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August 4, 2013
South Carolina had media day Sunday afternoon and Gamecock Central was there. Here are a few things I learned from conversations with USC's players and coaching staff.
Kaiwan Lewis and Jadeveon Clowney are the team's hardest hitters. One of the questions I asked each player was which guy hits the hardest - on either side of the ball. The answers were split about 50/50 between Lewis and Clowney, with a few players telling interesting stories about their teammates from practice. Apparently Steve Spurrier once stopped practice after Lewis (a freshman at the time) pulverized Bruce Ellington during a passing drill, having to pull Lewis off to the side for a talk about how to hit his own teammates. On the other side, Shon Carson told me it's Clowney who strikes fear into his heart at practice. "I always have to look to see where Clowney is," Carson said. "You've got to try to make him miss, and it's pretty hard to do that. Luckily we don't really hit too hard at practice."
Sharrod Golightly will be a fan favorite. I was impressed walking away from my talk with the top contender for the starting Spur linebacker position. He's got plenty of personality, but he's also very humble - a refreshing trait among college football players. Despite being slightly undersized at his position, he told me he wants to step up as a leader this season, and it's clear his heart is in the right place when he takes the gridiron. "Not too many people strike fear in my heart," Golightly replied when I asked if there was a player he hated to tackle. "If I had to choose, I'd say Brandon Wilds because he's heavier. But I play fearless. I have to."
Crab legs are the best meal the Dodie has to offer. I asked every player I came across what their favorite meal has been at the Dodie. Aside from two guys (Ahmad Christian likes chicken wings; T.J. Gurley likes corn muffins), they ALL said crab legs.
Connor Shaw HATES the media. Some players *ahem, Clowney, ahem* love the spotlight. They bask in it, rolling around like puppy dogs as we glean quotes from them and reward their cooperation with feature articles spotlight how hard they've worked, how much they want to win, etc. Other players, like Shaw, would much rather go unnoticed. A couple days after the senior quarterback tried to sneak off the field and avoid the media altogether after Friday night's practice, Shaw showed up at the tail end of South Carolina's media day, answered all of the questions he could stand, and left without doing any one-on-ones.
Corey Robinson can dance. According to Spur linebacker Sharrod Golightly, the 6-foot-8, 341-pound junior tackle from Havelock, N.C., has serious moves. Keep that in mind the next time you notice him working and sweating in the trenches.
Cedrick Cooper is no dumb jock. The expected starter at the Will linebacker position was easily my favorite interview of the day. He stands up straight, makes complete sentences, looks you in the eye, and has a great attitude and a lively personality. He gives great quotes, deflects praise and shares the same "heart of a lion" characteristic with Golightly. Said Cooper when I asked him who he hates tackling the most in practice: "Nobody on the team. I'm a defensive player, it's my job to hit you. Fear in my heart is unacceptable."
Victor Hampton keeps the team loose in the locker room before games, according to a few of the guys I spoke to. Based on their accounts of his antics, it sound a lot like how Michael Roth used to keep the national championship baseball teams relaxed.
T.J. Gurley has the thickest of southern accents. Growing up in Cairo, Ga., roughly 14 miles north of the Florida-Georgia line, will do that for you.
The funniest guy on the team is Bruce Ellington, according to Sharrod Golightly - who was quick to refute rumors that the funniest guy on the team was in fact, himself. Said Golightly: "[Bruce] is just a silly guy. He laughs at everything, and his laugh makes me laugh."
The linebackers LOVE their coach, Kirk Botkin. They all said he's a high-energy, up-tempo kind of coach, but that he's also a flexible teacher. Cedrick Cooper even called Botkin a father figure. "[Botkin] makes sure we get the job done," Golightly said. "He shows us the fun side of it, but he makes sure that we understand our duty at our positions."
The grass at Williams-Brice Stadium is nice and spongy. It feels like a cool carpet between your toes. Just in case you've always wanted to know.
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