South Carolina State head football coach Oliver "Buddy" Pough announced the 2018 signing class and introduced two new coaches on the offensive side of the ball for the Bulldogs on Wednesday's National Signing Day.
Looking to rebound from back-to-back losing seasons, S.C. State inked a class of 22 student-athletes to national letters of intent and brought in a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive line coach.
This year's class has 20 signees from the Palmetto State. It includes six offensive lineman, four defensive backs, four wide receivers, two quarterbacks, two kickers, two linebackers, one running back and one defensive lineman.
Pough (120-63 record at S.C. State) is entering his 17th and final year at the helm of his alma mater.
"We are awfully excited about a new group; it's a new beginning again," Pough said. "We think we've met most of our needs.
"The most important thing was getting those particular areas where we needed guys to fit in," Pough said. "Everybody knew we needed a quarterback, an offensive lineman or two. I think we've got some pretty good ones."
Pough is hopeful a majority of this class won't be needed to play right away in 2018.
"The best thing about this whole recruiting process is that we think we will have most of these guys be down-the-road guys; let's hope we don't have to have all of them come in and play right now," he said. "Most of them we will redshirt or play in backup roles early.
"There's a rule that's coming down the pike right now, from the NCAA, that says they will give you an opportunity of possibly as many as four games where you can play a guy and not necessarily lose a year of eligibility. All of us football guys are pulling for that to go through, and that would make this class much more important to us."
Voids were filled for some key positions with this signing class.
"We don't have a kicker coming back for the spring, but we signed two kickers who both punt," Pough said. "Everybody has been inquiring about us getting a kicker, so we got two.
"And we signed a couple linebackers. We are excited about a couple of these guys, like B.J. Davis (South Pointe High) and Jeblonski Green (Lamar High), big-name guys who will come in here and help us. We think we signed two good quarterbacks too, with Corey Fields having led Baptist Hill to a state championship while leading the state with more than 5,000 yards, and Quincy Hill from up at Spring Valley High School. These guys are all great students and I'm excited about what they bring to the table."
Both the new coaches on Pough's staff are former members of the South Carolina Gamecocks program and both come to Orangeburg from the coaching staff at Newberry College.
Bennett Swygert is the new offensive coordinator, while Na'Shan Goddard is the new offensive line coach.
Swygert has been the offensive coordinator at Newberry the past five seasons, as the Wolves made the NCAA playoffs for the second (2013), third (2015), and fourth (2016) times in program history. Swygert coached a pair of quarterbacks in 2017 that totaled more than 1,000 yards of total offense, with Greg Ruff accounting for 1,326 and Nick Jones chipping in 1,146. Swygert began coaching at Fort Dorchester High School under Steve LaPrad.
"It was an easy decision to come here and be a part of this university, this community, especially with the alumni support here that is so very strong," Swygert said. "I believe that, with the offense, if we are able to spread the ball around more on the perimeter, the run game is going to go.
"The talent that is here, this is a team that can compete right away. This is a blue-collar state and a blue-collar community with a football program that was built on hard work. We are going to work to win today and tomorrow, and worry about every thing else later."
Swygert was on the Summerville High School state championship team in 1998 and was an all-state, All-American and Shrine Bowl quarterback in 2000, prior to signing with South Carolina. Injuries altered his time with the Gamecocks and later he was the starting quarterback at Western Carolina in 2004 and 2006.
"I signed Coach Swygert to play for the Gamecocks years ago, and now he has coached so well at Newberry that he has become one of the hot commodities around these parts," Pough said. "I appreciate both of these guys coming to work with us under these circumstances, with us not having a whole lot of time to get things done."
Goddard spent the past two seasons as Newberry's offensive line coach. His first season was marked by the Wolves' third SAC championship in program history and a berth in the NCAA Division II Football Championship. Goddard's unit was instrumental to the team establishing new school records for scoring (436 points), passing yards (3,536), completions (287), passing touchdowns (30), completion percentage (67.8), total offense (5,462 yards), all-purpose yards (6,496), and total touchdowns (61).
"The tradition of great offensive linemen here at South Carolina State is so impressive, and has been for a long time; I just can't wait to be a part of helping young men carry on that tradition," Goddard said. "I'm looking forward to it -- getting big uglies ready to rock and roll, getting them ready to open up some holes and protect."
Goddard played for the Gamecocks under both Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier from 2001-05, earning SEC All-Freshman and Freshman All-America honors in 2002. He played center, guard and tackle during his years in Columbia. Goddard signed with the New York Giants, played there for three years, and had a brief stint with the New York Jets before being traded back to the Giants. He later played with Seattle and New Orleans. He earned Super Bowl rings with the Giants in 2008 and the Saints in 2010. Goddard also played professionally in the Canadian Football League and the United Football League, prior to retiring in 2014.
Danny Lewis, who spent his 10th season coaching on Pough's staff in 2017 as his first in the role of offensive coordinator, is still on the Bulldogs' staff and will move back to his previous position as quarterbacks coach.
The Bulldogs will have some gaps to fill in 2018, with the departure of All-American linebacker Darius Leonard and All-MEAC performers in linebacker Dayshawn Taylor, defensive back Jason Baxter, offensive lineman Justin Evans and kicker Tyler Scandrett.
The defensive front returns talented defensive linemen Paul McKeiver, Shaquille Crouch, Roderick Perry and Tyrell Goodwin. The linebacker corps will be led by Chad Gilchrest and Cornelius Walker, who are expected to step in with the departure of Leonard and Taylor.
All-MEAC offensive lineman Robbie Stephenson will be the top returnee on the line and will be surrounded by young talent, including Malik Mickle, Jalen Page and Patrick McNeil. Wednesday's signing class included 6-foot-5 Shrine Bowl O-lineman Bradly Thompson (Greer), 6-foot-4 Shrine Bowl O-lineman Chris Simon (Crestwood), standout in-state Class 5A O-lineman Avery Snipes (Fort Dorchester) and Brandon Tucker (Blythewood), North-South all-star O-lineman Jerrell Mooore (Brookland-Cayce) and imposing Ben Lippen School O-lineman Justin Keitt (6-foot-8, 330 pounds).
"We are two years removed from a winning season, so we're at the point to figure out how to get a lot better a lot faster, with a sense of urgency pressing in a way where it might be almost panic time for us," Pough said. "Everybody understands that it is go time now."