As Steve Spurrier ended his last press conference at South Carolina as hastily as he left the program, with “All right, I’ve had enough here,” it gave way for something else: change.
USC athletics director Ray Tanner stepped up misty-eyed, and introduced the new interim head coach in Shawn Elliott.
Elliott was the offensive line coach for six years under Spurrier and did his time in the assistant coaching ranks since 1997. He earned his chance to take the reigns of a FBS football program.
A fiery lineman for Appalachian State, Elliott was the first player in school history to appear in the playoffs four times. He won two Southern Conference championships, including one in 1995 when he was the co-captain.
He was also an all-conference player at defensive end.
Then, as an App State coach, he sent players to the NFL and CFL. At South Carolina, he’s been responsible for coaching NFL players such as T.J Johnson and A.J. Cann.
He’s known for his mosh-pit style approach to warming his team up. As the offensive line jogs over to their corner of the end zone for pregame warm ups, Elliott stands in the middle of the gaggle of 10 300-pound behemoths as they push and shove like they’re in the pit at a Metallica concert.
That epitomizes what Elliott brings to the team as interim head coach: intensity.
He’s a guy who knows how to motivate players, and he’s well liked by his players. Even Tanner said the football captains helped name Elliott the interim coach.
Coming in with the respect of the players is huge for Elliott, since they know what he’s like on the practice field and during the game.
And with Elliott, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team come out motivated. With a younger coach at the helm, players may feel a different fire than they did a few weeks ago.
It’ll be an inspired team, as evidenced by players tweeting and saying the season’s not over yet and to not sleep on the Gamecocks.
Elliott is the right choice to take the helm for the remainder of the season, and who knows, he may get the head-coaching job at the end of the year (unlikely, but possible).
What’s that old saying, a team mimics its coach? That’s usually true. And if that’s the case, then look for an inspired, intense and energetic team on Saturday.
It’s hard to say goodbye to a legend such as Spurrier, who set the college football world on fire at Duke and continued onto Florida and continued on into the new millennium at South Carolina.
But, like the Head Ball Coach said, it’s time to start the rebuilding process, and Elliott’s the first step to that.