Catch up on all the Bulldogs' preseason moves and preparations before they start the 2019 season against Wofford.
SC STATE FOOTBALL: Bulldogs to tussle with Terriers on Saturday
After several seasons playing the "road warriors" role for most of September, the South Carolina State Bulldogs football team opens the 2019 season at home on Saturday against the Wofford Terriers from Spartanburg.
Having won four of their last five games in 2018, the Bulldogs and Buddy Pough (entering his 18th season as head coach) are looking to get things moving in the right direction early in the 2019 season.
Kickoff for Saturday's game is at 6 p.m. on Willie E. Jeffries Field inside Oliver C. Dawson Stadium.
"A home game is a little bit unusual for us (for the season-opener)," Pough said. "Generally we are off on the road somewhere, trying to make a few bucks (for the program).
"To be able to play a home game this, early in the year, is really special for us."
The fact that the visiting Terriers - coached by second-year head coach Josh Conklin - are ranked No. 8 in the STATS FCS 1-AA Preseason Poll and are coming off a 9-4 record and a Southern Conference championship season makes things a bit more interesting for the Bulldogs.
"Wofford's not any easier than the teams we try to get money out of; so they're coming in here to try and get after us," Pough said. "I'm not so sure if sometimes you should bring these types of teams in front of your home crowd or not.
"But, it's a good opportunity for us. I think we can play with these guys. But, like up until the first time you get hit in a boxing match, you don't know how you're going to react. If we can play with them, it could be a great day for us."
The last time Wofford played SC State, the Terriers took a 28-21 win at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg. That was 2006. Wofford leads the all-time series with a 6-2 record.
The Bulldogs, coming off a 5-6 record and 4th-place finish in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 2018, return some key players in all three phases of the game.
On offense, redshirt junior quarterback Tyrece Nick is back, along with senior tackle Alex Taylor, junior running back Datron James, sophomore wide receiver Will Vereen and senior wide receiver De'Montrez Burroughs.
On defense, senior linebacker Chad Gilchrist is back, along with redshirt sophomore defensive backs Duane Nichols and Decobie Durant, senior defensive linemen Paul McKeiver and Tyrell Goodwin, and senior defensive end (joker linebacker) Bruce Johnson.
On special teams, sophomore kicker Dillon Bredesen is back, as is junior punter Cliff Benjamin.
It's impressive that the Terriers team of 2018 ranked No. 5 across the NCAA in rushing offense (311.7 yards per game) and No. 8 in scoring defense (allowing just 19 points per game).
However, with Pough looking for Nick to complete more passes this season, the air might offer the Bulldogs some opportunities on Saturday. The Terriers ranked No. 41 across the NCAA in Passing Yards Allowed in 2018.
"Our receiving corps in general has improved a lot," Pough said. "It's now a case of seeing if they can go out there and do it against a great secondary like Wofford.
"We really like what we see with our receivers and think that maybe we can use those guys to take advantage of some situations and throw the ball around a little bit."
Although there was some talk that the Terriers might move away from the option offense after longtime head coach Mike Ayers retired after the 2017 season, Wofford has shown no signs of drastically changing the offense that the program has been known for in the FCS ranks for many years.
And with all five starting offensive linemen returning for the Terriers after ranking fifth in the nation in fewest sacks allowed in 2018, there is little reason to redesign what has worked on offense.
"There's been talk that they might change things up some, but I don't think that offensive staff will stray far from their base, which is the option," Pough said. "And, on defense, their linebackers are back and they have most of their secondary back, so they are a really good defensive team."
Wofford senior starting outside linebacker Jireh Wilson said earlier this week that the Terriers can compete against any opponent, including one they are unfamiliar with, like the Bulldogs.
"I have no doubt about our ability to get up, or to play or to compete with anybody in the country," Wilson said. "SC State is athletic and their quarterback is super-athletic. They have a really good stable of running backs.
"They have good tight ends and have some athletes out on the edges; so it's going to be a test."
Even with Wofford bringing in the first Terriers team in program history that is coming off back-to-back Southern Conference titles, the Bulldogs look to handle their business on Business and Industry Day at SC State.
Wofford vs. S.C. State game notes
SC STATE FOOTBALL: Pough, Bulldogs in Week One for home-opener against Wofford
While people around and outside the South Carolina State football program talk about the all-time wins list record and other topics, Bulldogs head coach Oliver "Buddy" Pough only wants to talk about No. 1, that is game No. 1 this Saturday at home against Wofford.
Entering his 18th season at the helm of the program he once played for, Pough is glad to have two games at home to start the schedule. But he is quite glad to let the wins and losses take care of themselves, as he and his coaching staff prepare the Bulldogs for the next challenge up.
The 2019 schedule is unique, in that it can be broken down into three parts: the non-conference "preseason" part, as Pough calls it (Wofford, Lane and South Florida), the open season part (back-to-back open weeks for September 21 and September 28 after having hurricanes take away a scheduled September game each of the last three Septembers), and the conference season part (against fellow Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference teams Delaware State, Florida A&M, Morgan State, Bethune-Cookman, N.C. A&T State, Howard, NC Central and Norfolk State).
On Monday, at Pough's opening media press conference of the season, he wasn't talking about how the 2019 team can get him 4 wins to surpass SC State coach emeritus Willie Jeffries in the program's all-time wins category.
Finishing Week One playing the defending Southern Conference champion, along with focusing on ways to improve how the Bulldogs perform, were more of the focus.
"It gets your attention for sure, to be playing a team from a program like Wofford in the opening game," Pough said. "You better know that these guys will come in here and embarrass you, if you don't play really well.
"I think, toward the end of last year, we developed enough key personnel, enough depth, that we'll be able to get in there and slug it out with these guys. But, you don't know if you can play with a team such as this, until you are able to measure yourself against a team other than yourself. That's the exciting part about college football, going out and figuring it out."
Wofford enters the season ranked No. 8 in the STATS FCS I-AA Preseason poll, after going 9-4 overall and 6-2 to win the SOCON. The Bulldogs had a great turnaround, winning four of the last five contests in 2018, to finish 5-6 overall and tied for 4th in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
"We are deeper at positions than we've been in some time; we've got bodies everywhere," Pough said. "I think the level of talent, when we get into our second unit and get to some of the guys that might be replacing some of our top guys (from last year), shouldn't drop off much.
"The fact that we've got more people to do more things might be the most important factor for this football team. I think the camraderie and cohesiveness are both great right now. We really feel good about the number of guys we have involved in our scheme, hoping we can continue to develop them over time, both as a team physically and mentally."
A theme throughout the preseason has been the opportunity to have more defensive players active on the depth chart, along with more playmakers on offense.
The defense should get significant help from the experienced play of graduate transfers Deondre' Daniels (LB, Miami, Ohio), Terrence McCray (DB, Savannah State), Vernon Grier (DB, NC State) and Jalen Barr (DB, The Citadel).
"You like to think that it will help to have those older guys in the mix that way," Pough said.
With a strong challenge by redshirt freshman Corey Fields (Baptist Hill) in preseason camp, redshirt junior quarterback Tyrece Nick (second-leading rusher in the MEAC in 2018, with an 82.1 yards-per-game average, 903 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns) kept a strong grip on the starting quarterback job.
"Tyrece has come along pretty nicely during camp, having maybe established himself last year as more of a runner than a passer," Pough said. "He had his moments in the throw game, but I think he has come along there nicely.
"I don't know if, by the end of the year, we might be trying to figure out things to do with Corey. But, Tyrece is definitely our guy, the entire offense is built around that skill set. We've got to figure how to make him go for us to be successful."
With most key special teams players in place a year ago, the Bulldogs should be prepared to face challenges coming their way this season.
Sophomore Josh Pringle (Scott's Branch) and redshirt freshman Caleb Brown (Wilson) are set to handle the long snapper duties, while sophomore Dillon Bredesen (West Florida HS) is back to handle the kicking duties and redshirt freshman Austin Kemp (Liberty) is Bredesen's holder, the backup kicker and backup punter. Redshirt junior Cliff Benjamin (Lake Marion) will handle the punting duties.
If the Bulldogs need any extra motivation this season, there's the fact that the 2018 team finished fourth in the MEAC, however in the preseason poll MEAC head football coaches and sports information directors picked SC State to finish sixth in 2019, only above Norfolk State, Morgan State and Delaware State.
S.C. STATE FOOTBALL: Defense has depth, experience, talent
A quick glance at the South Carolina State defensive depth chart shows that a veteran, deep and talented defensive unit will take the field when Coach Buddy Pough’s team opens the 2019 season at home against nationally ranked Wofford Aug. 31. Kickoff is 6 p.m.
The Bulldogs return a great nucleus on defense, including nine starters. The defensive line, despite the loss of top pass rusher Damu Ford, will have loads of experience, should be better against the run and anchor the overall S.C. State defensive effort. The linebacker corps returns intact and is expected to make great strides as a group, while a youthful secondary will rely on outstanding talent to make up for its lack of experience.
The Bulldogs will have talented depth all over the field and should see little drop-off in talent level when Pough and his staff have to turn to the bench.
“I think we have more depth on defense of any squad I’ve had since taking over,” said Pough, who is in his 18th season. “We have been helped by a few talented graduate transfers with maturity, but I think the key for us this season is we have a lot of talent and experience on a defensive unit that has exhibited a lot of cohesiveness and leadership.”
Up front, the Bulldog defensive charge will be led by defensive ends Bruce Johnson (6-2, 225 r-Sr., Emerald, S.C.) and Xavier Johnson (6-1, 240 r-So., Lake View), nose tackle Tyrell Goodwin (6-0, 265 Sr., Columbia), Rod Perry 96-2, 310, red-shirt junior, Knightdale, N.C.), the likely candidate to take over as the top passer rusher for the departed Ford, Demingus Wilson (6-4, 280 r-Jr., Bennettsville), and tackle Paul McKeiver (6-4, 290 r-Sr., Batesburg).
Top reserves Jemetre Blair (6-1, 225 r-Jr., Winston-Salem, N.C.), and Lasamuel Davis (6-4, 225, r-Sr., Bamberg), along with the return of massive nose tackle Robert "Shaq" Crouch (6-4, 420 r-Sr., Johnsonville) who missed the entire 2018 campaign after having a great 2017 season, give S.C. State one of its deepest front lines in some time.
“We've got veterans everywhere on the defensive line and their experience should be a difference-maker for us,” Pough said.
The Bulldog linebacker group has everyone from the 2018 team back and should provide tremendous support for the guys up front. Without the great Darius Leonard – the 2018 National Football League’s Defensive Rookie of the Year – last season, S.C. State found itself struggling a bit at the linebacker position. But that should change in 2019.
“Our linebackers are experienced, smart and should be an impact unit for us this season,” Pough said. “We have some real talent there.”
Leading the charge at linebacker for the Bulldogs will be top returnees Chad Gilchrist (6-2, 220 r-Sr., Johnston), Johnell Brown (6-3, 190 r-Sr., St. Stephen) Lane Jones (6-2, 185 Sr., Westminster) and Cornelius Walker (6-1, 212 Sr., Orangeburg). Quality depth will be provided by Jablonski Green (6-3, 230 r-Fr., Lamar) and Andre Brown (6-2, 215 r-So., Summerton).
The S.C. State secondary was one of the youngest and least-experienced in the MEAC last season, however, the youthful, talented group was pressed into playing, some as starters, and responded well.
Cornerback Alex Brown, an NFL free agent battling to catch on in the league (was with Jets most recently), and safety Kendric Gathers will be the only faces missing from last year’s unit, forecasting vast improvement from the unit.
There were times during the 2018 campaign when three of the four starters on the field for the Bulldogs in the defensive backfield were either freshmen, redshirt freshmen or redshirt sophomores. They held their own in most instances, but more importantly, they garnered a wealth of experience -- often under pressure – and will bring that experience to the field this year.
“The secondary is the least-experienced position on our team this season,” Pough said. “But, at the same time, it’s probably the most-talented also. We played a lot of young players at the position last season and most of the time, they did pretty good. I expect to see a lot of improvement in this area.
As noted by Pough, it was a young group in the defensive secondary last season, but most are bigger, stronger, and with loads of talent this time out.
The top returnees at cornerback include Decobie Durant (5-11, 175 r-So, Lamar), a starter last season, Scotty Robinson (6-0, 175 r-Fr., Rock Hill) and Tim Ewing (5-11, 170 r-So., Greenwood). Expected to provide top reserve duty are Demarkis Doe (6-3, 185 So., Williston) and newcomers Deondre Daniels (5-11, 195 Fr., Goose Creek) and Vernon Grier (5-11, 180 Gr., Charlotte, N.C.), a graduate transfer whose dad was a one-time starter for the Bulldogs.
Expected to be among the top performers at safety for S.C. State are Duane Nichols (6-0, 210 r-So., Lake View), a starter last season, Jaylen Evans (6-0, 180 r-So., Hartsville), Zafir Kelly (6-1, 170 Jr., Columbia) and Khalif Anthony (6-1, 180 r-Sr., Norway), along with The Citadel transfer Jalen Barr (6-0, 170 Sr., Lake City) and Donte Anthony (6-0, 210 r-Fr., Fountain Inn).
B.J. Davis (6-2, 190 r-Fr., Blair), Jayden Brunson (5-10, 195 So., Blythewood), and Chris Simmons (5-11, 185 r-Fr., Orangeburg) will rotate at the nickel position.
“We were forced to play a lot of young players in the secondary last season, but it was not a hard decision because we saw how talented they were,” Pough said. “And that decision should help us by leaps and bounds this year. I feel good about our expectations from this group this season.”
Among the specialists, S.C. State returnee Cliff Benjamin (6-1, 170 r-Sr., Santee), who split the punting duties with Jerome Pettiway last season, is expected to be among the top punters in the MEAC. Long snapper Josh Pringle, who has been solid for the Bulldogs, is back as well.
Dillon Bredesen (5-10, 160 So., Cantonment, Fla.), the primary placekicker last year, also returns and will have a solid backup in Austin Kemp (6-1, 175 r-Fr., Liberty), who will also play behind Benjamin at the punting position.
Pough, never one to sandbag, has stated more than once that he is anxious to get the 2019 season underway, despite the Bulldogs having to face the nation’s ninth-ranked team in the Wofford Terriers in the season opener.
“I think our team is going to be pretty good and I’m ready to get it on,” the Bulldog mentor said recently. “We open up against one of the nation’s top teams and one that has been a perennial participant in the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision), certainly a great challenge for our team. But it will also be a measuring stick of just how good we can be and what our fans and supporters can expect from S.C. State.”
COLLEGE NOTEBOOK: Wofford No. 8 in FCS Coaches Preseason Top 25
Wofford is ranked No. 8 and Furman is 17th in the FCS Coaches Preseason Top 25 Poll.
The Terriers and Paladins are the only two Southern Conference teams to earn spots in the poll.
Wofford and Furman shared last year’s 2018 SoCon regular season title along with East Tennessee State. The Paladins beat the Terriers, 34-14, in Greenville a year ago.
Wofford opens the season in Orangeburg against S.C. State on Aug. 31. The Paladins kick off the season Aug. 31 at home against Charleston Southern.
North Dakota State is ranked No. 1, followed by James Madison, Eastern Washington, South Dakota State, UC Davis, Jacksonville State and Maine. After Wofford, Weber State and Kennesaw State round out the top 10.
North Carolina A&T of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference is ranked No. 19.
Bulldog practice times
The South Carolina State Bulldogs announced new practice times in preparation for their season-opener on Aug. 31 against Wofford in a 6 p.m. start at O.C. Dawson Stadium.
The Bulldogs will conduct 6 a.m. practice sessions.
Season tickets for S.C. State's six-game home schedule remain available. Reserved seating is available and may be purchased by contacting the S.C. State Ticket Office by phone at 803-536-8579 of online at www.scsuathletics.com
SCSU women's soccer to open
The South Carolina State women’s soccer team is preparing for a tough schedule in 2019.
Coach Sandy Burris, entering her eighth season as head coach, leads a team with 11 returners and 10 newcomers to this year’s squad.
S.C. State opens up the regular season with a pair of road contests against Wofford (Aug. 22) in Spartanburg and Shaw University (Aug. 26) in Raleigh, N.C., before returning home to host North Dakota State (Aug. 28) and USC-Upstate on Sept. 1.
The Lady Bulldogs then make a trip to the state of Mississippi for showdowns with Jackson State (Sept. 6) and Alcorn State (Sept. 8) from the Southwestern Atlantic Conference, before welcoming Winthrop to town on Sept. 12th.
SCSU then embarks on a three-game road trip beginning with Presbyterian College (Sept. 17) in Clinton, Gardner-Webb (Sept. 20) in Boiling Springs, N.C., followed by Young Harris College (Sept. 23) in Georgia.
A four-game homestand welcomes the Lady Bulldogs back to Orangeburg: East Tennessee State (Sept. 30), Bob Jones (Oct. 4), Delaware State (Oct. 6) and Columbia College (Oct. 14).
SCSU ends the season on the road against Charleston Southern on Oct. 19 in Summerville.
Bentley on Unitas list
University of South Carolina senior quarterback Jake Bentley has been named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award preseason Watch List. The award is given annually to the nation's outstanding senior or fourth-year quarterback in college football.
Bentley and the Gamecocks will open the 2019 season on Aug. 31 in Charlotte against North Carolina. The 3:30 p.m. contest will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Bulldogs conduct final scrimmage of preseason drills
South Carolina State held its second and final scrimmage of preseason drills Saturday morning on Willie Jeffries Field inside Oliver. C. Dawson Stadium.
The Bulldogs performed as well as expected on both offense and defense, with the offense showing signs of improvement running more than 100 plays in a 2-1/2-hour scrimmage.
Four quarterbacks saw action, with redshirt junior Tyrece Nick leading the charge from the start on a 52-yard pass completion to redshirt freshman Shaquan “Shaq” Davis. Nick connected once again on a 15-yard touchdown strike to senior wide receiver De’Montrez Burroughs.
“Nick is our guy at the moment,” said head coach Buddy Pough. “There are times when he shows signs of greatness and times where he needs to be more consistent. We (coaches) just need to make sure we design what we are doing to fit his needs so he can be successful.”
Pough also noted, “Redshirt freshman quarterback Corey Fields is pushing Nick every day and he will get a chance to play as well, so don’t be surprised if you see him early on this season. Quincy Hill (Columbia, SC/Spring Valley HS) is talented as well and can do some exciting things for us, so we are expecting good things from those guys.”
Fields made an impact of his own, throwing a 50-yard touchdown bomb to Davis. The Bulldog defense reminded the offense who has the upper hand with jaw-dropping stops, including a 25-yard interception by redshirt freshman Donte Anthony off of Fields for a score.
"Defensively, we are as a good as we have been in at multiple positions in years. We have tremendous talent in the secondary, solid play at the linebacker spot and our defensive front has really been making strides to take on a more leadership role," Pough said.
The Bulldogs spent the early part of the scrimmage turning their focus to special teams, including putting the final touches on punt and kick return installations. Pough and his team closed out the day with their annual “Meet The Players Day.”
South Carolina State fans had a chance to meet this year’s team and coaches, with appearances by the Marching 101 and SCSU cheerleaders sponsored by The S.T.A.T.E Club at Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center.
SCSU closes out preseason drills in a Monday 9:30 a.m. practice, before turning their attention to the season-opener against Wofford with a 6 p.m. start Aug. 31, at O.C. Dawson Stadium.
S.C. STATE FOOTBALL: Pough expects Bulldog offense to be better in 2019
Despite at times showing signs of a productive unit last season, SC State’s offense was inconsistent and ranked near the bottom of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in offensive efficiency. The Bulldogs were ninth in both total offense (293.4 ypg) and pass offense (109.9 ypg), ahead of only Savannah State in both categories. Pough’s team, however, showed some signs of a good offense, finishing third in rushing offense (183.5 ypg), sixth in scoring offense (19.5 ppg) and tied for second in sacks allowed with just 18.
“We sometime reached the level of play on offense that demonstrated we could be a decent team, but that didn’t happen often enough,” said Pough “But, we should be better this season. Our quarterbacks are a good bit ahead of where they were last year this time. They’ve had a year working in our system and have a better understanding of the style of play, the different calls, what we are trying to do, and understanding the nuances of the offense.”
In addition to improved play at the signal-calling position, Pough and his offensive staff are looking to get a better performance from the Bulldog wide receivers and running backs, as well as a better performance from an offensive line that underachieved in 2018.
“We’ve also added a few key ingredients, especially in our wide receiver crops,” noted Pough. “And we expect our running game to be improved. Last year, most of our big runs came from our quarterback (Tyrece Nick) and it concerns you a bit when your running backs are not contributing big plays. We think we will see some positive changes in 2019.”
The Bulldogs list six quarterbacks on their 2019 camp roster, however, Nick (6-0, 170 r-Jr., Johnston, SC) and Cory Fields (6-0, 188 r-Fr, Hollywood, SC) will carry the load at the position this year. Quincy Hill (6-2, 165 r-Fr., Columbia, SC) could also be in the mix.
Nick handled most of the duties at quarterback last season, connecting on 86-189 passing attempts (45.5 pct.) for 1163 yards and five touchdowns, while suffering four interceptions. He was also the team’s top rusher and finished second in the MEAC in rushing with 903 yards and 12 touchdowns. Fields, who is more of a pure passer, was used in only two games, attempting just one throw.
“Nick was the guy at quarterback last season,” said Pough. “He was a huge threat as a runner, didn’t do as well in the passing game, but we need him to be more consistent as a passer. Fields is a good passer and there will be times when we can use his skill set to get us down the field. The third guy is Quincy Hill of Spring Valley High School in Columbia. He’s a tall guy and has put on a few pounds since last season.”
The Bulldog receiving corps, despite the loss of Quan Caldwell and Jermaine Baxley, two of the top four receivers from a year ago, is loaded with potential and should be more explosive this season due to the addition of Shaquan Davis (6-5, 210 r-Fr, Summerville, SC), a dazzling pass catcher who can stretch the field and transfer Juwan Moody (5-10, 160 r-Fr., Conway, SC), the brother of former SC State athlete Mykal Moody, who was used at running back, wide receiver and quarterback during his Bulldog career, along with Rodrigues Thomas (6-3, 185 r-So., Anderson, SC), who adds quality depth. They join returning starting wide receivers Will Vereen (5-11, 205 r-So., Little River, SC) and De’Montrez Burroughs (6-2, 200 Sr., Charlotte, NC), who ranked first and third, respectively, in catches last season, and Tra’Quan Dubose (5-10, 175 r-Sr., Darlington, SC ), the top punt returner last year, who was among the team’s top receivers in 2017.
“We expect our wide receiver corps to be vastly improved with the addition of Shaq (Davis) and the development of Rod Thomas, who played some last year and has gotten bigger and stronger,” Pough said. “Vereen is back, Burroughs is finally able to go full speed and Dubose is having a good camp. I’m excited about our potential there.”
Pough has stated his concern about the Bulldog running game, however, with a bevy of talented runners returning, SC State rushing totals should go up, that is if they get the push up front from the offensive line which Pough said came up short of expectations in 2018.
“The running game was not what it needed to be last year,” Pough said. “And, some of our problem was that the offensive line underachieved. We have to get more from that group this season as we need for the line to grow up, work hard and have a better drive off the ball upfront.”
Right tackle Alex Taylor (6-9, 310 r-Sr., Moncks Corner, SC), one of the top National Football League (NFL) prospects in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and first-team 2019 All-MEAC first-team preseason selection, anchors the line. He will have plenty of support from center and All-MEAC performer Mike Terry (6-0, 255 r-Sr., Duluth, GA), guards Tison Gray (6-4, 300 r-So., Columbia, SC) – the most improved – Patrick McNeill (6-1, 290 Jr., West Columbia, SC) and Jalen Page (6-2, 285 r-Jr., Florence, SC), tackles Malik Mickle (6-4, 25 r-Sr., Winnsboro, SC) and Jerrelle Moore (6-3, 285 r-Fr., West Columbia, SC) as well as reserve Francois McFall (6-4, 285 r-Jr., Bennettsville, SC) and redshirt Shamari Williams (6-6, 280 r-Fr., York, SC).
A talented backfield will be bolstered by the return of one-time leading rusher Labron Morris (5-10,185 Jr., Decatur, GA), who was redshirt last year after leading the team in rushing in 2017. Returning from last season are Datron James (5-10, 205 r-Jr., N. Charleston, SC), the 2018 second-leading rusher (343 yds.) and Omar Cummings (5-9, 187 r-So., Beaufort, SC) who also galloped for over 300 yards and Tyshawn Baines (5-9, 200 So., Covington, GA), who was the team’s top kickoff returner but saw occasional duty in the backfield.
“I expect our rushing attack to be running back by committee,” beamed Pough. “We have so much talent at the position and I suspect whoever gets off to a solid start or a quick start will be the guy we go with. They all play pretty well and can be explosive, but it also gives us an opportunity to have a fresh back in there all the time.”
The final area Pough and the offensive assistants will look to is the tight ends/fullbacks, a youthful group with loads of talent, great versatility and outstanding potential.
Last year’s starter Austin Ruger is gone, however, returnees DePrince Haynes (5-11, 220 r-So., Columbia, SC) and Devontre “ Buss” Hamilton (5-11, 215 Sr., Moncks Corner, SC) will be joined by the very talented Yancy Washington (6-2, 230 r-Fr., N. Charleston, SC) and Orangeburg’s Zack Felder (6-3, 215 So.), a converted wide receiver from Orangeburg-Wilkinson High.
The placekicking was solid last year with freshman Dillon Bredesen (5-10, 160 So., Cantonment, FL) handling most of the duties. The then-freshman connected on 5-8 field goals, with a long of 46 yards, and converted 20-25 PATs, with one block.
The Bulldogs have had some high-scoring and explosive offensive teams in days gone by, and Pough is hoping his team can revive the magic of the past. Fans and supporters throughout the land would welcome such. (We will look at the Bulldog defense next week).
S.C. STATE FOOTBALL: Rafael Bush challenges Bulldogs to become part of winning tradition
Former South Carolina State defensive standout Rafael Bush, who recently retired from the National Football League after a solid nine-year career, had a stern message for the 2019 Bulldogs on Monday night during an assembly at Staley Hall on the campus.
Bush, a member of the S.C. State secondary during some of the Bulldogs’ most productive teams in the current Buddy Pough era, accepted an invitation from assistant head coach/defensive line coach David Blanchard and Pough to speak to the team and share his experiences.
The Williston native and former Williston-Elko High School standout didn’t mince words as he touted the S.C. State football legacy and told the team that “5-6 records are not the norm around here.”
“I once occupied the same seats you all are now sitting in,” Bush said. “I’ve been gone 10 years and some things have changed, but despite those changes, most of you enjoy a great privilege of getting a free education and doing something you enjoy.
“But that privilege comes with sacrifices,” said Bush, who pointed out the ups and downs in both college football and in the NFL but also appealed to the players to work harder, get better and bring back that S.C. State winning tradition.
“I don’t think we ever lost more than three games in a season (actually the Bulldogs were 7-4 his first season on the team) and we were the class of the MEAC,” he said. “We had that mentality that winning was mandatory. We had goals and were determined to reach them as a unit. And, most of the time, we did so.
“What are your goals and aspirations? Are you willing to work harder to get better? Those of you who are leaders must take charge, pull your teammates along and make them better. At the same time, you must hold your teammates accountable. If one of them is not getting it done, you want to encourage him, but you also have to call him out and let him know he has to do better; he has to earn your respect.
“Nothing comes free in life. No one’s going to give you something for nothing, especially in football, a tough sport that teaches you about real life. As a member of S.C. State football teams, I learned discipline, I learned consistency. Like many of you, I may not have been the most talented, but I knew the value of hard work, I knew the value of teamwork, and I knew the value of being accountable to your teammates. During my playing days, if you were not doing your part, you just didn’t play.”
Bush transferred to S.C. State after a year on scholarship at North Greenville University in Tigerville. As one of the top high school running backs as a senior at Williston, he had aspirations of continuing his career as a Bulldog. But S.C. State had a crowded backfield that included two of the all-time top rushers at the university and in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference – DaShawn Baker and Will Ford.
After a year at North Greenville, Bush walked on at S.C. State as a defensive back. He then became one of the top safeties for the Bulldogs.
Bush lauded his teammates and coaches during his career as a Bulldog. He played on back-to-back 10-win squads (2008 and 2009) that captured consecutive MEAC championships and made consecutive appearances in the prestigious NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
As a senior, he was the Bulldogs’ third-leading tackler with 46 total stops, including 38 solos and four tackles for loss. Bush also had two interceptions, one of which he returned for a score, and a fumble recovery which he also took to the end zone for six points.
During his S.C. State career, Bush played alongside a number of players who were either drafted by NFL teams or given free agent opportunities. But he warned current players that only a few get such opportunities, so it’s important to get an education and earn a degree.
“I’m sure you have heard the statistics (about players making it to the professional level),” Bush said. “Only about 1 percent of college players will make it to the professional ranks.
"And among those that do make it, most careers are short (four years or less).”
Bush was one of three Bulldogs who got pro opportunities in 2010. Fellow defensive back Philip Adams of Rock Hill was a seventh-round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers, while Bush and wide receiver Oliver “Trey” Young signed as free agents with Atlanta and Carolina, respectively.
Bush spent nine years in the league at safety with five different teams – Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans (two stints), Detroit and Buffalo. He retired just a few weeks ago.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to ‘play on Sunday,' as they say,” Bush said. “I was never intimidated by having to go against or play alongside players from major schools. I was well-prepared by the coaches and others from S.C. State.
“Take advantage of the opportunity you now have. Believe me, the four or so years you are here will go by fast. But work hard and try to achieve your dreams, while also changing the culture here. Be a part of the legacy here.”
Bush and his wife, Tonya Giles Bush - a triplet who played softball for S.C. State - reside in Fort Mill.
SC STATE FOOTBALL: Bulldogs have schedule of challenges and opportunities
As Buddy Pough starts his 18th season as the head football coach at South Carolina State, his alma mater, so much looms large for the Bulldog leader.
The Orangeburg native and former SC State offensive lineman is closing in on Head Coach Emeritus Willie Jeffries’ all-time winning record for the program. Pough, with 125 wins, needs three to tie Jeffries and four for the record.
The Bulldogs are coming off consecutive losing seasons, including a 5-6 mark in 2018. A 5-6 record is nothing to brag about. But if one looks at how the 2018 campaign started and the way it ended for SC State, there is optimism as the start of the 2019 season nears.
SC State got off to a dismal start last season, falling to 0-4, with one game postponed, before rebounding to win five of its last seven contests, just missing out on a winning campaign when North Carolina Central defeated the Bulldogs 17-7 in Orangeburg during the Thanksgiving weekend in a contest that had been postponed earlier due to a hurricane that hit the area.
A very youthful squad – with almost half of the players on the roster listed as freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores – matured. Most of the players on that squad have come of age and in many instances, gotten bigger, stronger and faster.
“Preseason camp is just a little over a week old, but we are a lot farther now than we were this time last year,” said Pough after a recent practice. "We are not where we were at the end of last season, but we have the talent to get there.
"We played a lot of young players in 2018 and the experience they gained should be big for this year’s team.”
Pough has made no predictions but the gleam in his eye when he talks about the prospects for his 2019 team is hard to miss.
“I’m anxious to get started,” Pough said. “And, it’s not because of chasing Coach Jeffries’ record, it’s because I think we have the potential to do well this season, to do something special. If I get the record – and I get asked that by the media all the time – so be it. But I can tell you, Coach Jeffries will always be number one in football here at South Carolina State. He coached me, has been a great mentor and friend, and I will always look up to him.”
To do something special, Pough, his staff and players face an ambitious 2019 schedule that includes two preseason nationally-ranked STATS FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) teams in Wofford (Aug. 31) and North Carolina A&T (Nov. 2) and a solid FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) team in South Florida (Sept. 14).
Let’s take a look at the Bulldogs’ 2019 opponents:
Pough’s team opens the campaign on Aug. 31 (6 p.m.) at home against Wofford, a perennial FCS playoff participant that made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs last season. That was the first season under head coach Josh Conklin, who succeeded legendary Mike Ayers. The Terriers, 9-4 overall last season and 6-2 in the Southern Conference, have been picked to win the SoCon title and are ranked ninth nationally in the Preseason STATS FCS poll. Conklin’s team returns 47 lettermen (25 offense, 20 defense, 2 special teams) and 16 starters. Wofford - one of six teams scheduled to visit Orangeburg - and SC State are meeting for the first time since 2006, when the Terriers won 28-21.
Lane University of the South Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) makes a visit to Orangeburg on Sept. 7 (4 p.m.). The Dragons were 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the SIAC last season, however, three of their six losses were by a touchdown or less and they won three of its last four games, so it’s not a team the Bulldogs can take for granted. Lane has been picked fourth in the West Division of the SIAC this year.
On Sept. 14 (6 p.m.) the Bulldogs travel to South Florida, the only FBS team Pough’s team will face in 2019 after taking on two such opponents last season. The Bulls are coached by Charlie Strong, who Pough coached with when both were assistants at the University of South Carolina. South Florida, a member of the American Athletic Conference (AAC), was 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the conference. They return a great nucleus, especially on offense, where eight starters are back.
Then something unusual happens, the Bulldogs will have consecutive open dates (Sept. 21 and Sept. 28) before returning to action Oct. 5 when Pough’s team travels to Delaware State, which has become a tough place to play for Bulldog teams of late. The Hornets, 3-8 overall and 2-5 in the league last season, finished the 2018 season with wins in three of their last four contests. One of their losses was a 30-19 setback to the Bulldogs on Homecoming in Dover. The Hornets have been picked to finish eighth in the MEAC this season, however their outstanding defensive lineman Brian Cavicante has been selected as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Up next for SC State will be heated rival Florida A&M (Oct. 12, 2 p.m.), one of the longtime Bulldog opponents. The Rattlers finished 6-5 overall last season and were 5-2 in the MEAC. In fact, Coach Willie Simmons’ team was in the running for the league title before finishing the season with a three-game slide, including a 44-21 home loss to Pough and the Bulldogs. The Rattlers could have grabbed a share of the league title with a win over archrival Bethune-Cookman in the last game of the season but lost 33-19 instead. One of the Rattler wins was a 22-21 last-second triumph over MEAC and HBCU champion North Carolina A&T. The Rattlers have been picked third in the MEAC preseason poll. SC State will be conducting Youth/ROTC/Military Appreciation/Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
The Bulldog Homecoming opponent is Morgan State (Oct. 19, 1:30 p.m.). In last year’s meeting at Baltimore, SC State defeated the Bears 21-18 on Homecoming in Baltimore. Morgan State would like nothing better than to return the favor. The Bears were 4-7, 3-4 in the MEAC last year and have been picked to finish eighth in the MEAC preseason poll. Morgan will be one of three league teams with a new head coach at the helm, joining Howard and NC Central with first-year coaches at the helm.
Following the Homecoming contest, SC State meets Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach (Oct. 26, 4 p.m.), one of the toughest places to play in the league. Last season, the Wildcats came to Orangeburg and escaped with a 28-26 win behind a blocked two-point conversion return and a pick 6. The Bulldogs had a chance to force overtime but were unable to convert a two-point conversion try in the closing seconds. Bethune, 7-5 overall and 5-2 in the league last season, has been picked to finish second behind two-time MEAC champion North Carolina A&T in this year’s MEAC preseason poll.
One of the sternest tests for SC State follows when the Aggies of North Carolina A&T (Nov. 2, 1:30 p.m.) visit Orangeburg. The Aggies, by far, have been the class of the league the last two years, however, SC State has been a worthy opponent but was unable to earn a win after being in a position both outings.
The Aggies were 10-2 overall last season, 6-1 in the MEAC to capture their second straight league crown and Celebration Bowl win. The Bulldogs, on the road, took a 16-3 lead late in the half against NC A&T, but gave up 28 unanswered points to lost 31-16. The Aggies are ranked 20th in the STATS FCS Preseason Poll and were chosen number one in the Preseason MEAC poll.
Next up for the Bulldogs will be Howard (Nov. 9, 1:30 p.m.) another team picked ahead of SC State in the MEAC Preseason poll and whose quarterback, Caylin Newton, the brother of Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, has been named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. The Bison were picked fourth, however, they are still smarting from a 27-21 home loss to SC State last season. The Bulldog win threw an obstacle in Howard’s bid to win the MEAC title, a point that will not be lost on the Bison when they come to O.C. Dawson Stadium this year. Howard finished the 2018 campaign 4-6, 4-3 MEAC).
Coach Pough’s team closes out the campaign with two straight road games at NC Central (Nov. 16, 2:00 p.m.) and Norfolk State (Nov. 23, 1:00 p.m.). The Eagles spoiled the Bulldogs’ bid for a winning campaign when they won 17-7 on Thanksgiving weekend in a game that had been postponed earlier due to a Hurricane. NCCU was 5-6, 3-4 in the MEAC last season and has been picked 5th in this year’s MEAC Preseason poll.
Norfolk State, meanwhile, has been picked seventh in this year’s MEAC Preseason poll, one place below the Bulldogs. The Spartans came to Orangeburg last year and left with their first-ever triumph over SC State in the Garden City, winning 17-7 in a game marred by several Bulldog miscues. The Spartans, after the early season win over the Bulldogs, went on to lose six of their last eight contests.
There you have a look at SC State’s 2019 opponents. One thing is for sure, the Bulldogs cannot afford another 0-4 start if they want “something special” to happen. Fans now patiently await kickoff.
Bulldogs hold media/picture day
The South Carolina State football team will hold its annual Media/Picture Day Saturday at 9 a.m. at Oliver. C. Dawson Stadium.
Media outlets will get a chance to have one-on-one interviews with head coach Buddy Pough, assistant coaches and some of the top returners and newcomers on this year's roster.
The Bulldogs wrapped up their seventh preseason practice Friday in full pads in preparation for the first scrimmage on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Pough noted, “We have most of our installation done so that’s a good sign that the players are following their assignments buying into the process. Despite having most of these guys back from last season, we still have a lot of work to do so this first scrimmage will give us an idea of where we are at as a team.”
The Bulldogs will be off on Sunday before returning to the field on Monday at 9:10 a.m. and Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. in full gear.
The annual "Meet the Players Day/Fan Fest," hosted by The S.T.A.T.E Club, is set for Aug. 17, at noon.
South Carolina State opened preseason football practice on Friday afternoon on the Bulldogs practice fields and inside Oliver C. Dawson Stadiu…