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SCSU Bulldogs Make Most of Shortened Practice
So much to do, so little time.
It’s where the South Carolina State football team finds itself in the final days of spring practice. Wet field conditions forced the Bulldogs to attempt to cram in plenty of work during Tuesday’s session which was shortened by one hour at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium.
With just two practices remaining before Saturday’s annual Garnet and Blue game, head coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough is seeking to fine tune and implement as much of the team’s offensive and defensive schemes as possible.
“We’re trying to squeeze as much as we can in,” he said. “It was just that it was so wet outside, there were a lot of things that we ordinarily do on our regular grass field, we had to forego because of the weather. Hopefully, it will be a good dry day tomorrow. We can get out and get a lot done tomorrow.”
A heightened emphasis was placed Tuesday on pass protection drills, particularly getting the running backs up to par in terms of their blocking assignments. While reserves like Chris Merrill went up against blitzing linebackers and safeties, seniors starters Will Ford and Travil Jamison, who’ve seem limited action this spring, took what Pough called “mental reps” from a distance.
“They actually get to chance to see each of those reps as it goes on in practice and then they watch it in film too,” Pough said. “We get a chance to give them the reps. We just don’t give it to them physically and they’re far enough along now where a lot of what they can do they can do by watching as opposed to actually doing.”
Overall, Pough described the play this spring of his linemen on both sides of the football as “spotty.” The Bulldogs lost five starters on the offensive and defensive line and both defensive ends Markus James and Jayson Ayers have seen little or no action this spring following off-season surgery.
“Having so many linemen out takes away from many of the schemes we are trying to execute,” Pough said. “But the situation has given some of our down-the-line guys to get more reps and they are gaining some valuable experience and should be improved.”
Having to rely primarily on walk-ons and inexperienced lineman, Defensive line coach and assistant head coach David Blanchard has stressed toughness. Although he described the group’s play as “average.” Blanchard said he’s more than pleased with the hard work and overall effort, particularly redshirt freshman Arnett James and Zachary Middleton of Orangeburg-Wilkinson, who’s making the transition from running back.
Blanchard gave glowing reviews to Pat Washington, whom he favorably compared to the man he hopes to succeed at defensive end All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference standout Cedric Lloyd.
“We probably think (Washington) is the most improved football team on our team right now and he is doing an outstanding job,” Blanchard said. “His speed, his strength, they’re similar to Ced. He’s not as tall, but he’s just as fast, just as strong. Hopefully, Pat will pick up the slack there.”
The workload will get busier tonight for S.C. State as it will work out in full pads starting at 8 p.m.
Middleton for Prez
Making the transition to defensive lineman is not the only goal this spring for Zachary Middleton.
The Orangeburg-Wilkinson graduate hopes to become School President during elections today on the S.C. State campus.
The 21-year-old Middleton joined the team last year as a walk-on running back after transferring from the Naval Academy. Though careful not to publicly endorse his player, Pough more than sees the qualities in Middleton which have made him a candidate for the position.
“We’re talking about a guy here that all of us really know well has the right kind of stuff,” Pough said. “He is a great person and as good a representative of this university, of this community as any young man I’ve been associated with in my life. So I like the idea that he’s getting involved.”
Smith on “Leave”
Conspicuous by his absence for the second straight spring is defensive back Terrance Smith. The Aiken senior is once again using this time to put aside the football and focus strictly on his academic studies.
“He’s doing some extra academic stuff and doing quite well, I might add,” Pough said. “Hopefully, he’ll have a good academic semester and we can get him going again this summer.”
In his first year after converting from wide receiver, Smith was second on the time in interceptions (4), to go with 26 tackles and two fumble recoveries. One of those recoveries resulted in a 41-yard touchdown in the Bulldogs’ 28-21 victory over Florida A&M.
Post Spring Game Tailgaiting
As part of the annual Garnet and Blue game this Saturday, the State Club will hold a post-scrimmage tailgate party where they will honor the 2008 MEAC football champions.
The S.C. State Co-Ed cheerleading conference champions will also be honored at the event and fans are encouraged to wear garnet.
Bulldogs make most of shortened practice
By Thomas Grant Jr., The Orangeburg Times & Democrat (SC)