The South Carolina State football team's spring workouts for the 2019 season could be compared to someone settling in on a new diet and exercise program.
In that context, good results from the first two weeks of workouts compare well with losing water weight, seeing some progress and needing the focus to stay the course for a positive outcome.
On Saturday morning, the Bulldogs took to Willie E. Jeffries Field inside Oliver C. Dawson Stadium for the first of two spring scrimmages. The scrimmage lasted about 2-and-a-half hours, running more than 100 plays. It was the eighth workout of the off-season, leading up to the annual Garnet and Blue Spring Game on April 13, an event that kicks off at noon with free admission for all fans.
SC State head coach Oliver "Buddy" Pough, entering his 18th season leading the Bulldogs, saw some good things in the scrimmage, while also noting there are multiple areas the team needs to work on before the spring game kicks off.
"We got a lot of work done," Pough said. "That was the main issue, making sure we got enough reps done, where a lot of people had opportunities to have something on film.
"We've got a lot of young kids on this team who we think can help us next year. We wanted to give as many people as many shots as we could."
For much of the scrimmage, the Bulldogs defense held the offense in check. But, several late drives found the end zone.
"Any time something goes good on the offensive side, as far as I'm concerned, you're scared for the defense, and vice versa," Pough said. "I can tell you that we've got lots and lots of work to do.
"The things that you saw good on offense today might have been overshadowed by the things they did bad. We care more, right now, about developing the individuals and the cohesiveness of our team, the camaraderie on our team."
The offensive success late in the scrimmage brought claps and cheers from the Bulldog fans in attendance. Neither side of the ball had its play in mid-season form. But there were highlights and glimpses of would could be in 2019.
Rising sophomore quarterback Corey Fields engineered a drive that finished with a rushing score. After that, Fields found rising senior wideout De'Montrez Burroughs for touchdown passes on two drives.
Starting quarterback Tyrece Nick, a rising redshirt junior, then took the field. He converted two passes, including a drop-down connection with rising junior tight end Deprince Haynes, setting up a short touchdown pass to Burroughs.
Burroughs is the top returning receiver for the Bulldogs, based on yardage, having hauled in 12 receptions for 271 yards and 2 touchdowns last season.
Moving on from a 5-6 campaign in 2018 will be key for the young Bulldogs team. But Pough sees progress and a hunger to keep the program moving in the right direction. Some of that was spurred on by winning 5 of the final 7 games last season.
"The players know that this is a shot for them to crawl across that win-loss line that puts on the winning edge and gives us a chance to be a winning team," Pough said. "You know, it's been a long time since we've had a good year around here.
"We've got 80-something kids out here in spring ball. They know we can be a better football team. It looks like we have most of the pieces in place to put a better team on the field right now. The guys we redshirted, so many of them played in a few games last year, and we have game film on them."
As for possible impact mid-year transfers into the program, Pough pointed out one name that is quite familiar to The T&D Region. Former Lake Marion and Calhoun County standout wide receiver Camryn Johnson (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) arrived from the Georgia State University program and is settling into the Bulldog offense.
"He (Johnson) is in here, doing really well, and we are really excited about him," Pough said. "He is the guy right now who we think can give us a chance to be a little better at the wide receiver position."
Prior to the spring game, on Friday, April 12, the South Carolina State Class of 1975 will host its annual Night Of Legends of Jazz at the Orangeburg Country Club, from 7 p.m.-11 p.m. Admission is $125 per person and can be paid for at the South Carolina State Ticket Office at (803) 536-8303. All proceeds will support the Lift-A-Bulldog Program.
Season tickets are now on sale and can be purchased by calling or visiting the ticket office.
Remaining 2019 SC State Spring Football Schedule
# Date Time
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)