COLUMBIA, S.C. – T.J. Holloman remembers the way things went during spring at South Carolina. And now that fall has rolled around, the Gamecocks senior linebacker sees similarities between the way practices went this spring, but he also sees some noticeable differences.
So far, as the Gamecocks get ready for their season to kick off Sept. 1, the senior linebacker said the spring proved to be good preparation for what was to come, but now there are more expectations and there is far more physicality.
“Tons higher,” Holloman said Friday. “It’s a whole different level.”
Holloman, who is in line to be one of the starting linebacker this season, said the physical play has been “full-go every day” through the first fall camp under Will Muschamp. It went up a notch on Saturday as the Gamecocks suited up in full pads for the first time in camp, but the hitting drills already have been rolling through the first few days of practice.
The reasoning for the high level of physicality is cut and dry for defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson, who pointed to the need for physical practices coming from the way the conference is built.
“The SEC is a line-of-scrimmage league,” Robinson said. “Regardless of some teams are spread, some teams are fast-tempo, but at the end of the day you’ve gotta run the ball and you’ve gotta stop the run. We are going to do those things for our guys to make sure that we are getting prepared for that.”
Tempo has been part of the focus for the Gamecocks this fall, as Robinson outlined the hope of increasing the number of up-tempo snaps in practice. On Saturday morning, that was clear as the Gamecocks went 11 on 11 at a fast pace out of the gate.
But it all comes back to physicality, as the hope is to bring toughness onto the field each game this fall and see better results than a season ago as the defense ranked at the bottom of the SEC. That starts with the mentality Robinson and the rest of the staff is hoping to set.
“We are going to be a physical outfit, offensively and defensively,” Robinson said. “That’s what we are going to hang our hat on. Coach (Will Muschamp) talks about it all the time – being that blue-collar football team. That’s what that means.
“Our guys are going to be tough and they understand that we play one style of football and that’s toughness.”
Mike Wilson covers South Carolina athletics for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on the Gamecocks.