The South Carolina State football team began preparation for its 11-game 2019 schedule on Tuesday morning with the first of 15 spring workouts in a 6:15 a.m. practice session.
More than 80 Bulldogs players practiced in shorts, jerseys and helmets at Oliver. C. Dawson Stadium on Willie E. Jeffries Field, in temperatures just above 40 degrees for most of the morning.
“It’s the first day of spring football and this time of year never gets old throughout my coaching career,” said SC State head football coach Buddy Pough. “The weather was not spring-like conditions but definitely cool, football weather.”
Pough is entering his 18th year at the helm, needing just four more victories to become the all-time winningest football coach in program history.
“We return a veteran team and bring back some players that we look forward to having an All-MEAC year for us this season," said Pough. “The offense and defense should be solid on both ends, but more importantly we have some guys sitting out who can really help this football team.”
Pough and his staff found out in 2018 that quarterback Tyrece Nick could lead the Bulldogs and their run-pass option offense and find success. As a redshirt sophomore, he ran for 903 yards and 12 touchdowns, and passed 86-for-189 for 1,163 yards and just 4 interceptions against 5 touchdowns.
"One of our major areas of emphasis has to be the quarterback position," Pough said. "But Tyrece is so much farther along now than he was last spring; he ought to be able to run this offense with his experience.
"The young kids have been around for a year or two, and we have 3 quarterbacks in place now. It's a good place for our offense."
The game didn't change a season ago, but rules for redshirt players did, making things more interesting for coaches all over the NCAA Division I ranks.
“The new rule where a freshman can play four games without it counting towards their eligibility, that really helped us out this past season," Pough said. "We had 15 or more redshirt freshman who played in games for us and developed some experience already.”
The Bulldogs are practicing without 4 or 5 players, including running back Omar Cummings and defensive back Duane Nichols.
"We've got a few guys who are nursing shoulder surgeries and other stuff, and it's a good many in the secondary," Pough said. "Most of those guys will miss the spring, but it gives us an opportunity to develop other guys in the secondary.
"The good thing about that is a few of those guys played 2 or 3 games in the secondary last year, with that new rule, so that brings them along more than they normally would be at this point. It's a different kind of sensation to have a guy who's got that much playing time left, but has had the experience of being on the field a good bit. I think it's a good thing. But, we'll see how they react to being in the mix."
A few new faces have been added to the mix on the active roster, with the new season ahead. However, the major difference from spring a year ago is that there are no new faces on a coaching staff that led the Bulldogs to 5 wins in their final 7 games of 2018.
Fred Farrier, who was on staff as associate head coach/wide receivers coach on a one-year contract last season, has moved on to become assistant head coach at Alabama A&M.
"Everybody else is back," Pough said. "We seem to be moving along nicely.
"That's a big difference from previous years, when there have been changes on the staff and everyone is still getting accustomed to each other."
Bennett Swygert is back for his second season as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, while Jonathan Saxon is in his second year as defensive coordinator/linebackers coach.
"It's still too early to tell exactly what all we have at every position group," Pough said. "But, this is the best time of the year.
"I was telling the staff this morning how much fun it is to be back out, back on the field, with the players running around."
The Bulldogs will conduct 15 practices and two scrimmages through spring workouts, which will culminate with the annual Garnet and Blue Spring Game on April 13. The contest kicks off at noon at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium and admission is free for all fans.
Prior to the game on Friday, April 12, the South Carolina State Class of 1975 will host its annual Lift-A-Bulldog Oyster Roast Fundraiser held on the campus of SC State. More details about the event will be issued closer to the date.
Season tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by calling (803) 536-8759 or visiting the Athletic Ticket Office.
For more information on Bulldog Football visit www.scsuathletics.com or call the Office of Athletic Media Relations at (803)-536-7060.
2019 SC State Spring Football Schedule
# Date Time
2-Thursday, March 21, 6:15 a.m.
3-Friday, March 22, 4 p.m.
4-Saturday, March 23, 10 a.m.
5-Tuesday, March 26, 6:15 a.m.
6-Thursday, March 28, 6:15 a.m.
7-Friday, March 29, 4 p.m.
8-Saturday, March 30, 10 a.m. (Scrimmage)
9-Tuesday, April 2, 6:15 a.m.
10-Thursday, April 4, 6:15 a.m.
11-Friday, April 5, 4 p.m.
12-Saturday, April 6, 10 a.m. (Scrimmage)
13-Tuesday, April 9, 6:15 a.m.
14-Thursday, April 11, 6:15 a.m.
Friday, April 12, Lift-A-Bulldog
15-Saturday, April 13, noon (Spring Game)