Today, we delve deeper into the South Carolina coaching staff.
Coach: Shawn Elliott
Position: Running game coordinator and offensive line
Experience: He's entering his second season on the South Carolina staff. Elliott, 38, had spent his entire coaching career at Appalachian State before coming to South Carolina in 2010. He was the Mountaineers' offensive line coach from 2001-09, and they won three straight national championships from 2005-07. During that same three-year span, Elliott coached three consecutive Southern Conference Jacobs Trophy recipients as the best blocker in the league. After earning his bachelor's degree from Appalachian State in 1996, Elliott worked for two seasons as a defensive assistant and then for two seasons as the Mountaineers' tight ends coach.
Of note: This will be the first time since 2008 that South Carolina has gone into a season with the same offensive line coach two years in a row. Elliott replaced Eric Wolford, who left following the 2009 season to become the head coach at Youngstown State. Wolford replaced John Hunt, who was let go by Steve Spurrier following the 2008 season. ... Elliott brought with him from Appalachian State his version of the zone-read package to the South Carolina offense, a blocking scheme that paved the way for Marcus Lattimore to set a South Carolina freshman rushing record with 1,197 yards. ... The Gamecocks averaged 154.4 rushing yards last season after averaging 112.5 yards over the previous three seasons and never averaging more 121.2 yards on the ground in any of those three seasons. ... Elliott grew up in Camden, S.C., and used to attend games at Williams-Brice Stadium as a kid with his father, Charles, who worked the Gamecocks' home games as a state highway patrolman. ... Elliott played collegiately at Appalachian State and was a co-captain and all-league player as a senior on the Mountaineers' 1995 team that finished 12-1.
His challenge: South Carolina's offensive line play had been a sore subject with Gamecocks fans ever since Steve Spurrier arrived in 2005, but Elliott stepped in last season and added a degree of toughness and consistency that had been missing up front. Of course, it also helps to add a talent like Lattimore to the backfield. The bottom line is that the Gamecocks were much better at running the ball last season and also did a better job of protecting the quarterback. In addition to coaching the offensive line, Elliott oversees the Gamecocks' running game, which looked like a real-life SEC running game a year ago. Defenses will key on Lattimore more than ever this coming season, and the offensive line will also include some new faces. Redshirt freshman A.J. Cann was impressive in the spring at left guard. Junior college transfer Kaleb Broome will also push for playing time at both guard and tackle, and the Gamecocks need a big senior season out of Kyle Nunn, who returns at left tackle. The same goes for Rokevious Watkins on the right side. He's kept his weight down and will enter fall camp as the starter at right tackle, but could also slide inside to guard. Junior T.J. Johnson is one of the better centers in the league. It's an offensive line that should again be solid when it comes to run blocking. The challenge could be pass protection.