Shawn Elliott brings a lot of things to the table as South Carolina’s interim coach, but nothing has rivaled the energy he has instilled within the team over the past three weeks.
Both Elliott and the Gamecocks players have made it a point to discuss the revitalized enthusiasm in and around the team since Steve Spurrier resigned.
Perhaps a coaching change was exactly what the South Carolina football team needed to rediscover their passion for the sport again.
“We’re having a lot of fun out there — in the locker room, at halftime, at practice — pretty much everywhere. We’re all just having fun,” senior tailback Brandon Wilds said during South Carolina’s press conference Tuesday.
“You can say that (the mood was down). Spurrier was an older coach. There’s nothing wrong with that. Elliott is just more of an up-tempo guy.”
A contrast in energy level seems natural when comparing a 70-year-old Spurrier and Elliott, who pushes and shoves offensive linemen during pregame warmups.
As young and loud as Elliott is with his players, it’s his personal touch that he believes is getting through to the team.
“As a coach, you read players. You look in their eyes … how they walk into meeting rooms. I felt we had not had fun even if our wins,” Elliott said Tuesday. “You play a game certainly to win, but you start as a youngster because you enjoy playing and it’s so much fun. That’s why you do it. If you take the fun out of any situation and you’re spending time and energy to do something you don’t love.
“That’s why I love coaching so much. It’s so much fun. I can’t imagine having to go to a job you dread. We made changes, subtle changes here and there, and we’re having a little bit more fun. It’s a more upbeat mentality. Winning makes it a lot more fun, and we’re trying to get that done.”
Some of Elliott’s subtle changes including making jokes with players or simply asking them questions about their day. It’s a tactic all of the South Carolina coaches have tried to make a priority.
One example Elliott used was after wide receiver Hayden Hurst’s reception Saturday, Elliott said he looked like “Clifford the big red dog across the field.”
A little taste of a humor has gone a long way, players said.
“We want to be as happy and upbeat as we can,” senior safety Isaiah Johnson said. “You don’t want to play coming into practice sad, acting like you don’t want to be here. You want to be high tempo. You get more things done at practice at a higher level and compete better, and you’ll be better by game day.”
“Coach Elliott is changing things here,” he added. “He’s adding music to practice and bringing a different vibe to the team.”