Paul McKeiver, DL Tyrell Goodwin, DE Bruce Johnson, DB Decobie Durant. C Michael Terry
NOTABLE: The Bulldogs should have one of the top defenses in the MEAC with nine returning starters, including three of their four defensive linemen. … QB Tyrece Nick, who had more than 2,000 yards of total offense in 2018, is a third-team All-MEAC preseason pick.
S.C. State Schedule
Date Opp. Time
Aug. 31 Wofford 6 p.m.
Sept. 7 Lane College 4 p.m.
Sept. 14 at South Florida 6 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Delaware State 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 Florida A&M 2 p.m.
Oct. 19 Morgan State 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 Bethune-Cookman 4 p.m.
Nov. 2 N.C. A&T 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 9 Howard 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 16 N.C. Central 2 p.m.
Nov. 23 Norfolk State 1 p.m.
HEAD COACH: Tommy Spangler, 48-39, in 8 seasons at Presbyterian
LAST YEAR: 2-8 overall (0-5 Big South)
RETURNING STARTERS: Offense 7, Defense 7
IMPACT PLAYERS: RB Zola Davis, Jr., RB Jarius Jeter, WR Keith Peason, LB Colby Campbell, C Eli Teeselink, DE Nick Chiaravalloti, LB Dirk Cureton
NOTABLE: In November the school announced it was going to phase out scholarships and move to the Pioneer League in 2021. … The Blue Hose had less than 40 players take part in spring practice. … Former Wando High School standout RB Zola Davis Jr. is expected to start at running back. ... Davis rushed for 440 yards and 2 TDs in 2018. … Linebacker Colby Campbell is the top returning tackler with 90 total stops in 2018.
Presbyterian College Schedule
Date Opp. Time
Aug. 31 at Stetson 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 Jacksonville 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 Eastern Kentucky 1 p.m.
Sept. 28 at North Alabama 4 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Campbell 1 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Monmouth 1 p.m.
Oct. 19 Kennesaw State 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 at Merrimack 1 p.m.
Nov. 2 at Hampton 1 p.m.
Nov. 9 Gardner-Webb 1 p.m.
Nov. 16 Charleston Southern 1 p.m.
Nov. 23 St. Andrews College 1 p.m.
HEAD COACH: Doug Knight, 60-50 in 10 seasons at Newberry
LAST YEAR: 5-6 (3-4 in SAC)
RETURNING STARTERS: Offense 8, Defense 6
IMPACT PLAYERS: P Shea Rodgers, RB Austin Barnes, WR Bobby Irby, OL Tyler Anderson, DL Keito Jordon, DB David Vereen. DB Anthony Blue, LB Darry Foster
NOTABLE: Newberry was picked to finish fifth out of nine teams in the South Atlantic Conference’s preseason poll. … Incoming freshman Savion White, safety/linebacker, was killed on Aug. 8 in an automobile accident. … Newberry had the SAC’s top defensive team in 2018, allowing just 285 yards per game and only 17.3 points. … Six defensive starters return for the Wolves in 2019, including All-SAC defensive back David Vereen, who had 31 tackles, two interceptions and 13 pass breakups a year ago. ... RB Austin Barnes rushed for 745 yards in 2018.
Date Opp. Time
Sept. 5 at North Greenville 7 p.m.
Sept. 14 Florida Tech 1 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Lenior–Rhyne 6 p.m.
Sept. 28 Tusculum 1 p.m.
Oct. 5 Mars Hill 4 p.m.
Oct. 12 UVA-Wise 4 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Catawba noon
Oct. 26 at Carson-Newman 3 p.m.
Nov. 2 UNC Pembroke 1 p.m.
Nov. 9 at Wingate 6 p.m.
Nov. 16 Limestone 1 p.m.