After a 3-8 season, and a last-place finish in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, South Carolina State started its spring football practices Monday.
“We’re excited to get out and play football again,” SC State head coach Buddy Pough said. “It’s been a long time, and there are a lot of people (around the program) who have been eagerly anticipating this day.”
Last year at this time, SC State was still basking in the glow of a Celebration Bowl victory and an HBCU national championship. This year, Pough hopes his team is better prepared to make another run at the MEAC championship.
“We’re thinking this team is hungry again,” Pough said. “We feel good about the fact that we know where we are, but we’re not happy about where we are. The goal now is to have a standard, and that standard is to be farther along than where we (finished last season).”
This offseason, Pough hired former assistant Kevin Magouirk to be the team’s new offensive coordinator. Magouirk previously held the position from 2008-2012. Pough said the new OC will be tasked with installing the basic concepts over the next couple of weeks.
“We’ve had some pretty good sessions, prior to starting spring practice,” Pough said. “It will be interesting to see how our guys grasp the material we put in front of them. (Magouirk) has done a good job of installing what we currently have in place, and we think that will have a significant effect on this overall process.”
Helping with the installation is quarterback Corey Fields who returns to the Bulldogs after suffering a season-ending injury last year against Morgan State.
“First day of spring practice is always exciting,” Fields said Monday. “We have a lot of new pieces coming together, and it’s especially exciting for me after being sidelined last year.”
Fields said it was tough to watch the Bulldogs drop their final three games of the year.
“I knew I just had to be patient,” Fields said. “I took my time, made sure things healed right with therapy and enjoyed the small things in life. I wanted to come back for Coach Pough, because he was willing to take a chance on me.”
The senior quarterback said he and some other members of the offense have been meeting to work on concepts of the new offense, he’s also spending a majority of the week with Magouirk learning plays.
“This spring is not about scheme, or coming up with fancy ways to do things,” Pough said. “Right now, it’s about the basics, making sure we do a good job of developing the fundamentals of blocking and tackling.”
On defense, South Carolina State will be looking to replace linebacker BJ Davis who led the team with 94 tackles last season. Defensive lineman Jeblonski Green Jr. said the defense took a step back this offseason to evaluate how they can improve from last year.
“We have a lot of young guys, so early on it was hard to get everyone on the same page,” Green said. “Toward the end of offseason workouts we started to come together as one. As a defense, we came to the conclusion that we can’t have a bunch of different mindsets on the field. We have to lock-in and play as one, that’s the only way we’re going to stop anyone.”
Green was named the MEAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year last season but struggled last season after an injury against Morgan State.
“The goal this spring is develop toughness and dependability,” Pough said. “It’s been a no-nonsense type of offseason, and the guys have met a lot of goals.”
South Carolina State will conclude its spring practices Saturday, April 15 with the Garnet and Blue Spring Football Game.