It will be a bit of a change, but it should be a really good change.
In recent years the Friday night before South Carolina State football has held its Garnet & Blue Spring Game on Saturday has included alumni and fans gathering for an evening seafood event and fellowship.
That tradition will continue this Friday, just with a different twist. SC State football will host Legends & Jazz, a night a food, fun and fellowship at Orangeburg Country Club from 7-11 p.m.
With former Bulldogs standouts in attendance, along with current coaches from Clemson and South Carolina, there will be more than a few opportunities for fans to chat up some football talk.
Then, on Saturday at noon, the early 2019 version of the Bulldogs will play the Garnet & Blue Spring Game on Willie E. Jeffries Field inside Oliver C. Dawson Stadium.
"We always do a little something the night before the spring game, and my class of '75 has always kind of taken the lead of having it planned out," SC State head football coach Buddy Pough said. "Most recently, it has been the seafood extravaganza (or oyster roast); but this year we are branching out and trying to get other folks involved, other football fans from the area.
"We've got guys from Carolina and Clemson coming, so there's a little bit of something for everybody."
Even those who come just for the food and the music will be treated to the live sounds of H. Wade Johnson and PRIDE ENSEMBLE. Johnson is a graduate of SC State and is the director of bands at Benedict College. Johnson has also performed with the late “Dizzy” Gillespie, Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, The Spinners, The Temptations, and Marvin Sapp.
A few tickets for the event are still available for $125 each, and they can be purchased through the SC State University Ticket Office or by calling 803-536-8579.
Former SC State standout players Dwayne Harper (12-year NFL career), Joe Thomas Jr. (current Dallas Cowboys linebacker), Joe Thomas Sr. (in 2016 at 55 became the oldest person to play in an NCAA Division I football game) and others will be in attendance at Friday night's event.
Also on hand will be former Bulldogs assistant coach and current Clemson co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott, along with South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris "TRob" Robinson.
"It should be just a night of fun and food, football and music," Pough said. "With some of our former players and others coming to take part, we are trying to build something fun for South Carolina State fans, but in the Orangeburg Touchdown Club tradition to include everyone.
"Maybe later it can be a statewide event. But, this year we have the two big schools represented as our startup point. Sure, Carolina and Clemson don't always get along, but this time of year is a little less intense, and maybe they can be in the same room together."
Along with spending time around former Bulldog greats, Pough sees this event as a chance for football fans to talk with future coaching greats.
"I've known Coach Elliott and Coach Robinson for a long time, and they are smart coaches," Pough said. "They will be the head coaches here in a few years.
"This is an opportunity for the fans of Orangeburg to meet these guys before they are the big-name head coaches. They are already big names now in their own right."
Harper was just inducted last month into the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame.
"Dwayne is a local guy who had a great career, was in the league for a while and we think a lot of him," Pough said of the former 11th round pick who started for San Diego in Super Bowl 29.
And, although Pough knew he recruited a great athlete when he got Joe Thomas Jr. on campus, he was a bit surprised by Thomas Sr.
"It took me a long time to get to the point where I took the daddy seriously, when it came to those guys," Pough said. "When you talk with him now, Sr. is still trying to find a way to play some more football.
"I said "Joe, you can't be serious." But, he is still built like a rock. Maybe one of those leagues out there has a spot for him."
Friday's Legends & Jazz event is something Pough and other organizers hope will bring the entire regional community together.
It should be a great time for coaches and fans to relax and enjoy an off-season Friday together.
GARNET & BLUE SPRING GAME PREVIEW
Of course, on Saturday, the Bulldogs will take to the turf in pads and helmets to show what they've worked on this spring.
"We've really worked hard to develop a lot of depth, with a lot of guys at most every position," Pough said. "Our offensive and defensive fronts have steadily improved from day to day, and everyone knows it's up front that counts.
"We've got enough bodies now to go out and play a game. But, it's hard to put two groups together for a spring game. So it will be a controlled scrimmage. We're starting to see some of those young skill guys come around, learning assignments and getting many drills in."
The quarterbacks (Tyrece Nick, Corey Fields and Quincy Hill) have gotten a good bit of work in during the last 3 weeks of workouts.
"Those three guys are seeing what each other's skill sets are, and farther into the spring we are starting to see Fields have more confidence in his throw game," Pough said. "He will be a good passer on down the line. Tyrece is similar, as an option-style guy, and we understand that. He's got to continue to work on his accuracy and footwork.
"But those three have gotten good work in during these weeks."
Pough is glad to have a more experienced defensive line this spring, including the return of Shaquille "Big Shaq" Crouch, a 6-foot-5, 395-pounder, in the middle of the line.
"We bring most of those guys back on the line, even though we are a little light on the defensive ends," Pough said. "But, those guys (including Jemetre Blair, Brandon Oglesby and Xavier Johnson) are beefing up and we expect they will come around some more and be ready for the season.
"Antonio Anderson, a freshman from Lower Richland, is coming around well too. That defensive front is deep enough, but can stand some work to set the edge better. And, as we like it and expect it to be, the defense has been coming on in the last few practices."
Pough admits the spring game might have a good dose of the running game, with tailbacks Datron James, Labron Morris and Jarius Jenkins (Hunter-Kinard-Tyler) getting their fair share of carries.
"We want them to be sharp in what they do and they could start to separate themselves heading toward the season," Pough said. "But, with the rest of the offense, we are looking for Camryn Johnson (former Calhoun County and Georgia State wide receiver) to catch on a bit more, since he is showing flashes of being really good. We need him to be a force, an outside guy who can really run once he has the ball.
"There are other concerns at receiver, but we can build on what we have. "